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Foreigners make WeChat their "second home"

Editor: zhangrui 丨Xinhua

05-18-2017 07:22 BJT

BEIJING, May 17 (Xinhua) -- WeChat on Wednesday published a user behavior report on its foreign users living in China, revealing that WeChat has become a way of life for foreigners who come to China to study, work or start businesses.

The most popular social media App in China has conducted surveys of its millions of users in China, covering functions including WeChat communication behavior, "hongbao" (red packets of virtual money), and of course, the stickers.

According to the survey, 6 out of 10 foreigners use WeChat Pay for food delivery, transportation, dining and online shopping.

Compared with typical Chinese WeChat users, who were born in the 1980s or 1990s, foreigners are more active on the app's chat platform, as 60 percent more foreign users send messages through WeChat, 42 percent more use voice calls and 13 percent more use video chat.

For Raz Gal-Or, a 22-year-old Israeli who studies at Peking University, another interesting finding of the survey was that foreigners send 10 red packets a month on average.

"I might be the foreigner who sent the greatest number of red packets," said Raz, who is also co-founder and host of Y-plan, a man-in-the-street program focused on foreigners living in China. He has interviewed many foreigners about whether they collect red packets and their experience in using stickers in WeChat groups.

These videos have been met with enthusiasm on the Internet. Y-plan's official account on China's Sina Weibo has grown to over 1 million followers in just four months.

Many foreigners speak fluent Chinese, know every online Chinese buzzword and have joined hundreds of WeChat groups to grab hongbao.

Raz has even joined a sticker group for collecting the latest memes. The survey showed that 45 percent more stickers are sent per day by foreigners than typical Chinese users.

According to Fang Yedun, Raz's Chinese partner at Y-plan, "Foreigners living in China are just like Raz: they use WeChat payment, they grab red packets, they each save at least 100 sets of stickers, and they all want deeper involvement in Chinese society -- they love China."

2.0 EDITION

"It is a new phenomena," Raz talks about the motivation behind his entrepreneurship. "I want to show people the facts about foreigners in China, without bias or prejudice."

Raz's father Amir Gal-Or has been in China for more than a decade. As managing partner of Infinity Group, he invested in his own son's video program startup in 2016.

Raz has pulled his family into a WeChat chat group and helped his father download Bilibili, a popular video app.

If you considered Amir the image of 1.0 edition foreigner in China, Raz may represent the 2.0 generation, said Fang Yedun.

"Unlike his father, Raz and his peers consider China their second home. They live here, and they want to fight for the opportunities of the mobile Internet industry," Fang said.

"There was an idea of expat. Expats came to China to be managers, or trainers to pass information from west to China, but right now, most of them have been replaced by Chinese," said Drew Kirchoff, a 28-year-old American.

Drew is among the many foreigners who are making profits out of China's mobile Internet industry. He decided to start up business within WeChat after seeing that almost every shop or vendor put up a piece of paper printed with a QR code "all of sudden."

He created Yoli, an English teaching service imbedded within WeChat. Students purchase courses on the mini app inside WeChat, and the language courses are completed through WeChat voice messages.

MADE-IN-CHINA INNOVATION

Drew considers WeChat the real "zero-one" innovation in China. Instead of merely copying, China is creating entirely new models.

When asked about his experience of entrepreneurship in China, Drew said that you have to know the market. If you don't know what is already out there, your "innovation" might just repetition of someone else's idea. His role model is Zhang Xiaolong, "Father of WeChat."

Last month, he visited Silicon Valley to attend the Facebook F8 conference. "It's amazing to see they are using QR codes, exactly the same case scenario as in China."

According to Fang Yedun, more foreigners are willing to come to China to learn things as the nation gains strength both in soft and hard power.

"In the future, we can expect more global enterprises growing up in China with participation of foreigners living in China. We can expect more innovations based on deep collaboration between the two groups," said Fang.

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