What WeChat Controversy Means for Foreign Companies in China
It’s the most popular and fastest growing mobile and Internet messaging platform in China. WeChat, an app made by the Internet company Tencent, has around 300 million users. And those users are outraged over reports that WeChat may start charging for its services. But in an odd twist, it’s not WeChat that wants to charge. The app has drawn the ire of China’s big state-owned telecommunications companies for taking away their business. They want Tencent to charge for WeChat, so that they can share part of the proceeds. And now the government’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has stepped in as well. WeChat has adamantly denied that they will charge customers, pledging to continue the service for free. But the state-run telecom companies may still be able to make Tencent, if not their users, pay. Why are the telecoms targeting Tencent? And what does Tencent’s situation mean for foreign tech companies who hope to become popular in China?