WeChat, as the largest social platform in China, with the gradual improvement of its usage rate in China, its sense of existence in the international community is also gradually improving. This paper will analyze the economic and political nature of WeChat as a social platform and explore how it affects the life of Chinese people.
What is WeChat？
WeChat is an SMS and call app bundled with various social functions, making it a social media platform(Tu, 2016). Its functions include group chat, content sharing, voice, and video calls, playing mobile games, and contacting strangers nearby. Unlike QQ, another popular social software in China, the interface and functions of WeChat are much more straightforward, so the social acceptance of WeChat is relatively improved. WeChat also has a complete payment system, which people will use to pay for goods and living expenses (Doland, 2016) .
The video below will help you to better understand WeChat:
WeChat, also known as Weixin, was initially born in Guangzhou in 2011. It is an instant messaging application developed by Tencent. Given the high cost of SMS and MMS at that time, the development of WeChat undoubtedly solved the dilemma at that time. Because of the free voice function and voice message ability of WeChat, its registered users have exceeded 100 million in 2012 (Boyd, Clark; Zhang, Chao, 2017). After getting a good response, Tencent decided to develop other multimedia application functions for WeChat to no longer be limited to a simple chat tool. WeChat integrates the functions of multiple social software. It has the process of sharing posts like Twitter and has the role of search engine and app store. Moreover, WeChat also involves payment function and a mutually beneficial function of cooperation with third parties.
In terms of function, WeChat has indeed achieved its slogan “WeChat, new lifestyle.” This new lifestyle has indeed had a disruptive impact on social media in China. As shown in Figure1, the number of people using WeChat has doubled every year. By the second quarter of 2020, the number of users has reached 1.206 billion, which means that about 85% of China’s people use WeChat.
On the other hand, the income of WeChat to Tencent is immeasurable. In terms of social networking and advertising, video advertising’s revenue contribution has increased from the single digit in the second quarter of 2019 to more than 40% in the second quarter of this year (Tencent, 2020). Additionally, WeChat has also turned its eyes to the international market. In 2012, WeChat ranked first in Apple stores in 15 global regions, including Southeast Asia and Latin America, and became one of the four instant messaging tools with WhatsApp, Kakao Talk, and line (Yang, 2016).
Business Model of WeChat
Working with third parties
Unique way to add friends
Besides, the cooperation between WeChat and third parties such as banks and other enterprises also differs from other ordinary instant messaging platforms. It has the function of Alipay. With the strong support of the government, WeChat’s payment function is not limited to shopping. Still, WeChat supports the online payment of daily living expenses, including utilities and taxes and fees.
Also, WeChat marketing(Yan J, 2018) has also become the trend of commercial marketing platforms in the mobile Internet era. Enterprises or individuals can build an official account on WeChat to achieve a high speed of information transmission. The authorized version is a channel for WeChat marketing, which aims at better serving customers. The official account is mainly divided into service numbers, subscription numbers, and enterprise numbers. Service number and subscription number are mostly service users. The enterprise number’s full name is the public platform enterprise number, which is mainly used for enterprises’ internal management. Enterprises can implement different marketing strategies according to customers’ diverse needs to provide maximum convenience for customers(Yan B, 2018).
Another advantage of WeChat, which is different from other social software, is its unique way of adding friends. There are many ways to add friends to WeChat. In addition to the traditional way of finding WeChat, “scan,” “shake,” and people nearby are all new ways to add contacts. WeChat allows users to scan their own “QR code” to each other, the user-generated personal QR code business card (Sandel, 2019). In China, the exchange of paper business cards has been gradually replaced by WeChat scan unique QR code. With the continuous updating of WeChat functions, as of version 7.0.18, WeChat’s scan function has covered code scanning (QR code/barcode / mini-program code), item scanning, and translation.
Internet ecology refers to an enterprise’s Internet network, including its competitors and partners, its supply chain, and regulatory model.
First of all, WeChat is developed by Tencent Holdings, China’s most comprehensive technology and media company, and belongs to Tencent Holdings. By 2020, Tencent’s market value has exceeded $500 billion. Same as Tencent, WeChat’s users has reached 85% of China’s total population, which is worthy of being the most popular “national social platform” in China. The addition of multiple languages also indicates that WeChat has gone global.
It also benefits from the mutual benefit and win-win between WeChat and its partners. WeChat cooperates with hundreds of partners, including the government, banks, and most enterprises. The cooperation with the government in various online life services, the payment function for collaboration with banks, the push of official account numbers with enterprises, advertising marketing, and the operation of the third party’s mini-programs, WeChat has covered all aspects of life.
Within China, WeChat’s competitors are divided into two main areas, mainly Weibo and QQ in social aspects, while Alipay is the primary payment side. Internationally, they are mostly Facebook, Twitter, and INS. Still, because of China’s Internet firewall setting, competitors in the international scope will not pose a significant threat to WeChat in a short time.
As mentioned above, Tencent intends to make the development of WeChat more comprehensive. With the popularity of shopping platforms such as Taobao and Jingdong, Tencent has also developed a WeChat derived e-commerce platform: WeChat mall. The emergence of the WeChat mall has created opportunities for many enterprises to establish online distribution channels through WeChat mall (Yan B. , 2018). In the context of Internet mode in China, the supervision of WeChat is jointly supervised by Tencent and the government. Tencent needs to oversee the platform by the government’s requirements. As Plantin(Plantin, 2019) presented, WeChat’s success depends on a strict ban on foreign competitors and Tencent’s compliance with government requirements.
The ecology inforgraphic is shown below:
How does wechat affect our Internet life？
Wechat has undoubtedly brought a very transformative impact on the life of Chinese people. The following will discuss the influence of WeChat on China from the three aspects of commercialization, politicization, and life.
Here is the video to see how WeChat change the China:
As for WeChat commercialization, it has indeed introduced a new business model for China. Take WeChat purchasing and WeChat payment as examples. Due to China’s high tariff, the emergence of overseas Chinese to do what purchasing agents. The luxury goods purchased on behalf of what are usually cheaper than those on the counter and the video call function of WeChat gives those agents a live broadcast of the purchasing process, so more and more people buy luxury goods there. In recent years, WeChat purchasing has become a new business model in China. However, this new business model also has its drawbacks. WeChat purchasing agents may be fake, and it is currently in a legal grey area; those engaged in WeChat purchasing agents may have to bear high tariffs. Also, WeChat payment has become one of the most crucial online payment platforms in China. It provides functions similar to Alipay, such as car and food purchase (Deluna, 2018). The research and development of WeChat payment have also brought great benefits to Tencent, as its daily business transaction volume increases year by year. As shown in Figure 4, WalktheChat estimated that the daily business transaction volume of WeChat payments from December 2015 to December 2019 might increase by 290% (16 million to more than 1 billion).
In terms of politics, the cooperation between WeChat and the government has opened up a new path for China’s Internet regulation. In recent years, Tencent’s updating of WeChat is mainly to meet users’ needs in life. It serves commercial purposes and plays a role as a new infrastructure construction model(Plantin, 2019). For example, for real-name authentication, the premise of using WeChat payment is to bind the ID card and bank card with WeChat. The government authorizes this method, and its purpose is to ensure that the source of WeChat funds is the user himself/herself. Similarly, real-name authentication involves personal privacy, WeChat, and the government has more user data. Once these data are leaked, the consequences will be grave. Moreover, the official WeChat of cooperation between WeChat and the government, XXFabu, while ‘XX’ means the Chinese city. XXfabu change the traditional form of government information is transformed into digital services, which promotes the interaction among citizens and government(Pan, 2020).
In conclusion, WeChat has brought a transformative impact on China’s digital media platform, and it also has become a new lifestyle for Chinese people. It could be wondered what kind of surprise WeChat will bring to our life in the future?
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