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In China: WhatsApp Bows, Microsoft Visits, Google Plays

Nov. 01, 2017 6:44 PM ETGOOG, GOOGL, META, MSFT, XIACF2 Comments
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  • Whatsapp has likely been permanently blocked in China.
  • Satya Nadella’s visit to Xiaomi underscores Microsoft’s growing ties with the company.
  • Google’s China AI push is mostly PR.

A couple of the big high-tech multinationals are in the headlines as we head into the next-to-last month of the year, which seems like a good opportunity to review where these companies stand heading into the second term of President Xi Jinping and also as Donald Trump gets set to make his first China visit. One of those headlines involves Google (GOOG) (GOOGL), and comes in a soft-ish report pointing out the company is actively pushing its artificial intelligence development software in China.

Next there is Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella, who is in China this week where he paid a visit on recovering smartphone maker Xiaomi (XI). I'm not a huge fan of Microsoft's strategy in general. But its growing ties with Xiaomi do look like an interesting new approach that could ultimately pay off nice dividends under Nadella's three-year-old leadership at the software giant.

Last but certainly not least, there's the latest update on instant messaging app Whatsapp, which appears to be getting an RIP in China, following in the footsteps of just about every other popular offshore-based social networking app. I personally am quite sad about this one, as I use the app to communicate with a lot of my friends outside China. But on a more significant note, this development appears to show that all the goodwill from Whatsapp's owner Facebook (FB) over the last five or six years hasn't been worth too much.

The bigger theme to these three news bits is that China's Internet and high-tech realm in general remain open for business for foreigners, but very much on Beijing's terms. Anyone who wants to play ball under those terms is welcome. If you're more interested in things like freedom of expression, then perhaps it's best to take your business elsewhere.

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