Video-chat service Zoom will stop offering direct services to users based in China, although it will still be accessible through the company’s local partners.

Why it matters: Zoom, the US-based company founded by Chinese-born Eric Yuan, has been caught in the crosshairs of the trade war and rising political tensions between the two countries. Removing direct service support in China highlights yet another retreat for the company in the Chinese market.

  • Zoom users surged as a popular choice for business professionals during the global lockdown resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Zoom’s move may hand domestic apps with video conferencing and productivity features, like Alibaba’s DingTalk and Tencent’s WeChat Work, the opportunity to attract more users.

Details: Zoom will suspend services, sales, and updates for users with a billing address in mainland China beginning August 23, Chinese media (in Chinese) reported Monday, citing an announcement from the company.

Read more: Is Zoom crazy to count on Chinese R&D?

  • Zoom, which previously operated its China business through direct sales, online subscription, and partner sales, is now shifting to a partner-only model with its technology embedded in partner offerings, the company said in a statement to TechNode on Monday.
  • The firm suspended the online subscription model for its China-based services two months ago.
  • “Users in Mainland China may continue to join Zoom meetings as participants,” Zoom added.
  • The company has recommended several authorized partners, including local video conferencing service provider Bizconf, Zhumu.com and Umeet, as shown in the official website of Donghan Telecom, one of Zoom’s Chinese partners which runs the website Zoom.com.cn.
  • The company said in the statement that its local partners, all of whom feature embedded Zoom technology, will provide better-localized services to users.

Context: After the company was temporarily blocked in China last fall, Chinese Zoom users began switching to localized versions of the app, including those provided by Shanghai Donghan and Shanghai Huawan.

  • Zoom suspended individual users in China from hosting meetings on the platform in May.
  • The company admitted in April that some user calls had been “mistakenly” routed through data centers in China, resulting in a backlash by foreign government agencies and companies over fears of Chinese surveillance and censorship.

Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.