Multinational sportswear group Nike said on Wednesday that will cease to operate its Nike Run Club app in China from early next month. The group said that it plans to launch a local equivalent in the future.
Nike joins an expanding list of international media and tech companies that are pulling out of China, where consumer, financial, tech and media regulations are increasingly incompatible with those elsewhere in the world. Earlier this month, Amazon said that it will no longer operate its Kindle electronic bookstore in the Middle Kingdom. And, temporary lettings firm, Airbnb said in late May that it will no longer carry listings of Chinese properties for rent.
They also follow Yahoo and Microsoft’s LinkedIn in self-imposed exile. Both firms had been pioneers in China and offered localized platforms and services, but decided to withdraw from the China consumer market in 2021.
The NRC app combined a service to track users’ exercise activity with a social media function through which users could compare against and challenge their friends. It had over eight million users and is reported to have been the NRC’s most profitable market.
“It’s with sadness that [the] NRC app will cease service and operation in your market from July 8,” said Nike in a statement. “We will continue to serve Chinese runners with an enhanced and localized digital solution in the future,” a company spokesman told the Reuters news agency.
Among the problems for the western companies is China’s ongoing zero-COVID policy, which would likely have hit a travel app such as Airbnb, and the rise of China’s home-grown tech competitors. Tencent-backed China Literature, for instance, is one of the country’s largest reading apps.
But it would be surprising if Kindle, AirBnB and Nike had not also found themselves struggling to comply with changing regulations. LinkedIn and Yahoo both pointed to the difficulties of compliance in China. Western fashion brands have also been caught between the opposing Chinese and U.S. political stances on human rights, Xinjiang and the cotton production industry.
Yahoo’s exit from China coincided with the enactment of the country’s Personal Information Protection Law, a privacy law that went into effect Nov. 1 and which imposes new data-collection restrictions on tech companies when interfacing with Chinese citizens. Firms must also employ censors to monitor and control comments and user-generated content.
LinkedIn said it will launch a standalone jobs application for China that “will not include a social feed or the ability to share posts or articles.”