Big Chinese tech companies unlock walled gardens to integrate competing payments services

For years, China’s biggest internet companies have blocked links to their respective platforms. Two rival conglomerates, Tencent and Alibaba, have both built barriers around their ecosystems, forming walled gardens. Links to Taobao, a marketplace operated by Alibaba, were not accessible on WeChat, Tencent’s popular super app. Likewise, WeChat Pay could not be used in Alibaba’s apps as a payment method.

It changes. Earlier this month, regulators order companies to take “self-rectification” measures and dissolve the policies of external blocking. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has told top tech companies including Alibaba, Tencent and ByteDance that they can no longer block links posted by users directing traffic to competing platforms. MIIT said the blocks were measures that disrupted market order, created unfair competition and undermined users’ rights and data security.

As a result, tech companies are gradually breaking down their walls. Alibaba has started integrating WeChat Pay into a number of its e-commerce platforms.

Alibaba’s ecosystem is vast. It includes Ele.me delivery service, Youku video service, Damai entertainment ticketing platform, Kaola cross-border import retail e-commerce business, and Shuqi e-book app, which now include WeChat Pay as a payment option alongside Alipay, which is operated by Ant Group, a subsidiary of Alibaba fintech.

Meanwhile, some of Alibaba’s other platforms are waiting for Tencent’s approval for the integration. These include the Taobao Deals bargain market, the Idle Fish second-hand market (Xianyu) and the Freshippo grocery chain (Hema), according to a spokesperson for the Alibaba group.

It is not known if Alibaba will seek to introduce WeChat Pay in its largest markets, Taobao and Tmall. Alibaba said KrASIA as Taobao and Tmall prepare for technical changes so that platforms gradually connect to multiple payment methods.

Tencent has also started unblocking external links on WeChat so that users can be directed to lists on Taobao and videos on Douyin, TikTok’s sister app developed by ByteDance. At the moment, this is only available in direct messages. It’s not available on Moments, which looks like Facebook’s news feed.

Meanwhile, Tencent is developing features that allow users to choose whether they want to enable external link features in group chats and Moments stream, the company said in a statement. declaration posted on his official WeChat account last week. He did not say whether he would integrate Alipay into his services.

For now, users of many platforms are enjoying an improved experience.

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