Senior US officials were considering plans to add the companies to the list of alleged Chinese military companies, which would have exposed them to a US investment ban.
Four people familiar with the matter told Reuters news agency that the administration of US President Donald Trump has canceled plans to blacklist Chinese tech giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, providing a short respite to major companies in Beijing amid a broader crackdown by Washington.
Top administration officials were studying plans to add the companies to the list of alleged Chinese military companies, which would have exposed them to a new U.S. investment ban.
But Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, who is widely seen as taking a more pessimistic stance toward China, rejected the plans, and froze them, people said. One person said the Trump administration plans to go forward this week to try to add up to nine more Chinese companies to the list.
The Treasury, State and Pentagon departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The surprise decision has eased deep divisions within Washington over Chinese policy, even as outgoing President Trump seeks to cement his hard-line legacy toward China and prompt President-elect Joe Biden to crack down on the world’s second largest economy.
Last month, the White House added China’s largest chip maker, SMIC, and oil giant CNOOC to its blacklist, as Reuters reported for the first time. Trump also unveiled an executive order in January banning US transactions with eight Chinese apps including Ant Group’s Alipay.
While Trump promoted a trade agreement signed between the two rivals, relations between Washington and Beijing have been strained last year over China’s handling of the deadly coronavirus and its suppression of freedoms in Hong Kong.