Most transactions center around one app: WeChat. WeChat is an app made by Tencent that has become crucial to life in China, especially with Tencent’s state-sponsored initiative of 智慧生活 (zhihuishenghuo, smart living). WeChat enables access to messaging, video chat, payment systems, and public services. And it has nearly one billion users — about as many users as Facebook Messenger. In fact, many of WeChat’s features have recently been eerily appearing in Facebook Messenger.
I use WeChat to message a friend while standing in the middle of a rice paddy, to pay for snacks and water in a remote village, to buy train tickets, to book hotel rooms, to order taxis, to get takeout, and to send my aunt photos. If I wanted to, I could also use it to pay electricity bills, top up my mobile phone account, make hospital appointments, and check the weather.
She dives into life in China – WeChat, Taobao, and life from the rural village to Guangzhou and the electronics capital Shenzhen. The discussion goes into white-labeled shanzhai electronics and the new shanzhai which is open-source on hyperspeed — where creators build on each other’s work, co-opt, repurpose, and remix in a decentralized way, creating original products like a cell phone with a compass that points to Mecca (selling well in Islamic countries) and simple cell phones that have modular, replaceable parts which need little equipment to open or repair.
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