In an attempt to stamp his wishes on his successor's administration, US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order banning transactions with Alipay and WeChat Pay, alongside other Chinese apps.
The move was a surprise parting shot at China, from an administration many thought had lost its ability to surprise.
The US "must take aggressive action against those who develop or control Chinese connected software applications to protect our national security," said the order.
The executive order also names CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate and WPS Office, and would be administered by the commerce secretary.
It claims these apps collect data which "would permit China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, and build dossiers of personal information."
This echoes arguments made in an August executive order directing the US Department of Commerce to block at least some US transactions involving WeChat and TikTok, both of which are owned by China.
Courts have blocked the August executive order from taking effect while they hear cases claiming the administration is trampling on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of expression.
It is slightly more difficult to make these arguments about payment apps, which possibly is why the Trump administration has singled them out.
And the order also comes on a day when the US Congress will officially open the Electoral College's ballots electing Joseph Biden as Trump's successor, and when the Democratic party was on the brink of taking control of the US Senate.
In a move which seems quintessentially Trumpian, therefore, the order permits Trump to angle for support from China hawks within his party.
Timing is everything
Another aspect, though, is timing.
The latest order takes effect in 45 days.
But President-Elect Joe Biden's inauguration day is January 20, 14 days from now.
The January 5 order notes, maybe enviously, that India's government "has banned the use of more than 200 Chinese connected software applications throughout the country."
Alipay is owned by Jack Ma's Ant Group.
Ma's company has been in the crosshairs recently of both Beijing and Washington.
His company had been due to make a $37 billion initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Plans were abandoned in November, since when Ma has been suspiciously absent from public view.
In his last public appearance, on October 24, Ma argued China's financial system was outdated, stifled innovation and needed to be reformed.
One of China's richest citizens, he has now not been seen in public for almost two months.
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— Padraig Belton, contributing editor, special to Light Reading