Donald Trump’s war on things he can actually get his diminutive claws on took a sudden, shocking lurch into Big Boy Territory tonight, as Engadget reports that the White House has just followed through on its plans to block Chinese TikTok owner ByteDance from performing financial transactions in the United States. All well and good, for a “So we’re using executive orders for everything now, huh?” definition of well and good. But Trump also decided, with the same set of orders, to issue a similar ban to the owner of messaging app WeChat, and that’s a big fucking deal, because WeChat is owned by Tencent.
If you’re not familiar with Tencent, it’s because you a) don’t pay much attention to the ridiculously lucrative mobile gaming market, and b) don’t pay attention to a whole bunch of other forms of media, either. The Chinese games company—whose home-grown titles include Honor Of Kings, Arena Of Valor, and Dungeon Fighter Online—is generally reported as being the largest games company on the planet, period, with ownership stakes in games studios around the globe, and reported total assets somewhere on the order of $136 billion. (For comparison’s sake, Disney’s total in 2019 was roughly $194 billion.) Tencent owns 40 percent of Fortnite creator Epic Games; it owns 5 percent of Ubisoft and Blizzard; it owns all of League Of Legends creator Riot Games, which would make it one of the most successful video game publishers in the U.S. on the strength of that single acquisition alone. We haven’t even gone into the company’s film and television deals (including Wonder Woman, Top Gun: Maverick, Venom, and more), but the point stands: Tencent is really, extremely big, and Trump has just decided to cut off its access to U.S. markets. Entirely.
Trump’s executive order—prompted, presumably, by the same mixture of national paranoia and potentially valid security concerns that elicited the TikTok ban—won’t go into effect for 45 days, during which we have to imagine there are going to be a whole bunch of extremely furtive and furious conversations in the White House, as advisers attempt to teach Trump what the fuck a “Tencent” actually is, and precisely how much money he’s now trying to stand in the way of.