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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. Tencent is Shutting Down Its ‘Third-Tier’ Audio Platform in September



Chinese social media giant Tencent Holdings said it will shut down its eight-year-old online audio platform Penguin FM in September, as China’s most highly valued tech giant continues to consolidate its content businesses. Penguin FM has stopped new user registrations, and existing users can no longer add money to their accounts, the business unit said in a statement on its website.



Tencent launched the platform in 2015, allowing users to listen to a variety of audio products, including music stations, books, news, and chat channels. The company did not provide a specific explanation for the decision, simply calling it a “business adjustment”.


2. TikTok, Meta Grilled Over China, Foreign Interference in Australian Inquiry



Australian representatives of TikTok and Meta faced a grilling from lawmakers in Canberra last week over the platforms’ efforts to combat foreign interference, in scenes reminiscent of the congressional pile-on faced by TikTok’s chief executive in the United States in March.



The inquiry, aimed at studying ways in which Australia’s democracy was harmed by foreign interference through social media, took a combative turn with the prominent China hawk, Senator James Paterson, presiding over the hearing.


3. TikTok Crackdown Bill In US Faces Changes After Bytedance Lobbying, Senator Says



US lawmakers are considering changes to address concerns about a bill that would give the Biden administration new powers to ban Chinese-owned TikTok, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee who has cosponsored the legislation said.



Democratic Senator Mark Warner told Reuters that aggressive lobbying by the ByteDance-owned short video app TikTok against the Restrict Act “slowed a bit of our momentum” after it was introduced in March. Warner said lawmakers have “a proposal on a series of amendments to make it explicitly clear” and address criticisms, including that individual Americans could be impacted or that the bill represents a broad expansion of government power.


4. WeChat to Skip Australian Social Media Hearing on ‘Political Interference’



Chinese social media platform WeChat, owned by Tencent Holdings, will not be sending a representative to the hearing on foreign interference in Australia's political affairs, as backlash against the app intensifies.



Australian Liberal Senator James Paterson, a vocal critic of WeChat, revealed that the platform declined multiple invitations from the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media. The committee aims to shed light on the potential impact of "foreign interference" through social media platforms in Australian politics. Executives from TikTok, Twitter and LinkedIn are scheduled to attend the hearing, but WeChat, which lacks permanent staff in Australia, cannot be compelled to appear due to its headquarters being situated in Shenzhen, China.


5. Meta’s Threads Tops China’s App Store Despite Great Firewall Ban



Meta’s new Twitter rival, Threads, is topping China’s iOS app charts, despite Western social media apps like Instagram and Facebook being banned in the country by its “Great Firewall”, which regulates the domestic internet.



Threads, launched on 5th July, already ranked fourth among free social media apps in Apple’s iOS store in China, and just outside the top 50 of all free apps in the country as of 7th July. It sat between Chinese tech giant Tencent’s QQ Mail and Tencent Video. The app has gained traction even though users based in China must use virtual private networks to access the platform.


6. Apple Expands Sales Reach In China With WeChat Online Store



Apple is expanding its sales network in China by launching an official virtual storefront on WeChat, the country’s most popular messaging app, at a time when the US tech giant is slowly moving production elsewhere in Asia as part of its efforts to reduce reliance on Chinese factories.



The Californian company’s Apple Store mini-app on WeChat offers a range of services in tandem with its official website-based online store, according to a statement. The mini-app lets WeChat users browse and search by product categories, check out product details and related training courses, and place and track orders.


7. Shein in Talks With Banks And Exchanges About US IPO



Shein, the online fast-fashion retailer founded in China, is working with at least three investment banks about a potential US initial public offering (IPO) and has been in talks with the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, people familiar with the matter said.



Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase are among the banks helping Shein with its IPO preparation, according to six of the sources. The timing of an IPO is uncertain and the fashion retailer, which is under scrutiny from US lawmakers over its labor practices, may decide not to proceed in the near future, one of the sources said.


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 July report, click here.


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