Nike, Kindle, Airbnb shut down online operations in China

Sportswear multinational Nike announced on Wednesday that it would stop operating its Nike Run Club app in China starting early next month. The group said they plan to launch a local equivalent in the future.

Nike joins a growing list of international media and technology companies pulling out of China, where consumer, financial, technology and media regulations are increasingly at odds with those in other parts of the world. Earlier this month, Amazon announced that it would no longer operate its Kindle electronic bookstore in China. And Airbnb, a temporary rental company, said in late May it would no longer list Chinese rental properties.

They also follow Yahoo and Microsoft’s LinkedIn in self-imposed exile. Both companies were pioneers in China, offering localized platforms and services, but decided to withdraw from the Chinese consumer market in 2021.

The NRC app combined a service to track users’ exercise activity with a social media feature that allowed users to compare and challenge themselves with their friends. It had over eight million users and was said to have been the NRC’s most profitable market.

“It is with sadness that [the] The NRC app will cease service and operations in your market effective July 8,” Nike said in a statement. “We will continue to serve Chinese runners with an improved and localized digital solution in the future,” a company spokesman told Reuters.

Problems for Western companies include China’s ongoing zero-COVID policy, which would likely have hit a travel app like Airbnb, and the rise of China’s native tech competitors. Tencent-backed China Literature, for example, is one of the largest reading apps in the country.

But it would be surprising if Kindle, AirBnB, and Nike didn’t also struggle to comply with changing regulations. Both LinkedIn and Yahoo pointed to the difficulties in complying with regulations in China. Western fashion brands have also been caught between China’s and the US’ opposing political stances on human rights, Xinjiang and the cotton industry.

Yahoo’s exit from China coincided with the passage of the country’s Personal Information Protection Law, a privacy law that went into effect Nov. 1 that imposes new data collection restrictions on tech companies when they contact Chinese citizens. Businesses must also use censors to monitor and control comments and user-generated content.

LinkedIn said it will launch a standalone job application for China that “will not include a social feed or the ability to share posts or articles.” Nike, Kindle, Airbnb shut down online operations in China

Charles Jones

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