Two Giants in China
“Alibaba and Tencent: Disrupting China, Dozens of Industries at a Time” was the title of an article by Stratfor. It is not difficult to understand the reason for the title. Traditionally the two companies are seen as internet companies “involved in social media, e-commerce, streaming media and mobile payments”. But they are in fact much more than that.
Although in the area of cloud computing both companies have “hopes of disrupting the hegemony of Western firms in the field, such as Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Google”, yet they are also involved in such industries as “online shopping, news media, bike sharing, delivery services and gaming” – and much more. “Alibaba’s original payment service, Alipay, spun off from the company in 2011 — though Alibaba retains a 30 percent stake — and changed its name to Ant Financial a few years later and is now the world's largest private tech company, valued at around US$150 billion.” “Tencent has expanded its services to include the super-app WeChat, a one-stop shop for social media, messaging and mobile payments that could give Ant Financial a run for its money.”
As Alibaba and Tencent continue to compete they will disrupt a wide range of Chinese industries. Stratfor points to two results of that influence. They are creating “a dichotomy in the Chinese market that sometimes forces domestic and foreign firms to choose between them when launching a new product or service.” But more importantly, “the rise of the two companies has been a blessing and a curse for China. While the investment and innovation they offer have helped the economy, the sway Alibaba and Tencent now hold over China's people and economy is putting the government ill at ease. But as much as it can't afford to cede authority to these companies, it can neither afford to rein them in too tightly.” One reason is that “the two tech giants are on their way to becoming the two biggest sources of venture capital in China, together accounting for nearly half of Chinese venture capital flows. Tencent alone backs 19 so-called unicorn companies — start-ups valued at more than $1 billion — and recently led an $820 million funding round for humanoid robotics firm Ubtech.”
Christians have not always been quick to harness the Gospel potential that such massive changes in technology offer, even recognising the challenges that China’s restricted environment brings. WeChat already hosts a number of Christian platforms. Consider this response from inside China to a Derek Prince China Ministries WeChat platform: “Among all the messages on WeChat, only with your messages do I write notes and check the Bible verses every time while reading your articles. Thank the Lord! It gives me a feeling that there is a Bible teacher at my side while reading your articles.” As believers, we need to understand the times in which we live and use them for the Gospel’s sake. May it be than many more believers in China might feel that “there is a Bible teacher at my side.”
Pray that Christian churches and ministries would be quick to understand and embrace the openings that these huge changes offer.
Pray for the leaders of Alibaba and Tencent, that they would understand both the opportunities and the dangers that their giant companies present.
Pray for wisdom for the Chinese government, that they would know how to handle this new phenomenon in China’s ever changing tech and business world.
(Key Source: Stratfor Enterprises, LLC; www.stratfor.com)