Now, We Chat is poised to take on an even greater role: an initiative is underway to integrate We Chat with China’s electronic ID system.It may be hard for people outside of China to grasp just how influential We Chat has become there.Linking someone's face to what's essentially the de facto way to communicate in China is a bit scary considering how heavily the government polices the app.
Harvard Business School professor of management Willy Shih, who co-authored a case study on We Chat, calls the transition to an electronic ID system a “predictable evolution.” The pilot program began at the end of December, and it expanded across the country in January.
The program was developed by the research institute of the Ministry of Public Security and Tencent’s We Chat team and is backed by banks and other government departments, including the China Construction Bank and the Guangzhou police station’s Nansha District branch.
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Last year, Tencent added mini-apps to We Chat, creating an app store of sorts: inside We Chat, you can play games, pay bills, find local hangouts, book doctor appointments, file police reports, hail taxis, hold video conferences, and access bank services.
State-run media and government agencies also have official We Chat accounts, where they can directly communicate with users.
“For all intents and purposes We Chat your phone, and to a far greater extent in China than anywhere else, your phone is everything,” wrote Ben Thompson, consultant and founder of the blog Stratechery.