Chinese messaging and social media app WeChat is at the center of a battle between the US and China for geopolitical and technological dominance. A potential ban of the app, proposed by the US government in August, would cut off an important window into China.
With over 1 billion active users globally, WeChat is one of the few communication channels connecting millions of Chinese immigrants or Chinese Americans with their families and friends in China. The app also offers precious insight into daily life there, through accounts run by media organizations, key opinion leaders, and individuals. Posts on the platform showcase rare displays of discontent towards the Chinese government, with users sharing restricted articles on topics like the coronavirus pandemic, briefly dodging censorship by the platform and the Chinese government with creative use of emojis and coded language.
The bans on WeChat and fellow app TikTok by the Trump administration (citing national security concerns), make them the latest casualty in the political fight over the future of the internet. While US courts examine the validity of the bans, TikTok is exploring a deal to spin off its US operations into a US-headquartered company. WeChat’s owner Tencent is yet to detail its plans.