China's move to ban the Tripadvisor-branded app is somewhat of a head scratcher since the app is actually controlled by China's Trip.com Group. Will other U.S.-branded apps, such as Airbnb's be impacted?
With U.S.-China tensions at a pitched level, China’s web cops banned the Tripadvisor app that’s actually controlled by the locally based Trip.com Group because of their joint venture.
The Cyberspace Administration’s move to “clean up” the internet, according to published reports, also swept up more than 100 other apps, most of them based in China.
Trip.com Group, formerly known as Ctrip and currently the largest online travel agency in the country, announced a joint venture with Tripadvisor in 2019 that won regulatory approvals this year.
Trip.com Group, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, controls the joint venture as well as the Tripadvisor-branded app in China that was thrown out of the country’s app portfolio.
The cybersecurity agency said it took the action to remove”illegal” apps but it was unclear why the Trip.com’s Tripadvisor app was targeted other than the high-profile tensions between the two countries, including the Trump administration’s move to potentially ban the Tik Tok app unless parent company ByteDance sells it.
“The Cyberspace Administration of China will continue to … strengthen the supervision and inspection of mobile apps’ information services, promptly clean up and dispose of illegal mobile applications and application stores, and strive to create a clear cyberspace,” the agency said in a statement, according to published reports.
The statement added that the banning of 105 apps was “related to pornography, prostitution, gambling and violence.”
There was some conjecture that perhaps the Tripadvisor app included user comments that Chinese authorities deemed inappropriate, politically or otherwise.
News accounts said the Tripadvisor website was still accessible in China even though U.S.companies such as Google and Facebook are on the wrong side of China’s so-called Great Firewall, and are inaccessible to most users.
A Tripadvisor statement said: “We’re not in a position to comment at this time. Tripadvisor’s brand in China is managed by a joint venture between Tripadvisor and Trip.com Group, which owns a majority share. Please forward all inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Other than the brand hit to Tripadvisor, the ban means next to nothing for Tripadvisor’s financials. The joint venture is not material to Tripadvisor’s financial results.
The ban is likewise thought to be negligible to Trip.com Group’s financials at this juncture. It’s unclear what impact, if any, the ban would have on the two company’s joint venture.
Other Western apps, including those from Airbnb and Booking.com, appeared to be unaffected by the ban for now. Airbnb declined to comment.
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Photo credit: Trip.com Group CEO Jane Sun delivered the keynote speech at the ITB China banquet in 2019. The Chinese government banned the Tripadvisor app, which is controlled by Trip.com Group. ITB China