Trump’s Executive Order Could Harm US Casinos in Macau

President Trump’s executive ban on several Chinese apps could have big implications for US Companies in China, Macau and Taiwan.

Executive Ban on Chinese Apps

US President Donald Trump’s recent executive order to ban several high-profile Chinese apps may spell trouble for Macau’s three US casino operators. Macau is one of the gambling capitals of the world, though it is currently facing some serious economic challenges.

Mr. Trump, who is only two weeks away from leaving the Oval Office, announced the executive order on Wednesday. If passed, the order would prohibit all US-based companies and individuals from using the eight following Chinese apps: Alipay, WeChat Pay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate and WPS Office. The move would force Google, Apple and other app distributors to remove them from their US stores.

The executive order is a consequence of the escalating tension between Washington and Beijing. The move is largely motivated by concerns regarding national security and data privacy, although the order does not list more specific reasons.

However, nothing is yet set in stone. The executive order’s due date will be nearly a month after Mr. Trump departs from the Oval Office and is succeeded by Joe Biden.

Political analysts expect Mr. Biden to resume cooperation with Beijing in some aspects, such as climate change. However, there is growing doubt that Mr. Biden will introduce any significant changes, given the growing global frustration with Beijing. Still, Mr. Biden may deem the ban more trouble than it is worth.

Implications for Business and Politics

If the order is approved, it would have substantial implications for Macau’s three US casino operatorsSands China, MGM China and Wynn Macau Ltd. Social media and finance apps such as WeChat have become ubiquitous across China, Macau and Taiwan. At this point, they are a cornerstone of communication and banning them would hamstring US operators’ internal and external communication.

Internal communication – within or between teams and business segments – would be the easier of the two to compensate. However, communication with clients happens through these potentially-banned apps as well.

Not overturning the order could also set a dangerous precedent in the relationship between Washington and Beijing. Mr. Trump’s government has demonstrated a willingness to attack the private sector in order to achieve its political goals, while Beijing has become increasingly prone to retaliation. This latest move could sour things even further.

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