WeChat bleg

The administration has issued an executive order banning WeChat. Or at least we are told that it bans WeChat. But how would we know this? The order is so vague that literally no one knows what it means. Heck, the order is directed at a company that does not even exist!

The executive order appeared to have been drafted hastily: the company it names as a target for the ban, Tencent Holdings Ltd, Shenzhen, China does not exist. 

WeChat is a huge deal for the Chinese community in America, and not surprisingly this group is highly suspicious of the claim that this is about national security. I’m actually willing to believe that some US government officials are motivated by genuine national security worries (misguided in my view), but how can you blame people for conspiracy theories when the US president is literally trying to extort money from TikTok.

So all you tech experts that lecture me on not knowing anything about the field, please tell me whether Americans will be banned from using WeChat, or just banned from future downloads of the WeChat app. Also tell me whether the ban applies to personal communication on WeChat or just financial transactions. If there is a distinction, tell me why the distinction is being made. Also tell me whether Americans working in China will continue to be able to use WeChat. Also tell me whether US firms will continue to be able to supply Tencent. Also tell me whether the order applies to online gaming. Also tell me whether Apple will continue to be allowed to provide WeChat in its app store. (If not, there goes their China market.)

And finally, please tell me why the clown show in DC released this executive order before first thinking through what they are trying to do.

PS. The FT says:

One thing it cannot do is ban people from using WeChat; under the law which Mr Trump is invoking, the administration cannot block any personal communications which do not involve financial transactions.

Fine, but if you read the executive order the motivation is precisely that, we need to stop personal communication on WeChat:

Like TikTok, WeChat automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users.  This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.  In addition, the application captures the personal and proprietary information of Chinese nationals visiting the United States, thereby allowing the Chinese Communist Party a mechanism for keeping tabs on Chinese citizens who may be enjoying the benefits of a free society for the first time in their lives.  For example, in March 2019, a researcher reportedly discovered a Chinese database containing billions of WeChat messages sent from users in not only China but also the United States, Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia.

What am I missing?