Thu. Jun 20th, 2019


WhatsApp Upgrades Voice Messaging Feature

As more people around the world use smartphone messaging apps like WhatsApp, Line and WeChat to communicate with each other, the companies running those apps are offering additional features to retain users. WhatsApp, developed by a Mountain View, California-based startup, this week launched a new feature that simplifies the process of sending recorded voice messages. A similar feature helped WeChat, a massively popular text-and-chat app in China, expand in domestic and overseas markets. WhatsApp users are already able to record a “voice note” and send it as a message, but the new Voice Messages service makes it easier to do so, and comes with additional functions such as notifying the sender that the recipient has heard the message. The move by WhatsApp marks a rare moment in which an app developed in the U.S. is making more prominent a feature that first rose to popularity on a Chinese mobile product. Voice messaging has long been a defining feature of WeChat, since Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. launched the app in January 2011.  Line, another messaging app developed in Japan, started offering a voice messaging service in April last year, according to the Tokyo-based company. WhatsApp’s voice messaging upgrade comes at a time when competition in the smartphone messaging app category is intensifying. In Asia, WhatsApp faces fierce competition from other locally developed messaging apps, which are also trying to expand even beyond the region. Meanwhile, social network giant Facebook, which initially expanded as a PC-based service, has been upgrading its stand-alone mobile messaging app launched in late 2011. Tencent said in March that WeChat – which is called Weixin in China — had 194 million monthly active users in the country. Last month, the company said that WeChat’s registered users outside of China had topped 70 million. Line, meanwhile, said last month that it had 200 million registered users world-wide. WhatsApp said in June that it had more than 250 million monthly active users. This week, WeChat announced the latest upgrade, which included new features such as the “Hold Together” function, which allows users who happen to be in the same neighborhood to find and connect with each other by simply pressing a button. Read more on Digits.

Xi Jinping’s PhD Advisor Compares Hu Administration to North Korea

David Bandurski, editor of China Media Project, recently translated an article that Sun Liping—a sociologist at Tsinghua University who served as President Xi Jinping’s dissertation advisor— has published harshly criticizing the Hu administration’s decade in power, and even comparing China under their administration to North Korea. Sun begins the article by noting that when Hu first took over power in 2002 there was hope among Chinese that he would further open up the system, and a number of incidents in the earlier part of his tenure seemed to confirm he would. “But then,” Sun continues, “without explanation, the new administration lowered its banners and muffled its drums.

China posts record trade deficit in 20 years

‘Seasonal factors’ may have caused an ‘individual case”, say expertsChina posted its largest trade deficit in the past two decades last month, while the nation’s imports surged by 40 percent. Exports grew at half the rate of imports.Economists say the spike in imports and large trade deficit in February is an “individual case” and could be attributed to “seasonal factors”, predicting imports will moderate in the months ahead as China’s economic growth slows.They also said the gloomy outlook will probably lead to a “slower pace of gains in the Chinese currency and the easing of government policy”.According to the General Administration of Customs, China’s imports rose 39.6 percent from a year earlier, after a 15.3 percent slump in January. Exports grew 18.4 percent year-on-year, with drop of 0.5 percent.This caused a trade deficit worth $31.5 billion in February, the largest since 1990.Because the Chinese lunar New Year fell in January this year, the year-on-year growth rates for Chinese exports and imports were distorted, and combined figures for the January-February period “could better reflect the current situation”, said Li Wei, an economist from Standard Chartered Shanghai.In that period, China’s foreign trade gained by 7.3 percent to $533 billion, with imports increasing 7.7 percent and exports 6.9 percent. The first two months saw a trade deficit worth $4.25 billion.In his government work report on Monday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao cut the economic forecast for this year to 7.5 percent, saying China’s 2012 priorities are to stabilize economic growth and expand domestic consumption.Wen also said China’s foreign trade this year is expected to grow by 10 percent.”Outlook is not positive,” said Wang Tao, economist with UBS AG.China’s export volume to the European Union is especially weak due to the debt woes, she said. “But the US market is a little better.”From January to February, China’s exports to the EU dropped by 1.1 percent, pulled down by the crisis in Italy, where imports from China fell by 31.1 percent. But sales to the US gained 12 percent.Emerging markets helped Chinese exports.