WeChat is one of the only ways to communicate with family and loved ones who live in China — now there's plans on taking that away

We Chat Hero 02 Fixed
We Chat Hero 02 Fixed (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

After lots of lip service from the Trump administration about potentially banning TikTok and WeChat, Trump finally signed executive orders to stop the apps from being used in the U.S. Regardless of what you think of this decision, there's a real human impact to these executives order that can't be ignored.

As a Canadian, you may think I don't have a horse in this race, but as an avid user of WeChat, I'm very concerned with the scope and potential global effects of the WeChat ban. There's a possibility that it can affect me, but even if it doesn't, there's plenty of reasons these bans are upsetting, with the primary reason being how important WeChat can be to people who have family and friends in China.

People use WeChat to communicate with loved ones

WeChat on iPhone X

WeChat on iPhone X (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz/iMore)

You may think of WeChat as a messaging app, but for people who live in China, it's so much more than that. China bans lots of the internet, people in the country can't use apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and many more apps we're so accustomed to using every day here in North America. Because of this, WeChat as evolved into a super app in China that not only allows you to message your friends and family, but allows you to do your banking, incorporating social media elements, make phone and video calls, and more. Basically, WeChat is the one app that everyone in China has on their phone — out of necessity.

You may not use WeChat, but a ton of families who have immigrated here from China use it every day to communicate with loved ones back home. Heck, I use WeChat on the regular because I have very close friends that live in China, and it's the only way I can communicate with them. While I have hundreds of messaging apps available to me, they pretty much have just the one.

Cutting off people from communicating with loved ones in China hurts people. Communication is such an essential part of our human connection, and these bans haven't taken into account the social impact this will have.

Issues with WeChat exist


WeChat (Image credit: iMore)

I'm not going to pretend there aren't reasons to be cautious or even concerned with WeChat and their parent company, Tencent. It can potentially be hard to stomach the data collection techniques WeChat employs on users or even how much WeChat will censor information in China.

If you choose not to use WeChat, I don't blame you at all. In fact, it's my opinion that all messaging and social media apps, regardless of which country they originate from, need more scrutiny.

The fact is people in China don't have a choice right now, which means if you have loved ones in China, you don't have a choice but to lose your ability to communicate with them in the coming weeks.

What's the solution?

There likely isn't a silver bullet solution to these issues, but an outright ban hurts people. If this executive order is really about privacy and security issues, then write new laws that target specific practices we've deemed unacceptable. Banning is a bandaid solution at best and doesn't address any of the actual issues we have with WeChat and apps like it.

Now, if this executive order is actually business based, maybe think of a way that won't kill the iPhone in China, an emerging market that Apple (an American company) relies on to do its business.

Best TikTok VPN in 2020

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.

  • The context here is a political one. You have to understand that the Chinese Communist Party are on a mission to establish China as the world superpower and this has very real implications for all of us who enjoy democracy. Dominating the tech space is one of the strategies. Others are less subtle and quite horrific. See how the Uyghurs are being treated. Let’s not forget that China doesn’t allow western social networks either. Those who follow tech should take time out reading up about the next release of Product X and learn about China. And (hopefully) make an informed decision on their next tech purchase. Boycotting Chinese brands will help. Tech media should do the same.
  • Excellent points renzotorres
  • If you had loved the in China you'd understand that WeChat is more than just a messaging platform, it's used to pay bills and more, it's like an OS within an OS and what Trump is doing is wrong and I fully agree with this article. Trump's WeChat ban will severely impact iPhone sales in China. Is that what you want?
  • Fully agree.... the real problem is the Chinese government banning Twitter and Facebook and Snapchat and Google and Instagram -- and the list goes on. No US-based social media outlet can operate in China without somebody circumventing the government's block with a VPN. Why should other countries allow WeChat to be the defacto platform that runs in all countries because the Chinese government has excluded all the other platforms. Sure, this will hurt Apple's sales in China, but Apple made the choice to get fully entangled with the Chinese government and that has benefits and costs. They have reaped the benefits for years but that does not mean everybody should just accept the costs of the Chinese government making it impossible for other social network platforms to do business in China. Facebook literally walked away from China when faced with the requirements China wanted to impose, Google did the same -- and since their primary revenue driver is advertising and not product, that made sense. If you really want to blame somebody for preventing Chinese families from communicating with loved ones arounds the world, blame the Chinese government. Maybe, just maybe, if WeChat was not available everywhere the Chinese populous would become so upset about not being able to use US-based social networks that the government would make a change to placate the people. China has gotten away with too much for too long. Time for them to relax their authoritarian laws and join the rest of us in the 21 century.
  • There's a saying in war, it's called collateral damage. Sadly for the people who have family in China they will be hurt by this. That said, the Think of the Human Cost is just plain abusive to the readers. Love him or hate him (I know many here do) he has a responsibility to our country and China ATM is one of our biggest threats. For decades there have been people making big money rolling over for the CCP. Now we are standing up to them and these are some of the consequences of doing that. It took CV to finally wake up some people to the fact that the CCP are not our friends. This though sadly, is just one more domino falling. Let's pray it doesn't keep going to the end.
  • I just don’t understand why tech journalists always seem to kowtow to the Communist dictatorship in China by defending TikTok, WeChat and the like. The fact that Western apps are banned in China PROVES the dictatorship is listening in on WeChat to suppress any dissent. Look what's going on in Hong Kong right now. Why do tech journalists heap praise on Chinese tech and denigrate any attempts to reign it in? All in the name of human rights WHICH DO NOT EXIST IN CHINA!
  • On top of that they jump on the slightest hint that Western governments are infringing on personal liberty or privacy -- but somehow China gets a pass when they basically violate all notions of personal liberty and privacy.