Beyond the walled garden: WeChat links digital wallets of Big Telcos

The latest crack in the impregnable “walled gardens” of China’s Big Tech firms means digital wallet holders under China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom can now make payments by scanning WeChat QR codes.

This is a major upgrade for anyone who uses one of these three digital wallets as their primary payment method, since WeChat QR codes are often the only form of payment available in brick-and-mortar establishments in urban China.

This latest partnership between Tencent and China’s top 3 telecommunications companies means their users do not have to switch out of their preferred mobile payment app.

The move is Tencent’s latest effort to improve the interoperability of its services, which the government has been pushing all of China’s Big Tech firms to do for years. “In recent years, WeChat Pay has continued to push for openness and interconnectivity with various organisations in multiple scenarios,” Tencent said in a statement.

China’s super apps, like WeChat, are siloed, meaning they are designed to block the use of rival services within the app as much as possible. For example, it used to be the case that URL links from other websites/platforms did not have visible previews in WeChat.

Then, in 2021, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology instructed tech companies to unblock other sites’ links inside their own ecosystems calling this a “basic requirement for developing the internet”. A senior official in the ministry further explained that the silos “affect users’ experience, undermine users’ rights, and disrupt market orders.”

The ministry ultimately hopes to end digital “walled gardens” completely, as they dampen competition in the market and pool huge influence in the hands of a few tech CEOs.


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