Forget TikTok. China’s Powerhouse App Is WeChat, and Its Power Is Sweeping.
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Forget TikTok. China’s Powerhouse App Is WeChat, and Its Power Is Sweeping.

A vital connection for the Chinese diaspora, the app has also become a global conduit of Chinese state propaganda, surveillance and intimidation. The United States has proposed banning it.


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TikTok may be hip, but only those outside China use it. In China, people use WeChat, an all-in-one digital service for making personal connections and paying bills. For the Chinese Communist Party and its police, WeChat is a powerful tool for surveillance, manipulation and deception. Its use doesn’t stop at China’s borders. For that reason, as Paul Mozur reports in The New York Times, the United States views WeChat as a security risk. WeChat joins TikTok in the confrontation between China and America over digital technologies. Mozur illuminates the conflict Chinese people living abroad face between connecting to folks at home and being swept up in China’s surveillance state.

Summary

In China, the app WeChat serves multiple purposes; outside China, it connects Chinese expats to home.

The WeChat app serves a wide variety of purposes for people in China. They use it to chat with friends, pay the electricity bill, share images from holidays, and much more. But for people who are part of China’s sprawling, global immigrant population, WeChat provides a platform for connecting with family, friends and life back in China.

TikTok’s creators built TikTok specifically to be enjoyed beyond China’s borders and beyond the grasp of its censorship. As TikTok fights a potential ban in the United States, China undermined its reach by officially designating its basic technology as a “national security priority.”

WeChat’s dominance and ubiquity also make it a useful tool for the Chinese Communist Party in that it has enabled the reach of Party censorship...

About the Author

Two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Paul Mozur is a technology correspondent for The New York Times focusing on the intersection of technology and geopolitics in Asia.


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