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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. ByteDance Jumps Into Ride-Hailing in China with Douyin Mini-Apps

Douyin, TikTok’s mainland Chinese version, has started offering ride-hailing services, including T3Go, through its mini-app platform. The move could stir up fresh competition in a market bruised by an onslaught of regulatory crackdowns and pandemic restrictions over the past few years.

That new initiative, first reported by local media site Tech Planet, shows the ambition of the short video app Douyin, which has 600 million daily active users in China, to turn into an e-commerce and local services platform. Douyin’s push into the ride-hailing sector by aggregating services provided by other companies is still at an early stage. The T3Go mini-app – accessible to all Douyin users, but tucked away in a folded menu that takes a few clicks to reach – appears to take reservations only at this point.

2. McDonald’s Partners up with Chinese Designer to Create Fast Food Fashion

McDonald’s has launched an end-of-year campaign, smartly combining the practice of fast food with fashion through wordplay. The campaign’s tagline “Chicken is not to be missed food fashion show”is a clever wordplay where the original word 机jī (opportunity) in the Chinese idiom 机jī不bù可kě失shī (an opportunity that cannot be missed) has been replaced by 鸡jī, which translates to the fast food chain’s signature offering of chicken.

As part of the efforts, the brand has collaborated with Angus Chiang, an emerging contemporary designer from Taiwan who was also shortlisted for an LVMH Prize. The fast-food chain giant has also tapped into the iconic Chinese rock singer Wowkie Zhang, leveraging the dubbed “true punk bringer to the Chinese” for localization.

3. US Considers Pushing ByteDance to Sell local TikTok Unit

Security officials who are part of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. have been considering pushing Bytedance to sell its American TikTok unit. A representative for TikTok told Insider in a statement on Monday that the company has been cooperating with the US government for over two years to address all reasonable national security concerns about TikTok in the U.S.

China-based ByteDance said earlier this month that its own internal review showed that its employees accessed data belonging to two journalists in the US, among others in the country. Congress has also pushed the issue, with the US Senate voting earlier this month to stop US government employees from having the app on government-issued phones.

4. Tencent’s Pony Ma Tells Staff to Focus on Core Areas with Cost Cuts to Continue

In the year-end meeting for company employees, Pony Ma Huateng, founder and chief executive of Tencent Holdings, reviewed Tencent’s cost-cutting efforts and hit out at employees for a lack of urgency when it comes to improving efficiency.

Ma said Tencent, which has been divesting some of its investment portfolios, has to get into a habit of cutting costs and finding core areas instead of seeking expansion and scale. “In the past, when we saw others were adding weight, we also tried to increase in size, but what we added was just fat, and we were still unable to defeat others,” Ma was quoted as saying.

5. Baidu Expands Fully Driverless Robotaxi Coverage in China’s Wuhan

Baidu, a leading AI company with a strong internet foundation, has announced a major expansion of its commercialized fully driverless robotaxi service in Wuhan, tripling the size of its operation area, increasing the number of robotaxis in service and expanding operating time to include prime evening hours.

The move marks a major milestone on Baidu's ambitious autonomous ride-hailing roadmap, as the company plans to put an additional 200 fully driverless robotaxis into operation across China in 2023, aiming to cover the largest fully driverless ride-hailing service area in the world by the end of the same year.

6. SHEIN’s Exploration Evolves Into the Online Marketplace

Chinese online fast fashion retailer SHEIN is exploring the possibility of becoming an online marketplace platform, in a move that would enable third-party merchants to sell directly to customers, and will put the company in direct competition with e-commerce giants such as Amazon.

It’s reported that the first stop SHEIN will be dipping its toes in is Brazil, with Brazil and Mexico being the company’s main markets in Latin America. SHEIN was founded in Nanjing, China, and started off selling wedding dresses abroad, before rapidly growing into one of the world’s top online retailers. The company is known for its affordably priced apparel as well as a wide range of accessories and household items, thanks to the country’s stable clothing supply chain and strong manufacturing capabilities.

7. Alibaba’s Taobao to Launch First Metaverse Livestreaming Channel

Taobao, an e-commerce network controlled by Alibaba, is carrying out final tests prior to releasing its first metaverse livestreaming product.

The initiative is anticipated to launch online during the forthcoming New Year’s shopping extravaganza if all goes well. Taobao has frequently released products relating to the metaverse since the start of the year.

8. China’s ByteDance Finds Staff Wrongly Accessed TikTok User Data in the US

TikTok parent company ByteDance found that some employees inappropriately gained access to the data of some American users, complicating the Chinese technology giant’s already-fraught efforts to convince US lawmakers that its app is secure.

Members of ByteDance’s internal audit team responsible for the investigation accessed the personal data from some journalists’ accounts, including internet protocol addresses, to try to determine whether they interacted with TikTok employees, according to a second email sent by TikTok general counsel Erich Andersen.

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 December report, click here.

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