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Trump administration suspends planned investment ban on Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu sources

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration has dropped plans to blacklist Chinese tech giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, four people familiar with the matter said, offering Beijing big companies a brief reprieve as part of the of a broader repression from Washington.

Washington nonetheless plans to move forward this week with an attempt to add up to nine more Chinese companies to the list, one of the people said.

The move to halt plans to add Chinese tech giants is a blow to Chinese hawks in the administration, who were seeking to solidify incumbent President Donald Trumps’ legacy to China before his presidency ends on January 20.

Retailer Alibaba, search engine giant Baidu and video game leader Tencent, which owns the WeChat messaging app, were on the shortlist to be added to a catalog of alleged Chinese military companies, allegedly submitting them to a new US investment ban.

But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, widely seen as taking a more conciliatory stance on China, pushed back, freezing plans, the people said. Businesses as well as treasury, state and defense departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The abrupt move highlights deep divisions within the Trump administration over Chinese policy, even as Trump seeks to lock President-elect Joe Biden into aggressive postures against the world’s second-largest economy.

Last month, the White House added China’s biggest chipmaker, SMIC and oil giant CNOOC to the blacklist. Trump also unveiled an executive order in January banning US transactions with eight Chinese apps, including Ant Groups Alipay. The two measures were first reported by Reuters.

While Trump touted a signed trade deal between rival nations, relations between Washington and Beijing deteriorated last year due to China’s handling of the deadly coronavirus and its crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong.

Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Alexandra Alper; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal and Mike Stone; Edited by Leslie Adler and Howard Goller

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