On June 9, 2021, the White House issued a new Executive Order (EO) that revokes three Executive Orders issued in 2020 and early 2021 that were aimed specifically at TikTok, WeChat, and eight other China-linked communications and financial technology software applications.

In place of these EOs, the new EO, “Protecting Americans’ Sensitive Data from Foreign Adversaries,” builds on steps the US Commerce Department has already taken under EO 13873 of May 15, 2019, to protect the information and communications technology and services (ICTS) supply chain against threats from China and other identified foreign adversaries.

As a result of the new EO, the US government will further analyze the risks arising from the use of applications such as TikTok and WeChat – including risks related to the security of Americans’ sensitive data — and could take further steps to mitigate those risks, either through existing ICTS regulations or through additional executive and legislative actions.


Continue Reading Biden Administration Revokes TikTok and WeChat Executive Orders, Revises Framework on Security Threats from Foreign Apps

On June 3, 2021, the White House issued an Executive Order (EO) amending EO 13959 of November 12, 2020, which imposed restrictions on US persons transacting in publicly traded securities of companies identified by the US Department of Defense (DoD) as “Communist Chinese military companies” (CCMCs). The new EO, “Addressing the Threat from Securities Investments that Finance Certain Companies of the People’s Republic of China,” reformulates and recasts the prior EO, by providing important clarifications on the scope of the restrictions, revising the criteria for designating Chinese companies under the EO, and shifting responsibility for designations from the DoD to the US Treasury Department.  As a result of these changes, the EO creates a securities-related sanctions regime for so-called “Chinese Military-Industrial Complex Companies” that is effectively separated from the CCMC list maintained by DoD pursuant to Section 1237 of the Fiscal Year 1999 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as amended.  The new EO takes effect on August 2, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time.

In conjunction with the new EO, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published several new and revised Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) explaining the new EO and addressing questions raised by the securities industry since the issuance of EO 13959 in November 2020. Finally, as evidence that the Biden Administration is pursuing a comprehensive effort across the relevant agencies, the DoD released for the first time a “Chinese Military Companies” (CMC) list under Section 1260H of the Fiscal Year 2021 NDAA.


Continue Reading White House Issues Amended Executive Order on Chinese Military-Industrial Securities

On May 18, 2021, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an updated general license under Executive Order (EO) 13959 authorizing US persons to transact in publicly traded securities of entities whose names “closely match” the name of any company previously identified as a Communist Chinese military company (CCMC). The general license (now called General License No. 1B), which was due to expire on May 27, 2021, now expires on June 11, 2021.

For the time being, the restrictions under EO 13959 apply only to entities whose names appear on OFAC’s Non-SDN CCMC List as well as seven entities who are yet to be formally added to OFAC’s Non-SDN CCMC List but were identified by the Department of Defense on January 14, 2021.


Continue Reading OFAC Extends General License for “Close Name Matches” under Executive Order 13959 as Biden Administration Reviews Communist Chinese Military Company Sanctions

On April 20, 2021, the US Department of Energy (“DOE”) revoked a December 2020 Prohibition Order issued by the Trump Administration which banned the acquisition, importation, transfer, or installation of certain bulk-power system (“BPS”) electric equipment manufactured or supplied by “persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of the {People’s Republic of China (“China”)}.”  The Prohibition Order was issued pursuant to EO 13920, “Securing the United States Bulk-Power System” (May 1, 2020), which was promulgated to address “foreign adversary countries creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in the United States bulk-power system.”  In response to this alleged exploitation, the EO declared an emergency and authorized the Secretary of Energy to prohibit transactions involving certain BPS electric equipment sourced from “foreign adversary” countries for one year. In the recent revocation notice, DOE cited the need to “create a stable policy environment” while the Department conducts a new review of how best to apply its EO 13920 authorities.

On January 20, 2021, the Biden Administration suspended EO 13920 for a period of 90 days to afford the Secretary of Energy and Director of the Office of Management and Budget time to consider whether to recommend a replacement Executive Order that “appropriately balances national security, economic, and administrability considerations,” Pursuant to last week’s Request for Information, DOE is now soliciting comments from electric utilities, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on various aspects of electric infrastructure.  Specifically, DOE is soliciting comments on the following questions concerning the development of a long-term strategy:


Continue Reading US Department of Energy Revokes Trump Prohibition Order Restricting Chinese Bulk-Power System Electric Equipment and Seeks Comments on Securing US Critical Electric Infrastructure

On March 22, 2021, the EU, UK, US and Canada announced a range of coordinated sanctions to crack down on alleged serious human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).  The coordinated announcements comprised measures of various types, including asset freezes and travel bans against individuals and entities alleged to be involved in serious human rights violations against Uyghurs and other minority groups in the XUAR.  The measures elicited the swift imposition of retaliatory sanctions by China against a group of EU individuals and institutions.

Continue Reading EU, UK, US and Canada Announce Coordinated Xinjiang Sanctions

Peter Jeydel and Brian Egan from Steptoe’s Economic Sanctions group published an article in the American Society of International Law’s “ASIL Insights” on the recent decisions by two US District Courts to bar the U.S. government temporarily from restricting transactions with Chinese mobile app TikTok under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). As they

On 12 January 2021, UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, announced a package of measures intended to ensure that British organisations in the public and private sector are not complicit in – or profiting from – human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.

The UK has worked in coordination with the Canadian government on the new measures, which were introduced in response to growing evidence of gross human rights violations, including extra-judicial detention and forced labour, in the Xinjiang region of China.

Announcing the measures in a statement to the House of Commons, the UK foreign Secretary stated that the aim of the measures is to ensure that “no company that profits from forced labour in Xinjiang can do business in the UK, and no UK business is involved in their supply chains.”

The measures reflect a number of recommendations the Conservative Human Rights Commission  made to the UK government in its report on human rights in China, The Darkness Deepens: The Crackdown on Human Rights in China 2016 – 2020, which was published on 13 January 2021. The measures also build on a raft of US actions introduced to combat forced labour in China, which we discussed in greater detail in previous client alerts (here, here, here and here).


Continue Reading UK Government Announces New Measures to Combat Forced Labour and Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang

In another attempt to impose restrictions on Chinese technology companies in the final days of his presidency, on January 5, 2021, Trump issued a new Executive Order (EO) “Addressing the Threat Posed By Applications and Other Software Developed or Controlled By Chinese Companies.”  The EO, which was issued pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, authorizes the imposition of restrictions, on or after February 19, 2021, against eight popular Chinese connected software applications.

The new EO declares that “additional steps must be taken to deal with the national emergency with respect to the information and communications technology and services supply chain declared in [EO 13873].”  The new EO alleges that “a number of Chinese connected software applications automatically capture vast amounts of information from millions of users in the United States,” including sensitive “personally identifiable information.”  It cites to “the continuing activity” of China and the Chinese Communist Party “to steal or otherwise obtain United States persons’ data” as “mak[ing] clear that there is an intent to use bulk data collection to advance China’s economic and national security agenda.”  The new EO states that the United States “must take aggressive action against those who develop or control Chinese connected software applications to protect our national security.”


Continue Reading New Executive Order targets Chinese connected software applications

On September 21, Steptoe associate Peter Jeydel commented about recent U.S. export control developments relating to facial recognition.

To listen to Pete’s comments, please press play above. To listen to the entire episode, please visit Steptoe’s Cyberlaw Podcast on the Steptoe Cyberblog.