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Chinese app downloads surge in U.S.

Data: Apptopia; Chart: Axios Visuals

Several Chinese apps are experiencing high download levels in the U.S., according to data from Apptopia.

Why it matters: Many of these apps are leveraging ads on Facebook and other platforms targeted to people in the U.S. to drive app downloads here. This has led to the adoption of major Chinese services in many verticals, from retail to social media.

Driving the news: Shein, a major Chinese retailer, has experienced 2.5 million new installs in the U.S. alone, per Apptopia — its most ever from the country. This was only about 14.5% of its total app installs around the world.

  • Shein is currently the No. 5 advertiser on iOS in the Shopping category and No. 20 on Google Play.
  • Shein is one of Facebook's biggest advertisers, and often uses Facebook ads to drive app installs in new markets, like the U.S.

Other Chinese apps are experiencing record success in the U.S., often using a similar strategy of relying on Facebook and platform advertising to drive app installs.

  • TikTok, the Bytedance-owned social karaoke app, is exploding in the U.S. According to the Wall Street Journal, TikTok spent $1 billion on advertising in the U.S. in 2018. Ironically, it mostly grew its audience by buying those ads on the social platforms of its competitors, like Facebook, Facebook-owned Instagram and Snapchat.
  • Wish, the Chinese retailer that rivals Shein, is still the No. 1 shopping app in the U.S. for both the Apple App Store and Google Play store. Wish has focused on U.S. downloads last the past several quarters, capitalizing on the bargain direct-to-consumer shopping trend for some time.

The big picture: U.S. regulators have sought to curb the dominance of Chinese companies that leverage data in the U.S. by blocking strategic acquisitions of domestic companies by Chinese companies.

  • But the latest trend shows that Chinese companies can leverage advertising on U.S.-based platforms — ones that don't typically deny advertisers the right to run based on their home country — to assert their dominance anyway.

Go deeper: The next big news fight is between Chinese aggregation apps