What if, in the future not far away, there will be no other Chinese app besides WeChat?

As China’s provincial governments began to roll out electronic travel papers — for their citizens to travel to Hong Kong — in cooperation with Tencent’s WeChat, I had mixed feelings toward this decision. On one hand, I am delighted that the Chinese government has been making effort in digitizing bureaucratic processes, the most obnoxious of which being immigration documents; yet on the other, the overwhelming growth of WeChat’s role in the Chinese internet sector worries me.

Since the launch of WeChat in 2011 as a chat tool with push-to-talk features, the product has undergone significant horizontal expansion under the management of senior Tencent executive Allen Zhang. Zhang’s team first introduced official accounts, allowing original articles to be distributed through the WeChat platform. The team then integrated its own digital payment service, WeChat Pay, posing a challenge to Alipay’s market monopoly in China. WeChat’s recent strategy is more notable, as it launched Mini Programs, effectively creating an open platform through which developers can generate web apps directly accessible to WeChat users.

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Tianyu Fang

A Boston-based freelance writer on Chinese tech and culture, and an independent researcher on US-China relations. Previously, he lived in Beijing, where he worked closely with China’s tech startup community.