Today’s post was written by Christine McConnell, Account Manager at SafeSourcing.
Facebook and social media have had quite a checkered past in China. After being widely available for several years, Facebook was blocked following a series of riots that took place in northwest China in 2009. The government suspected that the activists were using Facebook as part of their communications network, (and they probably were). Apparently the Chinese government is still highly sensitive to any internet application that might be used to organize China’s masses beyond the reaches of their authority. As such, they also blocked access to YouTube after soldiers were filmed beating Tibetan monks, and to Twitter. In 2010 the ubiquitous search engine Google was also pushed outside the Great FireWall for refusing to allow the Chinese government to censor its search results. All this is of particular interest to me now because my brother boarded an Airbus A330 last Friday morning to begin a new chapter in China. He’ll be teaching US and World History at Beijing No. 4 High School International; and although I couldn’t be happier for him, I cannot imagine being unable to communicate with him regularly. He is one of my best friends. To that end, I am now exploring alternate ways for us to connect.
WeChat to the rescue! Since its inception four years ago, WeChat has become the dominant instant messaging service in China with nearly 700 million monthly active users to date. WeChat enables users to call, text, and send pictures. However unlike Facebook Messenger it’s not simply a messaging platform. Once inside the main WeChat app, you can check current events, manage and pay bills, book a reservation at a favorite restaurant, hail a taxi, or even schedule a doctor’s appointment. In fact, WeChat contains several million third party apps. From retail stores to brands to celebrities to start ups, almost any group or association can have their own account – each account acting like its own web page – turning WeChat into a kind of mobile web browser. If WeChat is as simple to use as it looks, my brother and I will be sharing stories again in no time. I can’t wait for his next update!
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