After Huawei, is Tencent next?

Business & Technology

In our first quarterly Red Paper this year ($25 or free for Access members), we laid out 10 scenarios describing events that could shape the news about China in the Year of the Pig. This was one:

Trouble at Tencent or Alibaba

America’s technology fears about China are currently laser-focused on Huawei and 5G. But two huge companies have so far escaped scrutiny and remain stock market darlings, despite their ambitious global expansion plans: Tencent and Alibaba.

American action against political misinformation on WeChat among immigrants, a push into a market coveted by a U.S. technology firm, a security incident, Chinese government use of Alibaba or Tencent data for repressive acts: China’s two biggest tech firms have dozens of vulnerabilities.

Perhaps it will be Tencent. Here is one of the first of what I expect will be many media reports looking at Tencent’s role in surveillance and repression in Xinjiang, its connection to the security services, how it censors user conversations, and many other facets of the company that have not yet been scrutinized by the press, nor by agenda-driven American politicians.

In Worried about Huawei? Take a closer look at Tencent, Sarah Cook writes that investors in the giant internet company “should seriously consider the moral and political implications of their support for the firm.”

There is, of course, one key difference between Tencent and Huawei. While the telecom company is privately held, Tencent is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. A significant number of people and organizations from America’s political and economic elite own shares.