Editor's Note: This article was updated in December 2018.
Foreign tech companies have been forced into difficult compromises and today find themselves asking whether the financial rewards and access to a massive market justify the work required to stay in Beijing’s good graces—especially given that the risk of failure is rising, illustrated by the recent blocking of WhatsApp in China.
When users of WhatsApp in China started noticing technical problems with the mobile messaging application in September 2017, nothing seemed unusual at first. The slow sending speeds and inability to deliver video and audio files could have easily been due to a spotty internet connection or a bug. Many users in China had experienced such issues before; these were usually limited and localized, and they were resolved in a matter of days.