The United States has taken aim at some of China's biggest tech champions, from Huawei and ByteDance's TikTok to Tencent's WeChat. Alibaba, one of the world's largest retail and internet conglomerates, could be next.
The actions against Chinese companies have marked a dramatic escalation of the Trump administration's push back against Beijing's rising tech prowess, forcing global players to chose between China and the United States.
"We are in a paradigm shift, and geopolitics is going through a historic transformation right now," said Alex Capri, research fellow at the Hinrich Foundation and senior fellow and lecturer at the National University of Singapore. Washington officials are making "more accusations" against Chinese tech companies, an "indication that the administration is really looking to decouple" the tech industry, he added.
Unlike ByteDance or Huawei — whose global expansion was blunted after Washington cut it off from US technology — Alibaba (BABA) hasn't had much success expanding into Western markets. But the fact that it is a national tech champion in China may be reason enough for Washington to target it, according to Capri.
Alibaba hasn't yet been threatened with the same kinds of sanctions that US President Donald Trump has proposed or levied against other Chinese tech firms. And Trump has even spoken fondly of company founder Jack Ma, calling him a "friend of mine" earlier this year after the Chinese billionaire said he would donate supplies for fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
But the company is on the minds of US officials. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo name-checked Alibaba last week when he urged American companies to remove "untrusted" Chinese-owned technology from their digital networks.