China’s Clubhouse clones all have a fatal flaw

When Beijing blocked Clubhouse this month, the app’s users in China mourned the end of the brief period of free speech they had experienced on the audio chat app. But the move is also an opportunity for Chinese tech firms to develop their own version of the tool—and already a handful of Chinese counterparts exist.

Overall, there are more than 100 teams (link in Chinese) in China exploring products in the area of audio-based social media, according to the CEO of iiMedia Research, a Chinese consultancy.

The invite-only US audio app attracted heightened interest in China after Tesla founder Elon Musk made his debut on it to quiz Robinhood founder Vladimir Tenev during the height of the brokerage app’s GameStop trading frenzy earlier this month. Although users need to have a non-Chinese Apple account to download the app, Chinese curiosity reached such a level that the app’s invitation codes were being sold for between 150 yuan ($23) to 400 yuan on Chinese e-commerce websites. On Feb. 8 Beijing blocked the app after Chinese users used the platform to listen to discussions on topics including the treatment of Uyghurs in China and the Hong Kong protests.

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