The Great Firewall of China has blocked even the mightiest companies.
Go online in China and you’ll find an internet that looks very different than the one you’d see in most other countries. The mainstays of the Web — Google, Facebook, Netflix, etc. — are either unavailable or on the periphery, hindered in large part by a government that’s made censorship and surveillance the norm.
And the Western tech powers that aren’t internet-based have still struggled to grow in a country that tends to favor its own, and in a market where consumer habits often differ than those in the US.
Uber flamed out. Apple is sputtering. Netflix can’t get started. Amazon is flailing. Google and YouTube aren’t even there. The result: the rise of several tech companies that provide services similar to the biggest names elsewhere, but have leveraged China’s massive market to become giants on their own.
Despite their size, though, many of these titans aren’t well-known outside of their home country. So to help you get acquainted, here’s a few of China’s biggest tech powers, and their closest peers in the US.
Baidu is the closest thing to a Google of China.
Baidu’s search engine is the most popular site in the country, and it operates several tangential services, including tools for maps and cloud storage. It’s working on self-driving cars, echoing Google’s efforts with Waymo, and ramping up its AI efforts as well.
Apple doesn’t have a clear analog, as smartphone users in China aren’t as fiercely loyal to one brand as Americans. But as the country’s biggest phone maker, Huawei could be considered in the ballpark.
Its P10 and Mate 9 phones are certainly premium, though its wide-ranging device lineup makes it more comparable to a company like Samsung.
It’s a similar story with Xiaomi, another electronics manufacturer that produces various high-quality smartphones and has gained a decent following.
Many of Xiaomi’s devices look similar to Apple’s, but other devices, like the near-bezel-free Mi Mix, are trailblazers in their own right. Still, the fact that Xiaomi slaps its name on a truckload of devices, ranging from fitness trackers to rice cookers, puts it closer to Samsung than Apple in scope.
Tencent is the Facebook of China, a sweeping internet company with its hands all over the Chinese internet.
Tencent is best known for its array of influential messaging and social media platforms. The most notable of those is WeChat, which, with nearly 1 billion monthly users, is China’s biggest social service. WeChat has no real peer in the West — it’s a Frankenstein’s monster of Facebook (the app), iMessage, Google News, Venmo, and Slack rolled into one.
There are two Chinese companies that could be likened to Amazon. First and foremost is Alibaba.
Alibaba’s offerings expand well beyond e-commerce: its Alipay payment app, for one, is enormous. Still, the company is primarily bolstered by its range of online shopping sites.
Those include country’s biggest consumer retail site, and Taobao, which is like a Chinese eBay. And that’s not to mention its massive cloud business, another area where Amazon is dominant in the US., the