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China’s Internet giants out to conquer the world

A new book dissects the success and strategies of Chinese Internet firms as more of them venture overseas

Guoli Chen and Jianggan Li
Published Wed, Sep 21, 2022 · 04:48 PM

YOU could say 2021 was a good year for China’s Internet titans. E-commerce behemoths Alibaba and JD.com notched a record US$139 billion in sales on Singles’ Day, the world’s largest shopping event. Social media phenomenon TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, was the world’s most downloaded app, overtaking previous favourite WhatsApp. Tencent, the biggest social networking and gaming company in China, reported a 16 per cent year-on-year rise in revenue, to 560 billion yuan (S$112.4 billion).

Behind the glittering numbers, however, dark clouds loom. The Chinese domestic market is slowing amid Beijing’s zero-Covid policy and frosty relations with the United States. The government’s crackdown on the tech sector may have eased, but tighter regulation appears here to stay. Despite the tough environment, Chinese Internet firms have their sight set on going global. From e-commerce (Alibaba and Pinduoduo) to social media (ByteDance) and fashion retailing (Shein), Chinese players are planting stakes around the world and shaking up more established rivals in the process.

Fast-fashion retailer Shein, for example, was valued at US$100 billion in a funding round in April, more than H&M and Zara combined. Founded only 10 years ago, Shein now sells in 150 countries including the US, where it is the dominant fast-fashion player.

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