Banning WeChat, the world’s most-used messaging app, has the potential to upend the international businesses of companies from Apple to Walmart and shut down personal communications between America and China.
The White House’s vaguely worded edict left a lot of open questions about how broadly the ban would be applied and the full ramifications for Tencent.
But it likely gets WeChat bumped off Apple and Google’s app stores in 45 days, which means at least suspending updates for a service vital to everything from engineers talking with iPhone assemblers to Chinese people video-chatting with family back home.
If the ban extends to a block on its use, that threatens to eventually sever those ties because WeChat is the go-to for a billion people for everything from booking movie and train tickets to shopping, and alternatives like WhatsApp are blocked in China.
The potential ructions underscore Tencent’s pivotal role within the global tech and internet economies, as a juggernaut with deep investments or connections with American businesses from Activision Blizzard and Snap to the NBA.
“It would practically shut down communication between the US and China,” said Graham Webster, China Digital Economy Fellow at think tank New America. “These orders just wrap the real issues up in political theater.”