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China Digital Digest Weekly: Exploring the Chinese Digital Landscape

Hi folks, we are back with our weekly edition of China’s Digital Digest, wherein we would bring you weekly updates on China’s digital space. The report takes a quick glance at China’s complex and rapidly evolving social media landscape by providing updates on the latest happenings across the social media industry. Here are the major highlights of the report.

1. US House Panel to Vote Next Month On Possible Nationwide TikTok Ban

The United States House Foreign Affairs Committee plans to hold a vote next month on a bill aimed at blocking the use of China’s popular social media app TikTok in the US.

The measure, planned by the panel’s chair Representative Michael McCaul, would aim to give the White House the legal tools to ban TikTok over national security concerns. In 2020, then-President Donald Trump attempted to block new users from downloading TikTok and ban other transactions that would have effectively blocked the short video-sharing app’s use in the country but lost a series of court battles over the measure.

2. TikTok Reshuffles Executives As It Works to Keep App Available In the US

ByteDance’s general counsel is no longer overseeing US government relations for TikTok, part of a shuffle to improve the company’s standing during intense national security scrutiny, according to people familiar with the matter.

TikTok has been in contact with US officials who oversee national security issues, trying to avoid the government banning the app in the US. Erich Andersen, the general counsel of its Chinese owner ByteDance, was in charge of working with officials and trying to find a compromise that would keep TikTok available while protecting US user data. In the fall, he lost that responsibility, said people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because it is an internal matter. Andersen will continue to lead the work with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, one of the people said.

3. JD.Com Halts Indonesia And Thailand E-Commerce Sites to Refocus On Logistics

Chinese e-commerce giant is pulling the plug on its Thailand and Indonesian platforms in a major setback for the company’s overseas expansion efforts, a move that comes as the country’s Big Tech firms rein in costs amid stalled growth in the domestic internet market.

The Beijing-based company’s joint ventures in the countries – JD Central in Thailand and JD.ID in Indonesia – posted the announcements to their websites. JD Central will cease operations on March 3, while JD.ID will stop on March 31. Both sites will stop accepting orders on February 15.

4. Alibaba Denies Reports It Is Building A Global Headquarters In Singapore

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding has denied reports it is building a global headquarters in Singapore, as the company finalizes construction work on a new main campus in its hometown of Hangzhou, the capital of eastern Zhejiang province.

An Alibaba representative said that recent Chinese media reports that it was investing 8.4 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) to build a new global headquarters in Singapore were “wrong and a misinterpretation”.

5. Shein to Appoint ex-SoftBank Exec for Latin America Push

Chinese online retailer Shein plans to appoint former SoftBank Group Corp. executive Marcelo Claure to help run its Latin American business, a signature hire that could accelerate a global expansion by one of the world’s most valuable startups.

Claure, once a lieutenant to SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, will lead the region’s operations, a person familiar with the matter said. The former SoftBank chief operating officer also made a roughly $100 million personal investment in the company, the person said, declining to be identified as discussing a private deal.

6. Baidu Reportedly Gears Up to Join AI Race with ChatGPT-Style Bot

Two months following the global explosion of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Chinese tech behemoth Baidu has reportedly begun prepping to launch its own artificial intelligence-powered chatbot in March 2023.

The system will be constructed with China’s “ERNIE” natural language processor – otherwise known as the Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration. The application will initially begin as a standalone application before being embedded into Baidu’s internet search services. Users will be able to get conversation-style search results in a similar fashion to ChatGPT.

7. Collab King Hey Tea Rolls Out Chinese Film ‘Deep Sea’ Campaign

In light of the 2023 Spring Festival, Hey Tea has launched a series of co-branded products in collaboration with China’s latest animated film Deep Sea (known as 深海 Shen Hai in Mandarin Chinese).

Created by director Tian Xiaopeng as a follow-up to his first film Monkey King: Hero Is Back, this new story follows a young girl who is thrust into an adventure in a new and mysterious underwater world.

8. TikTok’s Chief Executive to Testify Before Congress in March

The chief executive of TikTok, Chew Shou Zi, has agreed to testify to Congress in March on the video app’s relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican of Washington, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee said that Chew would testify before the full committee on March 23. It would be Chew’s first appearance before Congress.

Wrapping Up

The vast and diverse nature of the Chinese Social Media space makes it incredibly challenging to keep a tab on the rapid developments taking place. However, China’s Digital Digest brings you all the latest updates from there to keep you abreast of all the evolving trends.

To delve deeper into the findings of the January report, click here.


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