TikTok, the most popular free app in the US, has made headlines in recent days not because of its content, but because of its alleged links to the Chinese Communist Party.
Its chairman, Xu Ziqiu, appeared before US politicians in Congress as he answered adversarial questions about Chinese parent company ByteDance and the extent of Chinese government access to user data.
But the platform is far from the only Chinese-owned mobile app to conquer Western markets.
Analytics firm Apptopia estimates that three more of the top 10 free mobile apps most downloaded by US users are also owned by Chinese companies. Also, two of them are among the most downloaded applications in the United Kingdom, according to what was reported by the “BBC”, and which was reviewed by “Al Arabiya.net”.
What makes Chinese apps so successful?
Video editing app CapCut is often offered as a companion editor to TikTok creators and was downloaded 13 million times in February alone, according to research firm Sensor Tower.
The video editing tool has seen improvements, offering a host of features designed to make your videos viral, such as adding popular songs, filters, and special effects.
Of course, CapCut is also owned by TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance.
The app for consumer fashion brand Shein was founded in 2012 and now has nearly $15 billion in revenue, according to Forbes.
It was founded by Chinese billionaire Chris Xu and headquartered in Singapore.
The global fashion brand uses social media to target its Gen Z users, with hundreds of new products daily at affordable prices.
It’s been less than a year since this shopping app debuted in the US, but it quickly overtook Amazon and Walmart.
The online superstore sells everything from clothing to electronics and allows consumers to bypass warehouse stores and buy directly from a Chinese manufacturer.
The prices are so low that many Americans were searching for “Temu legal” after the company ran an ad during this year’s Super Bowl.
The company is headquartered in Boston, USA, but is a subsidiary of PDD Holdings, a Chinese-owned online retail giant that specializes in direct-to-consumer products.
Experts attribute the success of Chinese applications in the United States in part to the fierce competition in the domestic market, which bans American applications.
“Chinese tech companies have gone through an intense period of competition at home that has made them as good or better, in some ways, than American apps,” said MIT Review journalist and researcher Zi Yang.
These Chinese companies have also pioneered the development of recommendation algorithms tailored largely to users’ needs, such as those used by TikTok and the instant messaging app WeChat.
Do Chinese tech companies pose security risks?
TikTok is the first Chinese-owned app to enjoy huge success in the global market, but US lawmakers and national security experts have warned that Chinese-owned apps could be vulnerable to data privacy breaches and censorship from the Chinese Communist Party.
This same concern has prompted the European Commission, the United Kingdom and Canada to ban TikTok from the phones of government employees.
For his part, Paul Shearer, author of the book “Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age”, said that US-based technology companies such as “Apple” have fought long court battles to prevent government requests for their users’ data, but such channels do not exist in China.
He added that if the Chinese Communist Party tells a Chinese-owned company to obtain the data, they have to follow through on the order, and they have no choice.