Discover more from Asia Tech Review
Chinese propaganda circulates the world thanks to TikTok
Plus Huawei moves closer to own 5G chips and Byju's still firefighting
There’s a lot happening with China tech this week as Beijing continues to woo the country’s biggest players, Huawei is getting closer to making its own 5G chips, Alibaba has a slate of new updates (don’t expect that Ant Group IPO soon) and there’s controversy as TikTok has been enabling Chinese propaganda to circulate across Europe.
All that and more this week.
See you again later this week for an original story.
News in focus
Chinese propaganda circulates the world thanks to TikTok
Forbes reported that TikTok has pushed Chinese propaganda ads to millions across Europe, according to the company’s own data.
According to TikTok's newly public advertising library, ads from China’s largest state media outlets touting everything from China Covid lockdowns to tourism in the troubled Xinjiang region have been broadcast to millions of the platform's European users.
This is, on the face of it, not terribly surprising and likely not limited to China, pretty much any government could do the same. Indeed, in TikTok’s early days, it often agreed deals with governments to help promote them via the app with content.
Still, given how Western social media handles state-owned media, you’d imagine there will be a backlash in the EU that puts pressure on TikTok to at least label these videos, if not be more selective with what is shown.
Huawei close to 5G return
The Trump administration went after Huawei in 2021, revoking a number of key licences that enabled the Chinese firm to build and sell smartphones.
Huawei responded by stockpiling components and developing its own tech and supply chain to operate with greater independence. That takes time, though, and it reported a 29% drop in sales in 2021 as profits were cut in half—things didn’t get better in 2022 but now Nikkei Asia is reporting that the firm plans to restart its 5G mobile chip output as early as this year.
To do so, it is working with Chinese chipmaker SMIC to bring its in-house designed chipsets to production. It will take some time to translate into the finished article which can be sold to consumers, but this would be a notable step forward. And, of course, it’ll be interesting to see the quality of that final product.
The Byju’s crisis continues
Byju’s is remarkable in many ways. It evolved from being an offline language tutor into India’s highest valued tech startup at $16.5B (and the world’s highest valued edtech startup), but cracks have been appearing for a few months now, following years of question marks over its aggressive sales tactics to get parents to buy courses for kids.
Here’s the latest:
The company and its lenders agreed to amend a critical $1.2B term loan, which it defaulted on in July, by August 3 link
Investor Prosus said that Byju's had “regularly disregarded” advice it gave the company link
Another investor Peak XV, formerly known as Sequoia India and Southeast Asia, has told other Byju’s backers to plan a “significant” cut on the startup’s valuation given the lack of visibility on audited financials link
Byju's has closed its office in Bengaluru to cut costs link
Venture capital to China evaporates amid geopolitical hostilities and economic uncertainties link
China-focused VC funds raised US$2.7 billion from April to June, down 54.2 percent from the previous quarter, the report said. The decline was a major contributor to an overall fall in VC fundraising in Asia-Pacific, where numbers reached a five-year low, Preqin said on Thursday.
There’s a lot happening with Alibaba and sibling Ant:
Firstly, it won’t join the Ant Group share buyback link
Ant Group is also planning a restructuring that will see non-China fintech units, including blockchain and database management, broken off in order to apply for a financial holding licence in China Link
Alibaba's cloud unit, meanwhile, will bring Meta's AI model Llama to its clients link
SCMP looks at the influential Jiang Fan—who runs its international unit, is the only Alibaba partner aged under 40 and returned in the fold after leaving follow an alleged affair in 2020 link
Finally, an Ant Group listing is unlikely to happen in the short term, according to state media link
After previously cutting into Big Tech and its power, Beijing is continuing to pledge fresh support to China’s tech giants after a meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping endorsed the ‘standardised, healthy and sustainable development’ of domestic internet platform operators link
China’s largest IPO of the year is coming: the country’s second largest chip foundry Hua Hong plans to raise $2.95B through a secondary IPO in Shanghai—it is already listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange link
A new Chinese influence campaign allegedly used newswire services, staged protests and billboard ads to spread pro-Beijing propaganda in the US link
China’s live-streaming e-commerce market faces major disruption as AI-powered virtual hosts lower cost of campaigns and they work round-the-clock link
Shein says it spent $600K on US lobbying in Q2—that’s said to be moderate but also likely to increase as questions and speculation gathers on whether it uses forced labour in China link
TikTok is launching an e-commerce business in the US focused on selling made-in-China goods link
China’s video gaming market is showing signs of recovery in 2023 as Beijing continues to relax regulatory crackdown link
Tencent is in the process of buying Poland-based Zombie game maker Techland—there’s no price for the deal yet link
China has accused the US of hacking earthquake monitoring equipment in Wuhan link
US Senate backed measures that will require US firms on China tech investments link
Animoca will invest $30M in crypto app hi, which offers banking and debit cards link
A judge rejected a government bid to ban the dissemination online of a popular pro-democracy song, dealing a blow to Hong Kong’s efforts to extend a national-security crackdown to online platforms such as Google link
Driven by AI boom, TSMC plans to invest $2.9B in advanced chip plant in Taiwan link
US chipmaker Maxlinear has scrapped a nearly $4B deal to acquire Taiwan's memory controller maker Silicon Motion—the deal had been agreed last year link
Xiaomi plans to focus on 5G smartphones and a leaner product portfolio in India to claw back market share link
Walmart has paid $1.4B to buy out investor Tiger Global’s remaining stake in Flipkart link
The transaction took place in recent days and Tiger Global, which has cashed most of its Flipkart shares earlier, overall made a return of $3.5 billion on an investment of $1.2 billion, the New York-headquartered hedge fund told investors, according to a person familiar with the matter
As the campaign for the 2024 elections in India goes digital, social media influencers have become a powerful tool to try and shape voter behaviour link
Foxconn is said to be in talks for a $200M components plant in Tamil Nadu link
Like Netflix, Disney's Hotstar plans to limit account sharing link
AMD plans to invest around $400M in India over the next five years and set up its largest design centre in Bengaluru link
Former Hulu exec is building a go-to remittance app for Indian expats link
Nishkaam Mehta, who worked at Hulu as head of its mobile strategy and growth for over four years, is working with India’s media conglomerate Times Internet to build an app for Indian expats and offer them a single solution for all their money-transfer needs. Formerly called Times Club, the app has been rebranded as Abound this month to serve non-resident Indians living around the globe, starting with the U.S.
Grab’s delivery driver program for women is backfiring with services like lady-only rides less popular than regular rides, and more link
Indonesia plans to limit the online sale of imported goods valued under $100 in a bid to boost local e-commerce economy—India has made similar moves link
India took a similar e-commerce strategy, as pointed out in the ATR Telegram group chat
Vietnam’s VinFast’s efforts to rival Tesla in the US are a disaster riddled with “endless” pivots and personnel changes link
Malaysia has reversed plan to take legal action against Meta over harmful content link
As Japan aligns with US chip curbs on China, some in Tokyo feel uneasy link
Japan’s PM says Web3 can “change the internet” link
PDD’s Temu enters South Korea to raise competition with Shein and Alibaba link
Samsung reports a 95% drop in profit, but it expects global demand to recover in second half of this year link
North Korean hackers targeting JumpCloud mistakenly exposed their IP addresses, researchers say link