Republican senators want to ban US app stores including Apple and Google from hosting apps that allow payments in Chinese digital currency, amid concerns that the payment system could allow Beijing to spy on Americans.
The bill, unveiled Thursday and first reported by Reuters, states that companies that own or control app stores “will not carry or support any app in [their] Store(s) applications within the United States that support or enable transactions in e-CNY.” It is sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio and Mike Brown.
According to Cotton’s office, the digital yuan can provide the Chinese government with “real-time visibility into all transactions on the network, which raises privacy and security concerns for American people who join this network.”
The Center for a New American Security, a Washington, DC-based think tank, said in a January 2021 report that China’s digital currency and electronic payments system “is likely to be a boon to CCP monitoring in the economy and for government intervention in the lives of Chinese citizens,” noting that “transactions It will contain accurate data about users and their financial activity.”
The move comes after WeChat, a messaging and payment app owned by Chinese company Tencent with more than 1.2 billion users, announced that it would start supporting the currency earlier this year. Alipay, the highly popular payments app owned by Jack Ma’s Ant Group, accepts digital currency. Both the apps are available on the Apple and Google app stores.
Apple, Alphabet’s Google, Ant Group and Tencent did not respond to requests for comment.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington described the legislation as “another example of the US arbitrarily bullying foreign companies through the abuse of state power on the grounds of unacceptable national security.”
While stopping potential national security threats related to China is a rare point of bipartisan agreement in the deeply divided US Congress, the bill’s prospects for passing the bill before the midterm elections are uncertain.
© Thomson Reuters 2022