Alibaba behind hit Chinese Communist Party app: report

February 19, 2019 09:47
The development of the Xuexi Qiangguo app by Alibaba is the latest example of a Chinese tech company collaborating with the government. Photo: Reuters/AFP

A Chinese government propaganda app that recently became a huge hit was developed by Alibaba, Reuters reports, citing two people at the company.

“Xuexi Qiangguo”, which literally translates as "study to make China strong" and is a play on the government propaganda theme of applying President Xi Jinping’s thoughts, overtook Tik Tok’s Chinese version Douyin and WeChat to become the county’s most popular app on Apple’s China app store last week, the news agency said.

It was developed by a largely unknown special projects team at Alibaba known as the “Y Projects Business Unit”, which takes on development projects outside the company, the sources said.

The app’s development by Alibaba, whose chairman Jack Ma is a member of the Communist Party, is the latest example of a Chinese tech company collaborating with the government. 

The nation's tech firms such as Huawei Technologies are under global scrutiny over their alleged ties to Beijing.

China's propaganda department has released the app ahead of next month’s Two Sessions, the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress and the National People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing.

The app, which includes short videos, government news stories and quizzes, was created by an Alibaba team. A user of Alibaba’s own messaging app DingTalk can use their login credentials to log into Xuexi Qiangguo. Alibaba said the app was built using DingTalk’s software.

Staff at the Alibaba unit are responsible for developing and maintaining the app that includes news, videos, live stream and community comments, according to the sources and a job advertised for Xuexi Qiangguo on Alibaba’s career website.

The unit does not have a website, but is described in job ads on popular Chinese careers site as a strategic level project that is in a creation stage and offers many job opportunities.

At least part of the app’s runaway popularity can be attributed to directives issued by local governments and universities that require people in China’s expansive party member network to download the app.

The app has been downloaded over 43.7 million times on Apple and Android devices since its launch in January, according to estimates by Beijing-based statistical consulting firm Qimai.

It was not immediately clear whether Alibaba is making money from the app, or who initiated its development.

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