Most of the world's largest software companies still operate out of the United States as of 2016, but even American tech giants are paying attention to the software revolution underway in China. The number of Chinese software companies more than doubled between 2009 and 2014. Just as critically, China produces legions of new software engineers each year — more than 100,000 annually by some estimates. Modern Chinese software firms are big and getting bigger, and it is possible the Red Economy will soon replace Germany and Japan as the United States' preeminent international technological competitor.

It is not just volume, either. American tech companies remain highly critical of Chinese piracy tactics. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has enlisted several U.S. attorneys general to block Chinese software companies from doing business in America unless they pay for Microsoft licenses. The point is that Chinese tech companies, one way or another, are growing rapidly, and by mid-2015, more than a dozen Chinese software companies had reached valuations of greater than $1 billion.

With that in mind, here are five of the largest and most influential Chinese software companies. They are ranked by recently available market capitalization.

1. China Mobile

Like many major Chinese companies, China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) is state-owned. The company is primarily a mobile service provider, not a software designer, but it does boast a large software team among its nearly 240,000 employees. Based out of Beijing, China Mobile reaches more than 800 million subscribers and, by that measure, it is the world's largest phone company. Most of China Mobile's customer base is Chinese, although it reaches into Pakistan and Hong Kong.

2. Tencent

Shenzen-based Tencent Holdings Ltd. (OTC: TCEHY) is a Chinese social networking giant. Its WeChat messaging app claimed more than 450 million monthly users in 2015, its social networking website QZone reported 629 million users and its instant messaging service had a whopping 820 million monthly users. To put that in perspective, that is more than twice the population of the United States in 2015.

Tencent's valuation briefly topped $200 billion in 2015, before sinking again along with the rest of the Chinese stock market. The company has many U.S.-based software investments, and reports suggest Tencent wants WeChat to be an American brand, too.

3. Alibaba

As the world's largest ecommerce retailer, moving more than double the product volume of Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) combined, there is a case to be made for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) as the most important Chinese software company.

All of Alibaba's software offerings are produced through a wholly owned subsidiary, Alibaba Software. The firm offers its own payment and banking service, Alipay. It also spent much of 2015 trying to integrate more smartphone-friendly operating software, but its unsuccessful forays into American markets suggest it still has a way to go in its software presentation.

4. Baidu

Baidu, Inc. (NASDAQ: BIDU) was founded in 2000 by Robin Li (Li Yanhong), who spent much of the 1990s working as a software developer for the Wall Street Journal, among others. Baidu consistently ranks as the top online search engine in China, and evidence suggests it is solidifying its market share. The company offers dozens of free software products, most of which target PC users in Asian markets.

5. Xiaomi

Sometimes referred to as the Apple of China, Xiaomi is a handset and smartphone manufacturer with a short sales history and oodles of potential. In late 2014, Xiaomi was valued above $45 billion, making it the most valuable private technology firm in the world. As a private company with a limited sales history, Xiaomi's market capitalization is difficult to nail down on a day-to-day basis, however.

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