President Trump is pushing his war on Chinese tech and military-linked firms straight through to the end of his term, apparently, on Thursday signing an executive order which bans Americans from investing in 31 companies which are alleged to supply or support China's PLA military.
The executive order states that China is "exploiting United States capital" to rapidly modernize its military and intelligence apparatus which constitutes a major threat to the US homeland and forces stationed overseas.
Trump specifically charged the People's Republic of China with "increasingly exploiting United States capital to resource and to enable the development and modernization of its military, intelligence, and other security apparatuses, which continues to allow the PRC to directly threaten the United States homeland and United States forces overseas" in the executive order.
Among the first to take a hit on the news breaking were NY Stock Exchange-traded firms China Mobile and China Telecom with market caps of nearly $106 billion and $29 billion respectively.
Many among the companies listed, which were designated as PLA-linked by the US Defense Department earlier this year, are publicly traded on Chinese stock exchanges, as well as Hong Kong's. US investment firms, including pension funds, will be barred from buying and selling shares of the designated companies effective January 11.
In unveiling the initial list last June, the Pentagon had told lawmakers: "As the People’s Republic of China attempts to blur the lines between civil and military sectors, 'knowing your supplier' is critical."
"We envision this list will be a useful tool for the U.S. government, companies, investors, academic institutions, and like-minded partners to conduct due diligence with regard to partnerships with these entities, particularly as the list grows," a Pentagon spokesman stated at the time. The order further gives investors until November 2021 to divest all holdings from the Chinese securities on the list.
But given the size and multi-national nature of many of the companies, this will be easier said than done, as The Wall Street Journal underscores:
How many Americans own such securities or even how much money is at stake is unclear, said White House officials. Many mom-and-pop investors who invest through funds don’t look under the hood at what they are actually exposed to. One financial analyst likened an investor’s ability to know if he or she owned such securities to a guest in a restaurant wanting to know the ingredients of the dish they were being served; only a check with the chef, or in this case the portfolio fund manager, could determine for certain where these securities are.
The list also includes notable names like Huawei Technologies Co., China General Nuclear Power Corp., China Electronics Corporation, and surveillance equipment maker Hikvision.
Some of these were already blocked from operating in the US on national security grounds, but Thursday's executive order takes things a huge step further in proactively distancing American citizens from any financial relationship with them.