TikTok, the most popular of all free Chinese applications in the United States, has recently garnered headlines for supposed Communist Party affiliations rather than for its content.
Shou Zi Chew, the app’s CEO, testified before Congress, where he faced critical questioning over its parent-company ByteDance and how much access China had to the app’s data.
But, this is far from the first Chinese-owned smartphone software to successfully infiltrate Western markets.
According to Apptopia, Chinese apps occupy three spots of the top ten free mobile apps in the United States. Two of these are also among the most popular in the United Kingdom.
So, what are these apps, and what makes them so popular?
App for video editing CapCut is frequently marketed as a companion editor for TikTok creators, and according to Sensor Tower, it was downloaded 13 million times in February alone.
The video editing software is designed for on-the-go mobile editing. It includes various tools to help your videos become viral, such as popular tunes, filters, and special effects.
ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, also owns CapCut.
Also on the list of top Chinese apps is, Shein a global fashion company that was launched in 2012 and currently has a valuation of about $15 billion, according to Forbes.
Chris Xu, a Chinese millionaire, created the company, which is located in Singapore.
A quick search of the hashtag #Shein on TikTok and Instagram yields hundreds of videos from popular influencers bragging about their recent #Sheinhaul. It uses social media to reach out to GenZ customers with hundreds of new products at inexpensive costs every day.
Temu is another app to make the top Chinese apps links This shopping app has been available in the United States for less than a year, yet it has already surpassed Amazon and Walmart.
The internet emporium sells everything from clothing to electronics, allowing customers to avoid warehouse stores and purchase straight from the Chinese manufacturer.
The rates are so low that after the company launched an ad during this year’s Super Bowl, many Americans Googled “is Temu legit.”
The company is based in Boston, Massachusetts, but it is a PDD Holdings subsidiary, a Chinese-owned internet retailing behemoth that specializes in direct-to-consumer items.
According to analysts, the success of Chinese apps in the US is partly as a result to stiff rivalry in their native market, where US apps are prohibited.
“The Chinese software businesses have had such an intensive era of rivalry at home that has improved them, if not better, in certain ways than American apps,” said Zeyi Yang, an MIT Review journalist and researcher who specializes in Chinese technology.
Some Chinese companies have also been pioneers in building highly personalized recommendation algorithms to match the demands of users, such as those employed by TikTok and the instant messaging service WeChat.
TikTok is the first Chinese-owned app to achieve significant popularity in the worldwide market, but US politicians and national security experts have cautioned that Chinese apps may be subject to data privacy violations and censorship by the Communist Party.
The European Commission, Canada, and the UK, have all banned leading Chinese apps, TikTok from government employees’ phones due to the same fear.
“How the United States and other democratic countries respond to the challenge of Chinese apps like TikTok breaking outside of China has profound implications for free speech and information freedom worldwide,” said Paul Scherer, author of Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.
US-based tech companies, like Apple, have fought protracted court fights to thwart government requests for their users’ data, but Mr. Scherer claims there are no such routes in China.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew attempted to reassure lawmakers about security concerns by stating that there is a “firewall” in place to protect Americans.
TikTok said in a statement to the journalists that US user data was not accessible to foreign agencies. The BBC also contacted the other applications for comment.
According to Mr. Scherer, any software, regardless of which country controls it, could be subject to data breaches unless US politicians implement comprehensive data privacy regulations.
What are the other Chinese apps on the radar?
Aside the major Chinese apps that have been banned, Chinese 5G technology firms such as Huawei, ZTE, and Hytera have been barred from installing network equipment in Australia, the United States, Japan, India, and Canada.
The UK government has ordered the removal of Huawei equipment from 5G networks by 2027.
The US and Dutch governments have prohibited semiconductor exports to China due to security concerns about the country’s supercomputing and AI technology development.
The governments of the United Kingdom and Australia have ordered the removal of Chinese-made security cameras from critical infrastructure.
Governments are concerned that Chinese corporations’ 5G equipment in international networks would feature “backdoors” for data flow back to Beijing.
Read Also: Credit Suisse prosecutor probe USB
China is the world’s largest producer of security cameras, thanks to businesses like Hikvision. These devices could invisibly transfer intelligence to China.
According to Jake Moore, global security advisor for ESET, an internet security company, there is no solid evidence that China is exploiting its IT firms for espionage.