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WeChat – Amelia Fenn for 9/8

We have talked a lot in class about the relationship between business, culture, and power; but what happens when a business corporation with international reaches has a larger pull from one country? Especially if that country is China. 

On September 4th 2020, Paul Mozur published an article for the New York Times entitled: “Forget TikTok. China’s Powerhouse App Is WeChat, and Its Power Is Sweeping.” Within it, he discusses the harsh reality of censorship and false propaganda within China, and the way that WeChat and apps like it have completely skewed an entire citizenships view of news, entertainment, and basic communication. 

The article first dives into the pervasive nature of WeChat. Within China it encompasses everything from basic social media posts, networking, celebrity content, and even food services. All of these though, are overseen, censored, and shadowed by the Chinese government. False information spreads on the app like wildfire. Mozur gives us examples like WeChat claiming things like Canada legalizing hard drugs, the United States widely accepting Trump as an effective leader, and even conspiracy theories about the Notre Dame fires. 

He explains that the app is effectively used as a means of “social control” by the Chinese government. For example Joanne Li who was  held in police custody off and on for three days as a result of the news stories she had been posting on the app. But the story takes a turn when looking at international users of WeChat that are Chinese citizens.  

Mozur references the work of “Mr.Fang”, a Chinese, University of Pennsylvania graduate who started a 6-week course on information and news literacy called “News Lab”. The project has since been taken down by the owners of WeChat (a company called “Tencent”), but its effects on Chinese immigrants who were still seeing censored information on their accounts was immediate. They learned to take in a wide variety of information, and were taught that all media is biased (at least to some degree). 

I think that this topic is particularly relevant to our recent class discussions, because we have talked about the powerhouse of business and the relationship that it has with politics. The reality though, is that not all governments operate within the same capacity. Especially now that technology is an accepted aspect of our daily lives, the question of the power capacity that international companies are able to accomplish is increasingly pressing. International law on projecting true information around the world simply does not exist. Especially given the conversations that we have had about globalization and the ever-shrinking world we exist in, we know that international news and interest has only become more widespread. 

My predictions for what will happen with this topic in the future, are in all honesty nothing profound. I suspect that Chinese media and coverage will continue to be seen as less and less credible, but that Chinese technology will continue to be used and accepted. I think that the international market will learn to take the good with the bad. As for China updating their policies and providing more freedoms for their constituents anytime soon, I wouldn’t hold my breath. 

MLA Citation: Mozur, Paul. “Forget TikTok. China’s Powerhouse App Is WeChat, and Its Power Is Sweeping.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 Sept. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/09/04/technology/wechat-china-united-states.html.

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