Many in the West have long disdained Chinese firms as copycats. Some believe that no innovation from China can be called original. Baidu looks like Google, they argue, Alibaba is a version of Amazon, and Tencent imitates Facebook.
Wrong. In the example of Tencent’s WeChat, the Chinese social media platform, Western equivalents such as Facebook Messenger, What’s App, or Twitter look hopelessly inferior.
As I wrote two years ago, there is nothing like WeChat in the West. A super app, as some call it, WeChat is a mobile messaging board offering free video calls, group chat, and many fun features such as a shake function to link contacts with other users. Now it boasts 700 million users. Each user has a personal QR code that serves as a digital ID. Over half of users have linked their bank accounts to its mobile payment system. They can shop, hail a ride or book a hotel – right there while they are chatting with friends.
At an event in Shanghai last year, Elaine Chow, communication manager of the global digital consultancy Razorfish, demonstrated how she went about her day without her wallet. Continue reading