WeChat is the most popular social media platform and mobile app in China, with nearly 1.2 billion active users. In early August, US President Donald Trump signed a decree banning WeChat. Then the US Federal Court temporarily overturned the president’s decision, but what awaits American users of the application is still unknown. In this article, we will tell you what WeChat means to the Chinese and what consequences can a possible app ban in the United States have.
The US president’s administration continues to insist on the ban of the social media platform, as WeChat allegedly threatens the national security of the country by collecting "vast swaths of information from its users." According to the president, the possible collection of data threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information. Sounds pretty reasonable.
It’s just that Asian people from China and East Asia who live in the United States are seriously concerned that they will not be able to keep in touch with their family and friends. WeChat is the most popular social network in China and an indispensable way of communication for representatives of the Chinese diaspora around the world.
Interesting fact: during the pandemic, the app helped Chinese-American family stores, small restaurants, and self-employed entrepreneurs connect with customers and take orders from ethnic communities.
There are two versions of WeChat operating from different data servers: Weixin for mainland China users and WeChat for international users. Since WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are blocked in China, WeChat turns out to be almost the only means of communication for the Chinese.
What makes WeChat so successful?
If we forget about the lack of an alternative, there is another good reason why WeChat has so many supporters. The thing is that the developers and designers of the application took into account Chinese cultural characteristics: you cannot see the user’s status in WeChat, and messages are not marked as read. This way, you can read messages and respond to them when you wish.
Basic characteristics of Chinese culture have also been taken into account when developing mobile payments in WeChat. This function is performed in the format of "red envelopes": according to tradition, on the Chinese New Year, working adults give their senior relatives and children hongbao – red envelopes with money and wishes. Thanks to this reference to the Chinese tradition, WeChat Pay has quickly reached millions of users.
Thus, the US presidential administration initiative posed a big dilemma for the Chinese diaspora: foreign messengers are prohibited in China, and the Chinese messenger risks being banned in the United States. Besides, WeChat ban will deal a huge blow to expats who use WeChat to overcome language and cultural barriers and build businesses in the United States.