Joe Biden signs order banning US investment in Chinese surveillance companies

Joe Biden signs order banning US investment in Chinese surveillance companies

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Thursday that broadens a Trump-era ban on Americans investing in Chinese companies with alleged military ties.

The order raises the number of Chinese companies subject to sanctions from 48 to 59. It also rewrites a previous order issued by former President Donald Trump to include companies that develop and deploy surveillance technology, such as the technology used in Hong Kong against Muslim minorities and dissidents.

The move indicates that Biden intends to maintain some of the same China-related policies put in place by the Trump administration.

Despite previous concerns about the companies’ ties to China, the order excludes DJI, WeChat, TikTok, and its parent company ByteDance from the list of 59.

Trump signed an executive order last year to ban Chinese apps such as TikTok and WeChat from US app stores, but Thursday’s order is distinct from Trump’s move to ban these apps.

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In February, the Biden administration asked a federal appeals court to put any legal proceedings concerning these app bans on hold. It’s unclear how Biden intends to deal with the TikTok ban in the future.

“We fully expect that in the coming months… we will add additional companies to the new executive order’s restrictions,” a White House official told Yahoo News on Thursday.

According to the New York Times, the move is part of the Biden administration’s commitment to not facilitating human rights abuses in China. For years, the Chinese government has used a confluence of facial recognition technology, phone scanners, and artificial intelligence to empower China’s police force.

Beginning on August 2nd, the order prohibits Americans from investing in these additional Chinese firms. This includes Americans investing in funds that then invest in Chinese companies. The order allows current investors in these companies to sell their shares over the course of a year.

The Treasury Department will be in charge of the list of prohibited companies under this new order. Previously, the Trump administration delegated authority to the Defense Department.

For years, the federal government has advocated for broader action against Chinese technology and telecom companies. Last year, the Federal Communications Commission designated Huawei and ZTE as national security threats. According to the Times, surveillance technology is sometimes sold as part of a package deal when nations outside of China purchase Huawei equipment.

The FCC estimated in September that it would cost $1.8 billion to “rip and replace” equipment from these companies that is already embedded in US networks; Congress has yet to appropriate any such funds.

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