Multinational sportswear group Nike said on Wednesday it will stop operating its Nike Run Club app in China from early next month. The group said it plans to launch a local equivalent in the future.
Nike joins a growing list of international media and technology companies pulling out of China, where consumer, financial, technology and media regulations are increasingly incompatible with those of the rest of the world. Earlier this month, Amazon announced that it would no longer operate its Kindle electronic bookstore in the Middle Kingdom. And, the temporary rental company, Airbnb said in late May that it would no longer advertise Chinese properties for rent.
They also follow Yahoo and Microsoft LinkedIn into voluntary exile. Both companies had been pioneers in China and offered localized platforms and services, but decided to withdraw from the Chinese consumer market in 2021.
The NRC app combined a service to track users’ physical activity with a social media feature through which users could compare and challenge their friends. It had over eight million users and was reportedly NRC’s most profitable market.
“It is with sadness that [the] The NRC app will stop working and working in your market starting July 8,” Nike said in a statement. “We will continue to serve Chinese riders with an enhanced, localized digital solution in the future,” a company spokesperson told Reuters news agency.
Among the issues for Western companies are China’s ongoing zero-COVID policy, which would likely have hit a travel app such as Airbnb, and the rise of Chinese tech competitors. Chinese Literature supported by Tencent, for example, is one of the country’s biggest reading apps.
But it would be surprising if Kindle, AirBnB and Nike didn’t also struggle to comply with changing regulations. LinkedIn and Yahoo both pointed to compliance difficulties in China. Western fashion brands have also been caught between the opposing political positions of China and the United States 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 Act, a privacy law that took effect Nov. 1 that imposes new data collection restrictions on tech companies when they interact with Chinese citizens. Companies should also employ censors to monitor and control comments and user-generated content.
LinkedIn said it would launch a standalone job app for China that “will not include a social feed or the ability to share posts or articles.”