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Alibaba apps are starting to support Tencent WeChat Pay amid scrutiny


A WeChat messaging app logo is seen on an smartphone.

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GUANGZHOU, China — For years, China’s major internet platforms have operated as walled gardens, blocking links from rivals and not allowing users to purchase goods using competitors payments products.

As regulators push China’s tech giants to remove the barriers and alter their anti-competitive behaviour, this is starting to change.

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Alibaba has started allowing users to purchase items on some of its apps via WeChat Pay, the payments service run by its rival Tencent, the e-commerce giant told CNBC. Ant Group, Alibaba’s affiliate manages its payment service Alipay.

WeChat Pay integration has recently been made possible by (food delivery app) and Youku (video service). Alibaba’s other apps Shuqi, Damai and Koala, are now also supporting Tencent’s payments service.

Alibaba said that it was waiting for Tencent to approve WeChat Pay. This would allow WeChat Pay access to the Idle Fish used goods marketplace, Hema grocery store app and Taobao Deals discount shopping site.

There was no word on when Alibaba would bring WeChat Pay to its two main shopping apps — Taobao and Tmall.

Taobao spokeswoman said that user experience and security were our top priorities. They are actively working towards introducing more payment options on their platforms.

According to an Alibaba spokesperson, the company “continues to seek common ground in platform economics to better service Chinese customers.”

CNBC reached Tencent but was unable to reach them immediately.

Regulatory crackdown

Alibaba and Tencent are two of China’s biggest internet companies that have built dominance through their sprawling services, which often center around their so-called super apps.

Tencent is China’s most popular messaging app WeChat with over 1 billion users. Ant Group, an affiliate of Alibaba, runs Alipay.

Users can use these apps to get a variety of services such as food delivery, flight bookings and hotel reservations. These apps allow users to pay for goods and services without leaving the app.

It has created an environment where rivals have resisted the possibility of their services being offered on their platforms for some time.

Such practices have come under scrutiny from Chinese regulators which have introduced new rules across a range of areas from data protection to anti-monopoly.

Earlier this month, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) told some of the country’s biggest internet companies — including Alibaba, Tencent and TikTok owner ByteDance — to stop blocking links to one another’s content.

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From Sept. 17, Tencent began allowing users to access external links in one-on-one chats. A user could open a link shared by someone in WeChat to Alibaba’s Taobao, without ever leaving their messaging app. To copy the link to Taobao, one would need to go into the Taobao application.

Integration of WeChat Pay and Alibaba apps seems to be a step forward.

Tencent is yet to announce whether Alipay will be added to its other services.

The opening of these apps may give consumers more choices and help Tencent and Alibaba to reach new users.