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Tencent Site
Type Instant Message
Internet Service Provider
Launch Date November, 1998
Status Active
Product Line QQ
QQ Music
Tencent Video
Platform Internet
Website www.tencent.com

Tencent, founded in November 1998, is now one of the biggest Internet providers of comprehensive services, and one of the Internet enterprises serving most customers in China. Started from a small business that expanding paging system based on the wireless network, a program based on software engineering intended for middle or tiny businesses, Tencent has now set up a living environment that integrates all parts life, including but not limited to: instant communication, blog, and microblog, game, video, anime, music, etc. [1] Due to the breadth and depth of the service provided, with the fact that there is too much variability between users, including but not limited to the inequality between areas, educational level, etc, in China, Tencent's products may have potential flaws in issues such as privacy, minors protection, and social responsibility.


Huateng "Pony" Ma

Huateng "Pony" Ma, the founder, and CEO decided to develop an instant message software based on wireless paging, GSM messaging, and VoIP network. The idea was initially from an instant message tool called ICQ developed by four Israelis programmers. Therefore, the program was initially called OICQ. Since this is a kind of infringement, Tencent was sued by ICQ and thus changed the name to QQ. It finally brought China into the age of the instant message. In March 2002, there were at least 100 million registered users though most people in China still used telephone wire to connect to the Internet at that time. Eight years later, in March 2010, there were above 100 million users online simultaneously, creating a world record that above 100 million users online simultaneously using the same application.[2]From then on, Tencent started to branch out into other areas depending on a large number of loyal users and thick accumulations of capitals.

Typical Products



A communication platform widely favored by the younger generation in China, due to a plentiful way to show their personal identities, such as chatting bubbles, centimeter characters, etc. Though it is criticized by the public that the application becomes hard to use, it is still the major communication method by most people. [3]



To solve the problem in QQ, Tencent developed a new application called WeChat. The main theme for WeChat concision. Everything not required for a chat is not included in the application. When it was initially released, it was favored by many ones tired of QQ or middle-aged who find QQ too complicated to use. With popularity, businesses started to use WeChat as a primary tool for meeting and file handling. Then criticisms rose, mainly because of concision itself. For example, WeChat requires making a group chat for an online meeting; also, documents to be transferred should not exceed 20MB. There are suggestions for the product manager of WeChat that they should solve these problems while the product manager refused due to the faith of concision.[4]

QQ Music

QQ Music

One of the biggest music providers in China. Since it was an application that is directly derived from a function in QQ, QQ users can directly access its service without registration of new accounts. Its brand-new user interface and strong music environment also attract external users.[5]


Tencent Video

Though Tencent owns a website and an app called “Tencent Video”,[6] Tencent does not rely on self-production to make income. Instead, they buy the copyrights of teleplay with famous stars and movies with good reputations. Only members paying a monthly fee will be able to see them. Since those copyrights are exclusive, Tencent makes great profits by promoting membership.


Tencent also does not design games by themselves. There are two ways that Tencent makes profits through games.
Based on the special regulations in China, copyright certificates are limited. Also, foreign companies are not allowed to operate games in China alone, they must find Chinese companies as their proxies. [7]These kinds of games include but not limited to League of Legends and Rainbow Six Siege. Tencent will share part of the profits with the original operating company without any huge effort.
The second way is redevelopment. Game players in China prefer mobile games rather than PC games. In this case, Tencent redevelops some popular PC games in the mobile-accessible version. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is one of the examples.[8] In fact, such a move makes the original game more popular, many game players even know the mobile version much earlier than the PC version. In this game, accessories cost a lot. And Tencent can simply make a profit relying only on its popularity.

Social Services and Resposibilities

WeChat Pay

In the mid-2010s, China has stepped into the age of electronic and paperless monetary. Traditionally, Chinese banks provided a complicated way of processing online payment: a dual authentication method through a locally installed software as a certification system and a physical device as a private key. Started from the growing demand for online shopping, a mobile application that can integrate convenience and security is required. The first move is Alipay by Alibaba, to fully support its e-commerce application, Taobao. To keep pace with it, Tencent developed "WeChat Pay", bonded in Wechat.[9] Combined with the main functions in WeChat, WeChat Pay supports payments through QR codes, transfers between friends, check to split into groups, interface for third-party payments, etc. Compared to Alipay, it is more favorable between middle-aged, elder and others suffering from familiarizing applications. WeChat Pay also supports a virtual Wallet that can hold balances, which can be used directly into payments and transfers. [10]

Ethical Issues

QQ and WeChat

Nowadays, Chinese people have abandoned most of the functionality of messages. Except for messages about package delivery and verification code, they will not use messages any longer. Instead, most of the daily communications can be fulfilled by QQ and WeChat messages.
However, as QQ and WeChat be utilized as working collaboration, many people’s private social communications have gradually entangled with working communication. Workers have to reply evening work-related chats and files since they are assumed to be able to use QQ and WeChat now.
Also, people are aware of the privacy issue. There is evidence that shows QQ will collect information from its sub-services, such as QQ Browser and QQ Music. “The transmission of personally identifiable user data without properly implemented encryption leaves this data vulnerable to surveillance by a number of intermediaries, including a user’s ISP, wireless network operator, mobile carrier, a malicious actor with network visibility, and/or a government agency with access to any of those intermediaries.”, according to a report from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.[11]
WeChat, on the other hand, is found that it can track users with their messages to determine users’ locations. Though it is intolerable, users still place hope on the security level of WeChat, since things will become out of control if data leak occurs.[12]

Videos and Games

It is worth noted that there is no motion picture content rating system in China. In this case, the responsibility for the protection of minors falls on businesses. Since QQ is the main communication method for minors, it is reasonable that videos and games provided by Tencent are popular among minors. Thus, Tencent was criticized that children spend much on accessories and video memberships, even though some of them do not understand their purchase behavior. The current solution provided by Tencent is that it will cooperate with the Ministry of Public Security of China to identify minors through the ID number each user fills in mandatorily. If the account is identified as a minor, the online time and online purchasing will be limited.[13]It is reported, however, that some minor will fill in their parents’ identification, even their grandparents’ because of the easy accessibility, to pretend themselves as adults to avoid the limitation. Hence, Tencent is still facing huge challenges in balancing user satisfaction, related to profits, and protection of minors, associated with social responsibility.

WeChat Pay

It is worth noted that WeChat Pay is one of the two applications that monopolies the Chinese paperless monetary businesses. Though the initial point for Tencent is to make profits, as Chinese people become heavily dependent on it, Tencent has to take public benefits into account.
The most controversial issue now is the high processing fee, which is 0.1% of the total amount with a minimum of 10 cents, when customers extract their balances to their cards. Tencent argues that it encourages direct payments from the balance. However, due to its own limitations, especially WeChat Pay can not be used in any of the products from Alibaba. Also, since a huge portion of payments received through transfers between friends for individual or small businesses, it is highly likely that extraction happens.[14]
Besides, Tencent originally collects balances in wallets in the bank account of its own. It causes huge concerns because users have no knowledge about the usage of such huge capital. If there is an issue of risk management or some investment fails, nearly every Chinese will suffer. Fortunately, the Chinese government has released several orders and rules to prevent this issue happen: Tencent should transfer all balances to a public account monitored by the government, where private investment is not allowed. [15]
It is obvious that China, even the entire world, is just a beginner of electronic monetary, there is still a long way for Tencent to explore what is suitable for the company, the customers, and the whole society in the future.

See also


  1. "About Us" tencent.com https://www.tencent.com/en-us/about.html
  2. "The story of Tencent's rise to the top of the social media world" weforum.org https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/02/how-tencent-became-the-world-s-most-valuable-social-network-firm-with-barely-any-advertising
  3. "QQ" im.qq.com https://im.qq.com/
  4. "WeChat" weixin.qq.com https://weixin.qq.com/
  5. "QQ Music" y.qq.com https://y.qq.com/
  6. "Tencent Video" v.qq.com https://v.qq.com/
  7. "China’s New Gaming Regulations: What it Means for Investors china-briefing.com" https://www.china-briefing.com/news/chinas-new-gaming-regulations-impact-foreign-investors/
  8. "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds" pubg.qq.com https://pubg.qq.com/main.shtml
  9. " Payment methods in China: How China became a mobile-first nation" daxueconsulting.com https://daxueconsulting.com/payment-methods-in-china/
  10. "WeChat Pay" pay.weixin.qq.com https://pay.weixin.qq.com/index.php/public/wechatpay_en
  11. "Researchers identify major security and privacy issues in Popular China Browser Application, QQ" citizenlab.ca https://citizenlab.ca/2016/03/researchers-identify-major-security-and-privacy-issues-in-popular-china-browser-application-qq/
  12. "WeChat: the Chinese social media app that has dissidents worried" theguardian.com https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/dec/07/wechat-chinese-social-media-app
  13. "China to curb gaming addiction by imposing time limits on younger players" engadget.com https://www.engadget.com/2019/11/07/china-gaming-addiction-regulations/
  14. "Tencent’s charges for WeChat pay users kick in amid fight for mobile payment marketshare" cnbc.com https://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/01/tencents-charges-for-wechat-pay-users-kick-in-amid-fight-for-mobile-payment-marketshare.html
  15. "China Is Strangling Its Private Champions" bloomberg.com https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-03-10/pboc-s-move-to-control-alipay-wechat-pay-deposits-is-power-grab