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Why US sanctions on China’s Ant Group may be an empty threat

Why US sanctions on China’s Ant Group may be an empty threat

Washington could soon expand its war against Chinese tech companies by setting its sights on Ant Group, the crown jewel of billionaire Jack Ma’s empire.



a group of people performing on a counter: People walk past the Ant Group Co. mascot displayed at the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, China, on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. Jack Ma's Ant Group is seeking to raise $17.5 billion in its Hong Kong share sale and won't seek to lock in cornerstone investors, confident there will be plenty of demand for one of the largest equity deals in the financial hub, according to people familiar with the matter. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images


© Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
People walk past the Ant Group Co. mascot displayed at the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China, on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. Jack Ma’s Ant Group is seeking to raise $17.5 billion in its Hong Kong share sale and won’t seek to lock in cornerstone investors, confident there will be plenty of demand for one of the largest equity deals in the financial hub, according to people familiar with the matter. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

But there doesn’t appear to be much the US government could do to realistically hurt the digital finance company. Unlike other Chinese tech firms that have drawn the ire of Washington, Ant does little business in the United States.

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Ant Group was floated as a potential US target by Bloomberg News, which reported last week that the Trump administration is considering restrictions on Ant, as well as Tencent’s WeChat Pay. Citing people familiar with the matter, the news outlet said the US government fears that their digital payment platforms threaten national security.

WeChat is already facing scrutiny in the United States, but sanctions on Ant and its payments app Alipay would be an escalation in the US-China tech war. Alipay and WeChat Pay are daily necessities for hundreds of millions of Chinese merchants and consumers. Ant’s wealth management products are also used by millions.

US authorities are worried about Ant because it represents “new modes of finance that they can no longer control,” said Cameron Johnson, adjunct faculty instructor at New York University in Shanghai and partner at consulting firm Tidal Wave Solutions.

It’s not clear how close Washington may be

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Analysis: South Korea Sees Hope and Threat in Mixed Message From North’s Kim | World News

Analysis: South Korea Sees Hope and Threat in Mixed Message From North’s Kim | World News

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean officials have seized on conciliatory comments by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the weekend as a sign that tension could be easing but also worry the huge number of rockets he showcased is evidence that peace may be elusive.

Kim sent mixed signals as he addressed an unprecedented night-time military parade early on Saturday, wishing the neighbouring Koreas would “hold hands” again after the novel coronavirus pandemic is over.

While much of the world was captivated by the appearance of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), officials in South Korea were far more concerned by the display of new multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) and fast, manoeuvrable short-range missiles that would be ideal for striking targets in the South.

“The parade revealed not only an advanced ICBM but also MLRS that pose a direct threat to South Korea,” said South Korean opposition leader Kim Chong-in.

“They’ve not changed, their threats have grown even bigger.”

South Korean ruling party leader and former prime minister Lee Nak-yon said he took hope from Kim’s overture to the South as a “positive sign” but worried about what the display of new weapons said about North Korea’s intentions.

“North Korea showed advanced weapons including a new ICBM, which indicated it has not abandoned its resolve to develop weapons of mass destruction, and those weapons can threaten peace on the Korean peninsula,” Lee told a party meeting.

November’s U.S. election is compounding the uncertainty especially as the tone of ties between the two Koreas is often set by the state of North Korea’s relations with its old enemy the United States.

When a landmark summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 brought an unprecedented easing of tension between those two countries, North Korea’s dealings with South

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