Messaging App, Social Consultant, Dating Platform

 Instead, the Chinese Internet firm relies on new online business strategies, which in the future could also form a model for the West. Already a large portion of revenue comes from the sales of animated emoticons from the so-called “Sticker Shop,” which are either sponsored by companies or can be downloaded for a small fee. In 2013 Tencent also launched its own platform for selling online games within WeChat. Another source of income is that of fee-paying official accounts for companies and institutions. For the future, Tencent plans to launch its own online store for e-books, manga and a news app. At the moment negotiations are in progress with Chinese investment companies on the establishment of an integrated platform for financial services.

 E-commerce is another promising source of future income, as Tencent’s cooperation with the Chinese smartphone producer Xiaomi on November 22, 2013 showed. Xiaomi via WeChat sold more than 150,000 phones in only 10 minutes on that day. 

Another option could be m-commerce (mobile commerce), for which Tencent could cash in on the GPS functions of its application by enabling stores and restaurants nearby to send out personalized advertisements and e-coupons. Today, WeChat already has a paying option for the fast-food giant McDonald’s.

 However, in spite of its huge success in Asia, WeChat is still mostly unknown in the U.S. and many European countries. Shi Anbin, professor of culture and media studies at Tsinghua University, sees the still strongly “Western-focused” international media system as the reason for this. “The motto is still ‘highlight the West, neglect the rest.’ WeChat is a great success, especially in developing countries, but nobody wants to report on it in the West.”

 Indeed, innovations from China face a strong image problem in Western countries. Although in Germany, for example, renowned computer test platforms give WeChat top marks, the media echo has remained restrained, even critical. “Controversial WhatsApp rival from China,” said the headline of a radio report of the online news portal of Germany’s public broadcaster ARD, in which critics accused the Chinese mobile app of censoring its contents. And in January 2013 reporters of, an information platform of German Babelsberg Media Innovation Center, wrote, “Messages which contain ‘sensitive vocabulary’ can’t be sent via WeChat.”  

Whether innovations like WeChat will be able to gain a foothold in Western countries in the future seems to depend on whether China succeeds in strengthening its soft power overseas. Rather than official charm offensives like the government’s “Chinese dream campaign,” it could, paradoxically, be innovative IT-trends like WeChat that pave the way for Chinese inventions in the future. Maybe then the next Facebook might come from China.  

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