China Economy

Trump ban on WeChat would hit U.S. business revenues, survey says

Key Points
  • On Aug. 6, the White House said that in 45 days, it would ban unspecified U.S. transactions with WeChat and its parent company Tencent due primarily to data security concerns.
  • The app is the predominant messaging and social media platform in mainland China, with functions ranging from voice messages to mini-apps for online shopping.
  • If the executive order is applied to American companies and U.S. citizens in China, a quick survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai this week found that more than 40% of respondents predict a negative impact on their revenue, with over a third expecting a loss of global revenue.
The Tencent Holdings Ltd. WeChat app is displayed in the App Store on a smartphone in an arranged photograph taken in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Donald Trump's executive order on messaging app WeChat would hit revenue for companies in China subject to U.S. jurisdiction, according to a survey released Wednesday by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai.

On Aug. 6, the White House said that in 45 days, it would ban unspecified U.S. transactions with WeChat and its parent company Tencent due primarily to data security concerns. Chinese technology giant Tencent said in its quarterly earnings release last week that WeChat has more than 1.2 billion users worldwide.

The app is the predominant messaging and social media platform in mainland China, with functions ranging from voice messages to mini-apps for online shopping. WeChat Pay is the primary mobile payments rival to Alibaba's Alipay. 

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AmCham Shanghai asked members how the U.S. executive order would affect businesses if it was applied to American companies and U.S. citizens in China. Here are a few highlights of the survey, conducted Monday and Tuesday with 142 respondents:

  • 88% expect a negative impact on operations if WeChat cannot be used for communication.
  • 56.3% anticipate a loss of competitiveness.
  • More than 40% predict a negative impact on their revenue, with over a third expecting a loss of global revenue.

Analysts from research firm Gavekal Dragonomics said in a report last year that in 2016, American business sales in China topped $450 billion, while Chinese sales in the U.S. were less than $50 billion.

If the executive order was limited to transactions in the U.S., 46.5% of survey respondents said the impact would be limited, with a quarter noting no impact, according to the chamber.

"If WeChat has or is doing anything illegal in the US, then take appropriate action in that jurisdiction but do not ban American citizens from choosing to use the application," an unnamed respondent wrote in the AmCham survey.