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WeChat's Overseas Plan
Cover Stories Series 2013> WeChat's Overseas Plan
UPDATED: August 5, 2013 NO. 32 AUGUST 8, 2013
Beyond Borders

Today, a growing number of mobile phone users in China are using WeChat, a free and easy-to-use application through which they can send voice messages, pictures, video clips, and text to other users.

Developed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., a hi-tech firm headquartered in Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong Province, WeChat gained immediate popularity among the users across China. According to the company, the total number of registered WeChat users had exceeded 400 million by the end of June, only two and half years since it was first launched.

WeChat boasts an array of superior qualities over some other messaging apps. For one, it has been supported by a handful of operating systems, ranging from iPhone and Android to Windows Phone and Symbian, as well as BlackBerry, making it a practical and effective tool for communication and social networking. Moreover, it has also allowed room for businesses to interact with consumers. This is expected to endow WeChat with great commercial value and more novel business possibilities.

While attaining tremendous success at home, Tencent has made inroads in the global marketplace and reportedly has more than 70 million users in over 100 countries across Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

In recent years, Tencent has made a number of acquisitions and other strategic moves abroad, including opening an R&D center in the United States in March. But the tougher question is: Will it be able to compete squarely with its rivals like America's WhatsApp and Japan's Line? Some local industry insiders argue that although WeChat may in fact be a superior product, the battle to acquire more users, particularly in Western countries, won't be easy because governments may see WeChat as a threat to their national security, an accusation some Chinese companies are all too familiar with. Nevertheless, WeChat is well situated to expand well beyond China, something necessary for Chinese companies to mature and compete head on in the battle for global consumers. In this sense, WeChat may just be the first product that gives "Made-in-China" a whole new meaning.

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