Chinese internet companies vs. coronavirus: What have they been doing?
By Gong Zhe
China is famous for its borderline-unrealistic application of internet technologies. When the country is hit by a large-scale infectious disease like the novel coronavirus, what have internet companies done to help infected patients and the worried public?
Let's take a look at the work of three Chinese internet giants, known together as BAT: ByteDance (not Baidu this time), Alibaba and Tencent.
First of all, of course, these companies are rich and resourceful. Big giveaways have been put in place to curb the shortage of pills, masks, protective clothes and other items necessary for the survival of patients and medical staff.
For example, Tencent delivered 500,000 masks to Wuhan, the origin city of the coronavirus outbreak, on Tuesday. Another 45,000 of protective suits from the Shenzhen company also arrived Wuhan on Thursday.
The companies have also been using their cloud-based solutions to keep the children studying without going to schools. "No school doesn't mean no homework" has become a meme on social media on the Chinese mainland.
The distance education idea was inspired by live TV aired during the SARS outbreak of 2003, when children could not rewind if they missed a teachers' point. But today's cloud-based system is much more user-friendly. The "Learn at Home" project launched by Alibaba's DingTalk utilizes video conference technology to keep the online courses interactive.
The same technology also aided some companies to stay organized during the present difficult times. ByteDance's team co-op platform Feishu has become free to use, with all its business features, for a limited time.
The three BAT companies also took the chance to promote their lesser-known products. This could be seen as selfish, but as long as they can provide real help to people, sharing these new features is acceptable.
Tencent's fact-check and myth-busting platform "Jiaozhen" has been focusing on rumors around the outbreak for some time. They recently busted widespread fake news that Asians are weaker against coronavirus.
On Alipay, you can check if you have recently taken the same flight or train with a confirmed patient, which can help determine if you should quarantine yourself for two weeks to find out if you are infected. If you have recently been to China, it could be worth giving this a shot.
ByteDance has targeted movies. Although the company's TikTok app occupies a large chunk of China's short video market, it is still quite new in the box office. As most movie theaters are experiencing a real economic winter, ByteDance bought the film "Lost In Russia" and premiered it online. The move triggered massive rejection from the movie industry in China, but Chinese people are now lucky enough to watch the only new movie for Spring Festival 2020 for free. At a time when a lot of people have to stay at home, a little entertainment can be very reassuring.