Biden bars US investment in Chinese companies linked to surveillance

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President Biden signed an executive order Thursday to prohibit investments in Chinese defense and surveillance firms that produce or use technology to facilitate human rights abuses, expanding a Trump-era order issued last year.

The new order is designed to bar U.S. investments in Chinese companies that produce or deploy surveillance technology used to repress individuals such as Muslim majority Uyghurs in Xinjiang and activists in Hong Kong or others throughout the world.

The order lists 59 Chinese firms that are subject to the prohibitions, but the White House said that it would update the list “as appropriate,” meaning more companies could be added to it. The order takes effect on Aug. 2, approximately two months from the date that Biden signed it.

“This E.O. allows the United States to prohibit – in a targeted and scoped manner – U.S. investments in Chinese companies that undermine the security or democratic values of the United States and our allies,” said a White House fact sheet accompanying the order.

The order amends and expands an executive order signed by then-President Trump in November that paved the way for the U.S. to blacklist Chinese companies that have connections to Beijing’s military. It comes as China increasingly uses cameras and surveillance technology to carry out massive surveillance of its population.

Biden’s order keeps prohibitions on most of the companies included in Trump’s original order, such as telecommunications company Huawei and video surveillance manufacturer Hikvision, and expands it to include other Chinese firms.

The new order comes at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Beijing.

The Biden administration has been vocal about concerns about the repression of Uyghurs and people in Hong Kong, and Biden has made clear that fighting against human rights abuses in China and elsewhere is a priority for his administration.

U.S. officials have also raised concerns with China’s trade practices and actions in cyberspace. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Chinese counterparts for a tense in-person meeting in Alaska in March after Biden took office.

The White House has signaled its goal is to compete with China but not be overly confrontational. Biden has tried to sell his infrastructure proposal as a necessary investment to win competition with China in the 21st century, referencing Beijing’s own investments in infrastructure projects.

Tags Antony Blinken Biden foreign policy Chinese surveillance Donald Trump Jake Sullivan Joe Biden US-China relations

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