In depth: The business ecosystems China’s tech giants and unicorns build

Startups could accept to join Alibaba, Tencent or other tech giants in their ecosystems and scale quickly. Or they could say no and keep their independence. But do they really have a choice?

Didi Chuxing, the ride-hailing startup from Beijing that first hit global headlines in 2016 for defeating Uber in China, made the news again recently – but not for ride hailing. Its autonomous driving spinoff, Didi Woya, raised $500m in May, the single largest investment in the local sector to date. Several days later, Didi Chuxing announced its foray into the on-demand freight services market. 

From its core business, Didi Chuxing has, in the span of just four years, extended its presence into other sectors – bike and car sharing, errand service, car rentals, and more  – through acquisitions, investments and partnerships, plus building its own companies from scratch. When all the dots are connected, it becomes clear that Didi Chuxing is building a mobility empire. But it’s not the only Chinese startup creating an ecosystem.

Bytedance, the owner of TikTok, which scored its first success with news aggregator, Jinri Toutiao (literally, “today’s headlines” in Chinese), runs a content-based ecosystem these days with a string of its own

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