Just as the US decision to overturn “net neutrality”—a set of principles stipulating that internet service providers must treat all traffic the same—spured a heated public debate, a broadband plan in China that goes against net neutrality principles is growing at an impressive pace. The mobile internet plan, branded as King Card, grew from 20 million users in May to over 50 million as of this December.

King Card is an alliance between China’s social media and gaming giant Tencent and one of the country’s “big three” telecom service providers, China Unicom, which announced (in Chinese) its latest user numbers at a recent conference. Starting at RMB 19 yuan a month, the card gives unlimited data usage on Tencent’s ecosystem of apps encompassing everything one needs in daily life—from messaging, payments and news to music, video streaming and gaming.

It’s not news that China’s tech giants try to lock users within their own walled gardens using carrots and sticks. The current Chinese internet arena is, to some extent, a duopoly between Alibaba and Tencent. WeChat users can’t open links from Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao within the messaging app, for example, and Taobao users can’t make purchases via WeChat on the online shopping platform. The two giants have also tried to lure users with their newly minted social credit systems.

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Rita Liao

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.