The old story: Big Chinese Internet companies would, rather than buy or invest in startups, hire a bunch of engineers to build products on their own or do pixel-to-pixel knockoffs. Big names like Tencent are notorious for killing startups by doing so, with better products or the ability of converting existing users. Recognized reasons include 1) the costs of hiring several smart-enough Chinese engineers are much lower than buying a startup, and 2) intellectual property rights haven’t been well protected in China.

That changed much in the last couple of years. Big Chinese Internet giants began acquiring startups or taking stakes in them. The widely accepted causes include 1) they, almost all being public companies, became increasingly rich in cash, and 2) Tencents felt pressure for being accused of strangling innovation and entrepreneurship. Not only domestic companies, they are also, more recently, eyeing companies big or small overseas.

In early 2013, we heard a lot of rumors about potential acquisitions or investments. Most of them turn out to be true. But those were relatively small deals compared with what would happen later in the year.

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Tracey Xiang

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com