Tencent bows to Beijing’s pressure, opens WeChat groups to social media rivals

Chinese internet giant Tencent said on Monday that it will allow more content from third-party social media rivals to open directly within its popular WeChat app, bowing to pressure from the central government, which has pushed for more interoperability among China’s Big Tech companies.

In an announcement covered by the official People’s Daily newspaper, Tencent said users will also be able to open shopping links shared from external platforms in the apps group chats “on the basis of ensuring security and user experience.” 

The company didn’t mention specific external platforms by name, but WeChat has been accused by online shopping platforms like Taobao and Tmall of blocking their links. ByteDance, which owns Douyin and TikTok, has also accused WeChat of making it hard for users to get to their sites.

WeChat has some 1.25 billion monthly active users and it vowed to develop more functions that will allow users to manage the links they receive. “We will continue to work with major internet platforms to push interoperability under the guidance of the regulatory authorities,” Tencent said in the statement.

Tencent’s apparent charge of heart comes just days after Chinese regulators told the tech giant that it will have to submit its apps to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or MIIT, before updating or launching them. The MIIT said it wanted to conduct “technology testing” to ensure that the company’s apps comply with privacy standards.

China has been encouraging the country’s technology platforms to bring down the walls between them in a bid to encourage competition among the companies. Tencent, which has been in the crosshairs of government regulators all year, started allowing Taobao and Douyin (China’s Tiktok) links to be shared in one-to-one chats back in the Fall. Today’s announcement is meant to add to that effort.

Dina Temple-Raston

Dina Temple-Raston is the host and executive producer of the Click Here podcast as well as a senior correspondent at The Record. She previously served on NPR’s Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories and national security, technology, and social justice and hosted and created the award-winning Audible Podcast “What Were You Thinking.” She was a longtime foreign correspondent for Bloomberg News in China and served as Bloomberg’s White House correspondent during the Clinton Administration. She is the author of four books, including “The Jihad Next Door: Rough Justice in the Age of Terror,” and “A Death in Texas: A Story of Race, Murder and a Small Town’s Struggle for Redemption.”

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