NEW YORK – President Donald Trump’s bans on two popular Chinese social media apps — TikTok and WeChat — are the latest moves in an escalating U.S.-China rift, and point to a future where technology and innovation are increasingly walled behind political barriers.
In China, the Communist Party has long limited what foreign tech companies can do. It blocks access to major U.S. internet services, like Google and Facebook, along with thousands of websites operated by news organizations and human rights, pro-democracy and other activist groups.
Those restrictions have helped nurture homegrown tech giants that in recent years have started expanding, and even dominating, outside China.
Now the U.S. and other countries are putting their own limits on China.
The executive orders from the White House are vague. But experts said they appear intended to bar TikTok and WeChat from the app stores run by Apple and Google when the orders take effect in 45 days. That would make them more difficult to use in the U.S.
“This is a pretty broad and pretty quick expansion of the technology cold war between the U.S. and China,” said Steven Weber, faculty director for the University of California, Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity.
The Trump administration has been hawkish against China. A big example is Huawei, the world's biggest maker of smartphones and network equipment, and China’s first global tech brand. Washington has moved to cut off Huawei Technologies Ltd.'s access to chips and other technology, tried to push allies away from Huawei and barred U.S. government funds from being used to pay for Huawei equipment in U.S. networks, citing security concerns.
The Trump administration has also blocked Chinese buyers from acquiring U.S. companies.