When Uber retreated from China this summer, it seemed like a bellwether for U.S. companies trying to push their way into the country. The world’s most valuable venture-backed startup lost at least $2 billion in the world’s most populous nation in two years, according to people familiar with the matter, trying to build market share with free rides. In the end it sold its China operations to local leader Didi Chuxing. Now, America’s second-most-valuable startup is betting it can do better.
Where Uber rushed in, Airbnb has taken its time building relationships with China’s industry leaders and government officials. A 2014 partnership with Alibaba made it easy for Chinese users to pay for Airbnb rentals with Alipay, the local equivalent of PayPal. A partnership deal with Tencent, finalized in February, got Airbnb built into WeChat, China’s dominant messaging app. This year, Airbnb has teamed up with the governments of four major Chinese cities, including Shanghai and tech hub Shenzhen, for ambiguous tourism promotions that, among other things, mean the service is welcome in those hot spots. – READ MORE