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WeChat to Many, WeDoctor to Some

By KIM BELLARD

You’ve probably heard about TikTok, especially lately.  President Trump wanted a ban on it, and seems to have endorsed a deal for a U.S.-based version of it.  The hundred million U.S. users, and probably their parents, are undoubtedly watching the sequence of events with mixed amusement and concern. 

But you may have paid less attention to what’s been going on with WeChat, another China-based app.  WeChat was part of the original proposed ban, which a federal judge blocked this weekend, hours before it was due to go into effect (the Commerce Department plans to appeal).  The ban is on “transactions,” which, in WeChat’s case, covers a lot of ground. 

TikTok was overlooked by authority figures for a long time because it was mostly used by young people and mostly for what seemed, to them, to be trivial purposes.  Not so with WeChat; it is deeply engrained in users’ lives, including for their health.  

WeChat is owned by Tencent Holdings, one of China’s internet giants.  It has been described as a “Swiss Army knife” app, able to do many tasks – not just messaging and social networking, but also games, shopping, and payments.  You can order food or book travel.  For many users it is a primary source of news, which is part of the problem. 

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