Released by Chinese web giant Tencent in 2011, WeChat is the largest standalone messaging app in the world by monthly users, with more than 500 million people, primarily in China, using the app on a r

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China Trends: WeChat blocks Indian users and a student quits a top college to change major
Every Tuesday and Thursday, China Trends takes the pulse of the Chinese social media to keep you in the loop of what the world’s biggest internet population is talking about. WeChat complies to India’s ban WeChat, China’s messaging super-app owned by Tencent, officially restricted users in India from using the app on Saturday, as a result of India’s ban on WeChat and 58 other Chinese apps in June.  The Indian government banned 59 Chinese apps in late June, including TikTok, WeChat and Baidu maps, saying they threatened India’s “sovereignty and integrity” two weeks after a fatal clash between Chinese and Indian troops at a Himalayan border.  The news prompted concerns on Chinese social media
Canada court punishes a WeChat user for spreading false information
A court ruling in Canada could put a stop on the freewheeling political posts in the country on WeChat, a WhatsApp-like super app popular among Chinese communities.  A Toronto construction worker, Wu Jian, was sued for defamation and ordered by the court to pay more than $38,000 after he posted a series of comments directed at a local community leader, Simon Zhong Xinsheng, in a WeChat political discussion group.  Justice Penny J. Jones of the Ontario Court of Justice said Wu’s comments on Zhong were malicious falsehoods. “The evidence before the court is that none of the defamatory statements made about Mr Zhong in the WeChat posts are true,” Jones wrote in her judgment.  WeChat has been a
‘China’s Facebook’ launches its Hail Mary comeback attempt
Zeng Mou, who lives in Guangxi, in the southwest of China, first got his Renren account in 2006.  The Chinese social networking site was part of daily life for the college student, who would regularly post photos and engage with his friends on the platform. Fourteen years down the road, the now 33-year-old civil servant still logs on daily “just out of habit,” but there is hardly anyone to engage with. “Nobody uses it,” he said of the once-popular platform that was known as “China’s Facebook.” Old-timers like Zeng, who have been hoping for the revival of the platform, have some reason to cheer now.  Renren launched its first social networking mobile app last Monday in a bid to attract new
How the smartphone completely transformed China in a decade
When finance industry employee Ringo Li relocated back to Beijing from Tokyo in 2010, he brought along his first smartphone – an iPhone 3G. Although one of the most advanced handsets available at the time, it was mainly used for text messages and phone calls, and occasional internet-surfing where Wi-fi was available. Life was mostly offline back then. Li would go to restaurants to order food, pay bills with cash and hail a taxi with an outstretched arm standing on the roadside. Fast forward 10 years and Li’s life has completely changed. No longer in finance, he communicates via WeChat and uses apps on his iPhone XS to order food, hail taxis, pay bills and shop. Most of the apps that permeate
I just moved to Beijing. This is my experience with mobile payments
“You might not have to make that trip to the bank after all,” Rob, a friend, messaged me over WeChat the other day. He attached a press release saying Alipay had launched an international version of its mobile payments platform for visitors to China. Named “Tour Pass,” the app can be used for up to 90 days and could prove handy for me, as I had moved from Hong Kong to Beijing for three months just over a month ago. The last time I lived in Beijing, five years ago while studying at Peking University, cash was still currency, shared bikes did not exist and people did not have their morning Starbucks delivered via an app. Since then China has transformed into an almost cashless society at an ex
Will tourists in China wake up to mobile payments?
Last week, China’s main payment apps, Tencent’s WeChat Pay and Ant Financial’s Alipay, opened their mobile payment systems to a demographic that had previously been left out: international tourists.  In China, mobile payments are used to pay for almost everything from $0.25 steamed buns at a takeout joint to sending prisoners money, highlighting the huge gap that exists between this system and the payment habits of 140 million annual tourists from overseas, who may be more used to cash or credit cards. Inkstone is owned by Alibaba, whose affiliate Ant Financial operates Alipay.  But will providing access be enough to convert tourists to start scanning QR codes?  How does mobile payments work
How WeChat users unwittingly aid censorship
Chinese messaging app WeChat relies on the input of unwitting users to autonomously expand its blacklist of sensitive images, according to a new study by a Canadian internet watchdog group. Research released this week by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab focused on how WeChat, owned by tech giant Tencent and boasting an active monthly user base of more than 1 billion people, uses a number of censorship mechanisms to screen picture files sent between users in one-to-one and group chats. The study found that the app, without requiring human involvement, can expand its own blacklist of prohibited images by subjecting files to both real-time and retroactive analyses. “Users using the platf
Inkstone index: China’s super app
1 billion: the number of active WeChat accounts. When Apple launched the App Store and began offering apps for all the tasks you can conceivably accomplish on your phone, the American company’s trademarked slogan was, “There’s an app for that.” In China, things are a bit different. You can do more or less everything using just one mega-app: WeChat. The app is China’s most prominent social platform, packed with features like food delivery, travel booking and ride-hailing. You can, of course, use WeChat to pay for things, or even give out red envelopes, digital cash gifts commonly handed out during Lunar New Year. WeChat in China is as prevalent as Facebook is in the United States, and it arg
What China’s censors didn’t want people to see in 2018
From the banning of books during the Cultural Revolution to the online erasure of John Oliver after he mocked Chinese leader Xi Jinping, information censorship in China is old news. But a look at what has been censored provides a glimpse into the ruling Communist Party’s sensitivities and what narratives it wanted to control for any given period. According to research published this week, the US-China trade war was one of the most censored topics last year on China’s wildly popular WeChat app. Among the top 10 most censored topics, three were related to the flaring tensions between the United States and China: the prolonged trade war, US sanctions against ZTE and the arrest of Huawei’s chie
Chinese tourists are ditching spending for selfies
Forget doing it for the ’gram. A growing number of Chinese tourists are doing it for the ’chat – specifically WeChat, the ubiquitous app that functions as WhatsApp, Facebook and Apple Pay combined. In the past, Chinese tourists had a reputation for their voracious appetite for luxury goods. But increasingly, more are choosing unique “social experiences” over shopping malls and boutiques, a new study by management consultancy Oliver Wyman has found. Chinese people spent $258 billion in 2017 on overseas travel – the most of any nation, according to the World Tourism Organization. That means any change in how Chinese travelers spend money has a significant impact on the global tourism industry.