What is WeChat and what can it do?
Wang Zheng
WeChat is mostly used on smartphones / Martin Bureau / AFP

WeChat is mostly used on smartphones / Martin Bureau / AFP

Wechat was initially launched as an instant messaging app by Tencent in January 2011. According to the 2019 annual WeChat report, by September 2019, its monthly active users amounted to more than 1.1 billion - the population of China is around 1.4 billion.

What does WeChat do?

Social networking

Sending messages

As an instant messaging app, the basic function of WeChat allows its users to send words, emojis, pics one-on-one with contacts. They can also do audio calls and video calls.

Users can also form a WeChat group with as many as 500 people and hold group WeChat calls with as many as nine people.

If they are really bored, users can use WeChat to find strangers. Tap "People Nearby" or shake your phone to add new friends and meet new people.


Moments is a bit like a social networking platform such as Instagram or Facebook. You can share your photos, 15 second videos, music or web links for your chosen WeChat contacts. People usually use it to make major announcements and showcase their daily life. Their contacts can like or comment on their moments.

Official accounts

Any government organizations, companies, or groups can register a WeChat Official Account to send articles and messages to their followers. According to the WeChat Economic and Social Impact Report 2017 by China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, there are more than 10 million WeChat Official Accounts.

Ordering in a restaurant

If you go to a restaurant in China, use your WeChat app to scan the QR code on the table to order and pay for your food and drinks. Besides restaurants, people also use WeChat for a lot of daily payments. As per WeChat Economic and Social Impact Report 2017, WeChat-facilitated consumption in home services, entertainment and travel sectors amounted to 333.9 billion yuan, or $47.9 billion.


WeChat and Chinese online retail giant JD signed a cooperation deal in 2014, and users can shop on JD without leaving WeChat. JD founder Richard Liu Qiangdong said in an interview in 2018 that a quarter of JD's new customers comes from WeChat.


Send money - users can send money transfers to their contacts directly.

Red envelopes

In the past, Chinese people would give red envelopes during special occasions such as Chinese New Year or for wedding celebrations. With help of WeChat, users can send virtual red envelopes or "lucky money" to their friends. Companies send red envelope as well. According to WeChat Spring Festival Data Report 2019, 823 million users sent "lucky money" via WeChat in five days.

Pay for your bills

WeChat users can pay their electricity and water bills via the app.


WeChat became an eco-system and launched mini programs, in 2017. Users don't need to download a whole bunch of apps, they can use mini-apps inside WeChat instead. By using mini programs, people can book a doctor's appointment, take a taxi, apply for a loan and much more. According to the Mini Program Development Report H1 2020 by Aldzs.com, there are already 3.2 million WeChat mini programs and 410 million daily active users.