Chinese companies battle for U.S. teenage mindshare

Business & Technology

Even as U.S.-China tensions escalate to levels unprecedented in the last four decades, three hard-charging Chinese internet companies are confidently expanding in America.

The TikTok logo sits comfortably among the logos of it's Western peers like Facebook, Instragram, and Whatsapp.

Even as U.S.-China tensions escalate to levels unprecedented in the last four decades, three hard-charging Chinese internet companies are confidently expanding in America.

TikTok is a short-video app to which every quarantined American teenager appears to be addicted. The company is shifting “its center of power away from China,” according to Reuters. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, which operates TikTok’s Chinese equivalent, Duoyin, and several other popular Chinese apps.

On May 19, TikTok announced that it had poached Kevin Mayer from Disney, where he was widely credited with making the success of the company’s video-streaming division. Reuters says the hire was “just the most visible part of a broader strategy” to pull TikTok’s management out of China. Other moves include hiring more than 150 engineers at the company’s office in Mountain View, California.

Meanwhile, another Chinese company, Kuaishou, whose eponymous short-video app competes with Duoyin in China, has launched an international app called Zynn. The app is very, very similar to TikTok, but in the 20-odd days since its launch, it has already gone to number one on Apple’s App Store.

How did Zynn do it? By offering users cash rewards and gift cards. These seem to be restricted to users in the U.S. and Canada only. To get the rewards, users must watch videos and invite friends to use the app. (See PingWest and Abacus for more.)

Meanwhile, News Break, an app from Chinese tech veteran Jeff Zhèng Zhāohuī 郑朝晖, “has ranked No. 1 among all free iPhone news apps on the U.S. App Store several times since January 2019,” reports TechCrunch. News Break is similar to ByteDance’s news app Toutiao. In fact, Zheng previously launched Yidian Zixun, “the Beijing-based startup seen early on as the main rival of Toutiao.” News Break has staff in Beijing, Shanghai, Seattle, and Mountain View.