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Insights into the Social Credit System on Chinese Online Media vs Its Portrayal in Western Media

In many international media, China’s nascent Social Credit System is presented as a gloomy sci-fi storyline with clickbait titles. In Chinese mass media, the story is not nearly as ‘sexy’.

Manya Koetse

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The lurid scenario of how China’s nascent Social Credit System (SCS) might unfold as presented by many international media, stands in stark contrast to how the topic is discussed on Chinese online media. Not only is the SCS discussed and presented much differently within the PRC, the topic is also not nearly getting as much attention as it does in the West.

“The year 2018 has been a crucial year in the development of China’s Social Credit System (社会信用体系),” lawyer Ju (居小森律师) writes on Weibo this week.

The past year has indeed been the year of China’s Social Credit System: it was an important year for the system’s implementation, and it also became one of the most discussed China-related news topics in international media1 – using sci-fi vocabulary, powerful emotional words, suspenseful music, and dramatic images in their SCS-focused stories, the SCS is presented much differently in Western media than it is within the PRC.

 

SCS: From Google to Weibo Trends

 

From October 2017 to October 2018 alone, the Google search engine comes up with more than six million results in a search for the term “China social credit system” in English. Showing all results from before this time, there are 160 million results for the term in total.

(whatsonweibo/google)

Google Trends statistics show that worldwide interest in China’s Social Credit System had its absolute peak in the past year, and that Black Mirror, the British science fiction series exploring the dark consequences of new technologies, is one of the terms that is most associated with the web search query ‘China’s social credit system.’

Black Mirror is a highly popular series on Netflix, of which one 2016 episode called ‘Nosedive’ revolved around a dystopian society where people are judged by a numeric rating given to them by their interactions with other people, affecting their opportunities in life. This episode is often connected to China’s SCS by Western blogs or news sites.

In the Black Mirror episode ‘Nosedive’, people’s position on the social ladder is determined by other people ranking them.

The Black Mirror association with ‘social credit’ does not only come up on Google Trends. On Twitter, for example, some of the hashtags most related to the term also includes “#blackmirror.”

In contrast to the English term, with 160 million results, the Chinese term for the social credit system (社会信用体系) comes up with only 19,2 million total search results on Google. Google Trends also shows a rather minimal interest in the Chinese term compared to its English equivalent.

Although that result is somewhat flawed (the Google search engine is blocked in mainland China), Baidu, one of China’s most popular search engines, also gives a comparatively small total of 7,7 million results for the same Chinese web search query.

All in all, there are clear indications that the attention for the Chinese Social Credit System in the international English-language online media environment is much bigger than that within China.

While the Social Credit System (SCS) is being mentioned on Twitter almost every five to ten minutes at time of writing, it is only being discussed on Weibo with intervals of minimally one or two hours by posts that are barely getting likes or comments.2

This is especially noteworthy when considering that Sina Weibo has around 100 million more monthly active users (±430 million) than Twitter has (±326 million).

So what does this all mean? How come that there is so much appetite for this topic outside of China, while inside the PRC, where the ‘system’ is well underway, there is a lesser public interest in its development?

 

What Actually is the Social Credit System?

 

In the book Social Credit Law: Principles, Rules and Cases, author Luo Peixin explains Social Credit as follows:

Social Credit is a management system that takes big data as its basis, is supported by technological capacities, and is backed by law [legal provisions]; it is an important modern method to forward the country’s governance systems and management capabilities” (3).

Rather than one system or database, the Social Credit System is an overall policy or ideology, a mechanism of punishments and rewards, that is allegedly “meant to improve the integrity and trust level of the whole society” (creditchina.gov.cn).

In 2014, the Chinese government announced its first plans on the construction of a nationwide Social Credit System to be rolled out by 2020. For now, there is not one system in place, but rather a collection of different implementations and experiments across various regions and cities across China.

What they all have in common, though, is that individuals, corporations, or agencies are being assessed based on their ‘trustworthiness’ (Kostka 2018, 1).

In Shaanxi’s Ankan city, blacklisted trust ‘offenders’ are being publicly displayed on a local court’s LED screens this month (via http://jszx.court.gov.cn).

The past summer has seen some important developments in the realization of a national Social Credit System. In the Chinese state media article “The Credit Society is Coming, Are You Ready for It?” [“信用社会来临,你准备好了吗”], People’s Daily notes that new Social Credit terms such as “blacklists” (黑名单) will become more ubiquitous in daily life from now on.

Earlier this year, the first names on the ‘lose trust list’ (失信人名单) – meaning those who have failed in complying with their public commitments or court orders – were reported to the Chinese railway and aviation departments by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) to block these people from traveling.

At the beginning of 2018, twelve cities have been announced as successfully laying out the foundations of a Social Credit management system.3

Other Chinese cities are frequently added to the ‘credit cities’ list. Dalian, for example, is one of the cities that is highlighted by Chinese media this month for “steadily advancing” its Social Credit System implementation. The city has introduced an automated administrative process at its Public Resources Trading Center, in which people who are found to have bad credit will automatically be refused the handling of business.

It is just one among dozens of examples of how various cities and regions in China are experimenting with Social Credit and both punitive and rewarding measures.

Besides the SCS initiatives being implemented by local governments, commercial companies are also participating in making China a more credit-based society. Users who opt in to Alibaba’s Sesame Credit loyalty program system, for example, can enjoy many benefits if they have a good credit score (650+), such as borrowing books from the local library for free, or using share bikes without deposit (more on Sesame Credit and its perks here).

According to Weibo user ‘Lawyer Ju’, the broad credit system “covers both economic credit systems and social integrity systems,” within which the blacklist system is getting “more and more important”, adding that “the joint structure of ‘lose trust in one place, and there’s no place to go’ [一处失信、处处受限] will soon be here.”

 

Weibo Focus: No Bad Deed Should Go Unpunished

 

Lawyer Ju is not the only Weibo user who seems rather optimistic and happy about the implementation of a system that governs society based on trust.

Although major discussions on the actual ‘Social Credit System’ – using that exact term (社会信用体系) – are practically non-existent on Weibo, there are other examples of trending topics linked to the system that have gone viral lately.

One noteworthy example is the topic of two ‘Train Tyrants‘ that went trending on Chinese social media since August of this year.

The two train bullies that went viral the past months.

It all started with the “Highspeed Train Tyrant” (高铁霸座男) in September. It is a nickname that was given to a man who refused to give up the seat he took from another passenger on the G334 express train to Beijing in late August, and whose bizarre and rude behavior was caught on video.

The other train bully that went viral in September, is a woman from Hunan who was dubbed ‘High-Speed Train Tyrant Woman’ (高铁霸座女) by Weibo netizens.

She had taken a seat assigned to another passenger while riding the train from Yongzhou to Shenzhen. A video (YouTube link here) shows how the woman makes a scene when the train conductor tells her she is in the wrong seat; she refuses to get up, raises her voice, talks rudely to the conductor, and simply claims she has bought a ticket and will not change to another seat until she has reached her final destination.

The story of this female ‘train tyrant’ became trending on Weibo with over 500 million views.

With more than 600 million combined views on the stories of the highspeed ‘Train Tyrants’, making them one of the bigger news stories of the year, the unruly behavior of passengers on Chinese public transport system made headlines. When news came out that both ‘bullies’ were fined and blacklisted by the Chinese railways (banning them from boarding trains for 180 days, see this article by Jeremy Daum for more on the legal aspects), many commenters applauded the system – although some deemed it not punitive enough (“180 days and a 200 yuan [$28] fine is nothing!“).

Although this case concerned a Railway-specific blacklist, many people commented that this blacklisting system should also be applied to people disturbing the order in hospitals, for example, and that it should be linked with the nationwide Social Credit System.

Moreover, many deemed that the Social Credit System should be even more punitive to people disturbing the public order, saying they “only had themselves to blame” (“咎由自取”), and it is a mere matter of “how karma works.”

 

Twitter Focus: China’s Scary Social Credit System

 

Meanwhile, on Twitter, a very different Social Credit story is going viral. A two-minute short video published by the Economist on October 26 titled “How Does China’s Social Credit System Work?” has more than 275,000 views on Twitter alone at time of writing (Update 23.00 China time: Economist has removed the video within hours after this article was posted).

Accompanied by suspenseful music, the video starts by captioning that by 2020, “the Chinese government will give all 1.4bn of its citizens a personal score based on how they behave.”

It further alleges that the ‘system’ will “track people’s activities on the Internet,” and that “what they buy, view, and say online will all be analysed,” followed by the claim that “this data will then be evaluated and distilled into a single number according to rules set by the government.”

Still from the Economist video.

The Economist video then focuses on surveillance cameras “that track people’s behavior in public”, suggesting that someone’s “score” could be lowered by crossing a red light, and that 12 million people have already been “punished for having a low score” through domestic travel bans.

Among thousands of reactions on the video, many compared China to an “Orwellian surveillance state” or a “Black Mirror episode.”

This recent Economist video is but one of dozens of examples of international media outlets describing China’s Social Credit System within a certain framework, mainly linking it to terms such as ‘punishment,’ ‘surveillance,’ and ‘individual scores.’

Many of these news stories suggest that every Chinese citizen will be assigned a ‘score’, or that people’s mere way behaving in public will be able to lower that ‘score’, resulting in ‘punishment’ (FYI: there is no indication that there will be one ‘score’ for citizens in a nationwide SCS, also see this article).

These stories are often grossly conflating the (optional) commercial credit systems, such as Sesame Credit, with national government policies and local experiments. (For more about this, also check this article).

 

Dramatically Different Approaches

 

By just comparing the previously mentioned examples of the Train Tyrant viral story in China, and the Economist viral video, one can get a glimpse of the great gap in (social) media approaches of the Social Credit System in China and in Western media.4

“Creepy”, “Chilling”, “Sci-fi” – some of the words used in Western media headlines to frame the SCS.

In the international media headlines, powerful emotional words like ‘chilling’, ‘creepy’, or ‘dystopian’ are often used. Perhaps not coincidentally, marketers since long know that readers react more strongly to ‘alert words’ that make us feel anxious, such as ‘afraid’, ‘scare’, ‘risk’, and ‘alarm’ – which are all great words to get more engagement with social media users, and thus will result in more clicks.

As ‘sexy’ as the SCS might seem in Western media, as ‘dry’ it can seem in the Chinese media context, where the most powerful words used in headlines are terms as ‘trust’, ‘harmony’ or ‘blacklist’, and where there are no dramatic images; occasionally there is a featured photo of officials having a meeting (to see more on how state media propagates the SCS through cartoons, click here).

A typical SCS-focused article in Chinese media.

This difference in the framing of SCS between Western publications and Chinese articles can also be seen in the specific words used in SCS-focused news stories.

The word clouds below show the most used words in three typical SCS articles from Western mainstream media (Independent, Guardian, and ABC), and three typical English-language Chinese state media articles on SCS (namely Global Times, Xinhua, and China Daily ).

Most common words in news articles discussing the social credit system in Western media (left) and English-language Chinese media (right). (By What’s on Weibo via wordart).

While there are many words overlapping between the two examples, the most-used words in these Western media sources (left) are words as ‘system’, ‘list’, ‘citizen’, ‘behaviour’, ‘score’, and ‘government’, whereas the Chinese state media sources (right) more commonly use words as ‘business’, ‘law’, ‘market’, and ‘build.’

Doing the same experiment with Chinese-language state media articles on the SCS (Sina News, People’s Daily, and Guangming Daily) shows that ‘trust’ or ‘credit’ (信用) and ‘building’ (建设) are among the most-used words, with terms such as ‘enjoy together’, ‘cooperate’, or ‘unite’ frequently popping up.

The result of the most common words used in three state media articles on SCS (Whatsonweibo via Picdata).

The different public attitude towards the SCS implementation in China versus the Western media discourse on the issue, is also illustrated in a recent study by Genia Kostka (2018), that investigates Chinese citizens’ attitudes towards social credit systems. Rather than thinking of it as a ‘creepy’ or ‘dystopian’ system, it showed that SCSs actually have very high levels of approval across the respondent groups in the study (her work can be viewed here).

 

Social Credit Accounts without Followers

 

Ever since the 2014 plans of China’s Social Credit implementation were announced, Chinese social media has seen dozens of regional, urban, district-based ‘Social Credit’ accounts pop up on Weibo and WeChat to inform netizens of local developments.

The online presence of these local social credit programmes signals that Weibo and Wechat may have hundreds of these accounts in the future informing citizens/netizens of new measures and guidelines.

However, the fanbase numbers of these accounts, again, reflect that there does not seem to be that much interest for the nascent SCS implementations.

A brief overview of some of these Weibo accounts:

* Credit Suzhou @苏州工业园区信用平台
Followers: 391
First post on record: September 29, 2015

* Liaoning Credit @信用辽宁
Followers at time of writing: 764
First post on record: August 1, 2012

* Wuhu Credit
@信用芜湖
Followers at time of writing: 14
First post on record: August 22, 2016

* Beijing City Social Credit Building Promotional Association @北京市社会公信建设促进会
Followers at time of writing: 14913
First post on record: September 17, 2014

* China Trustworthy Guangzhou @中国诚信广州
Followers at time of writing: 383
First post on record: June 20, 2012

* Honest Suqian @诚信宿迁
Followers at time of writing: 21
First post on record: September 9, 2014

With more than 24,000 followers, the Weibo account of commercial credit system Sesame Credit (@芝麻信用) is much more popular than the government-related management programmes.

Perhaps the topic of SCS, for many Chinese, is lacking the ‘Black Mirror’ appeal it has for many Western consumers of news. Perhaps ‘harmony’ and ‘trust’ are not as click-worthy as ‘creepy’ and ‘dystopian’?

On Weibo, Lawyer Ju is confident in the future of SCS in China: “Whether it’s from a social, corporate, or individual perspective,” he writes: “‘trust’ is now everywhere; it’s become a necessary ‘virtual asset.’ The gradual improvement of the construction of a legal credit system is the fundamental policy in order to regulate the market economy.”

Although his message is sound and clear, it is perhaps also somewhat boring and dry: it has not received any likes or shares to date. Meanwhile, on Twitter, the Economist‘s suspenseful video on China’s grim SCS future has received more than 280,000 views, and counting. “Oh my god!”, one popular reply to the video says: “This is just like that Black Mirror episode!”

(Update 23.00 China time: Economist has removed the video within hours after this article was posted).

By Manya Koetse

1 This article talks about ‘international’ or ‘Western’ media to show a clear difference from Chinese media. Although the term can be understood in many ways, we mean it here to address mainstream English-language (news) sources of media outlets from mainly the US, Europe, and Australia.

2 Please note that there is currently no reason to assume that discussions of this specific topic are being censored: censorship scanning sites such as Free Weibo show no signs that posts using the term are specifically targeted, and state media and local governments are actually trying to start up discussions on this topic, as I will briefly touch upon later on in this article.

3 Namely Hangzhou, Nanjing, Xiamen, Chengdu, Suzhou, Suqian, Huizhou, Wenzhou, Weihai, Weifang, Yiwu, and Rongcheng.

4 Note that these are just small examples within a big and complicated discourse that has more sides to it than this article allows to zoom in on.

References

Kostka, Genia. 2018. “China’s Social Credit Systems and Public Opinion: Explaining High Levels of Approval” SSRN, July 23. Available at https://ssrn.com/abstract=3215138 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3215138 [29.10.18].

Luo Peixin 罗培新. 2018. Social Credit Law: Principles, Rules and Cases [社会信用法:原理、规则、案例]. Beijing: Peking University Press.

People’s Daily. 2018. “Observing the Social Credit System: The Credit Society is Coming, Are You Ready for It? [观察社会信用体系:信用社会来临,你准备好了吗].” Xinhua June 4. Available online at http://www.xinhuanet.com/2018-06/04/c_1122931164.htm [29.10.18].


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©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ed Sander

    October 30, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    In the meantime The Economist has removed the video from their Twitter feed …

  2. Avatar

    Marco

    October 31, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Manya, thanks for this very insightful article.

  3. Avatar

    soundcloud converter

    March 15, 2019 at 5:06 am

    Thanks, quite great article.

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China Digital

Trump’s TikTok Ban Goes Trending on Weibo (and on TikTok)

“Did Trump buy up the trending lists?”, some Chinese web users wonder.

Manya Koetse

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Just days after TikTok released a statement saying it would open its algorithms, President Trump announced that the app would be “banned from the United States.”

Trump reportedly said he would take action as soon as Saturday, August 1st, using emergency economic power or an executive order. The move comes at a time of China-US escalating tensions.

TikTok has recently fallen under scrutiny in the U.S. over security and data concerns, but also raised concerns in Australia, India, Japan, and Europe.

TikTok is the international version of Douyin (抖音), a short video media app owned by China’s young tech giant Bytedance (字节跳动). The app allows users to create, edit, and share short videos as well as live streams, often featuring music in the background.

Earlier this week, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayers released a statement addressing recent security concerns regarding the popular short video app due to its Chinese origins.

“We are not political, we do not accept political advertising and have no agenda – our only objective is to remain a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy,” Mayers wrote.

In the statement, titled “Fair competition and transparency benefits us all,” Mayers announced the launch of a Transparency and Accountability Center for TikTok’s moderation and data practices where, as he wrote, “experts can observe our moderation policies in real-time, as well as examine the actual code that drives our algorithms.”

Since its launch in 2016, Douyin has grown to be one of China’s most popular apps. In early 2020, the Chinese version of the app had amassed some 400 million daily active users.

The app also became an international success shortly after launching its overseas version, and especially after it acquired popular video app Musical.ly, merging the app with its own platform in 2018 under the TikTok brand name. In the first quarter of this year, Tik Tok became the most-downloaded app worldwide. In the US, the app has some 80 million users.

Various media previously reported that Microsoft was exploring to purchase the video-sharing app from its parent company.

Both news items, the alleged selling of TikTok and the newly announced ban, entered Weibo’s top trending list on Saturday afternoon, Chinese local time, under the hashtags “Trump Will Order ByteDance to Sell TikTok’s U.S. Business” (#特朗普将命令字节跳动出售TikTok美国业务#) and “Trump Will Ban TikTok’ from Operating in America” (#特朗普将禁止TikTok在美国运营#).

The American ban on TikTok also went trending on Douyin, the Chinese TikTok, where state media accounts such as China Daily posted a video of Trump talking about the possible Tik Tok ban accompanied by ominous music.

“Did Trump buy up the trending lists?”, one commenter wondered.

“Perhaps he doesn’t know he became trending on China’s TikTok himself now,” one TikTok user wrote.

On Weibo, responses to the American TikTok news developments are mixed, but a majority of web users express amazement that a possible ban on the Chinese app could occur in the world’s premier free-market economy.

“Haha, a free market economy?!”, many Weibo users wrote: “It’s time to revise Western economic textbooks.”

“Political interference in markets, it’s what Trump does best,” others wrote.

Many web users comment that by banning TikTok, Trump would do what China did years ago. American social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been blocked in China since 2009.

Some users suggest that it would be better for TikTok to be banned in the U.S. than being sold (“If it’s banned, the ban could always be lifted again”), while others think selling is the better option (“Bytedance could at least still earn money by selling”).

Weibo blogger Lin Huijie (蔺会杰) – founder of the Aigupiao app – also posted about the recent developments, writing:

Today, Trump has officially launched an attack on TikTok, which will either be banned or be forced to sell to Microsoft. We can’t actually say anything about this; after all, we already blocked several American software a decade ago. But as part of their “contain China” strategy, America banning Tik Tok is similar to how it encircles and suppresses Huawei. As a 5G leader, Huawei has broken through the U.S.-controlled technological highlands, while Tik-Tok has broken through the American monopoly on global social networks.”

Lin further writes that in the mobile internet era, social media platforms are powerful tools to shape public opinion and are a way for the US to “rule the world.” With China gaining more influence in the English-language social media world, American soft power would be reduced. Lin suggests that the banning of TikTok is merely a strategic move to limit China’s power.

Some commenters compare the banning of TikTok to what recently happened to the closure of the Chinese consulate in America and the American consulate in China; if the American Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China, then the Chinese TikTok gets blocked in the US.

“[But] it’s not that China doesn’t allow these platforms to be used,” one person responds: “It’s that they require these services to be based in China and to accept government supervision.”

Despite the major interest in the recent developments concerning TikTok in America on Weibo, there are also those who hope for less eventful days: “Would it be possible for Trump to not go trending every single day?”


This story is still developing.

Read more about articles about Sino-US relations here.

By Manya Koetse

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©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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The PRC Twitter List: The Rise of China on Twitter

“Twittering China’s stories well” – about the surge of Chinese official accounts on Twitter.

Manya Koetse

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Over the past year, there’s been more media coverage on the growing influence of China on global media. When it comes to social media, Twitter has seen a significant surge in accounts representing Chinese official media, diplomatic missions, and state organizations. What’s on Weibo gives an overview of these Twitter accounts and the rise of China on Twitter.

Apart from the countless Chinese official media and government accounts on China’s domestic social media platform Weibo, there is now an increasing number of Beijing-linked accounts that have gone beyond the Great Firewall and have set out for Twitter.

Official Chinese accounts have become more present and more active on foreign social media over the past few years, and we have found that there has been a significant surge of new official accounts arriving on Twitter in 2019 and in early 2020.

Within China, Weibo and WeChat have become increasingly relevant when it comes to public diplomacy. For years now, foreign embassies, media, pundits, and government organizations from all over the world are active on Chinese social media platforms.

The growing ubiquity of digital diplomacy is unsurprising: social media platforms are a low-cost and convenient tool for engaging with local audiences for public diplomacy purposes.

In our article “Digital Diplomacy: These Foreign Embassies Are Most (Un)Popular on Weibo” (2016), we explored the popularity of foreign embassies on Sina Weibo. There is even a term for this kind of diplomacy via Weibo: “Weiplomacy.”

While foreign actors are active on Weibo and other platforms, Chinese actors are also increasingly active in the English-language social media sphere.

The use of Twitter for diplomacy uses is not new, nor is it unique to China. The term used for public diplomacy strategies on Twitter is ‘Twiplomacy,’ and government officials from as many as 178 countries have been using Twitter for diplomatic purposes (Guo et al 2019, 563-564).

 

CHINA’S TWIPLOMACY

 

The use of Twitter for Chinese government purposes has received more media attention recently. In June of this year, news came out that Twitter suspended more than 23,000 ‘fake’ accounts for allegedly being linked to the Chinese Communist Party and spreading ­false information and promote Party narratives to undermine the Hong Kong protests and/or to counter criticism of Beijing’s handling of COVID-19 (Washington Post, 2020).

This development is somewhat surprising, as previous studies have found no evidence of these kinds of automated processes on Twitter as part of Chinese international propaganda efforts (Bolsover & Howard 2019). Noteworthy enough, it was previously found that those using bot activities on the platform to manipulate information about China and Chinese politics were actually anti-China groups (ibid., 2076).

What is clear from the recent growing presence of Chinese state-related accounts on Twitter, is that online political communication promoting Chinese interests is often manually done by real accounts and real people, e.g. state employees, as part of their regular jobs.

China’s shift from traditional forms of public diplomacy and propaganda to more innovative and digital ones has been ongoing for years. Since Xi Jinping’s ascension to power, the media strategy of “telling China’s story well” started to become more prominent in foreign diplomacy efforts (Shambaugh 2020, 17).

But also before this time, between 2009 and 2011, there was a heightened focus on China’s international media presence, with the government spending billions on a global media plan, mainly executed via media agencies such as Xinhua, China Daily, CCTV, and China Radio International (Bolsover & Howard 2019, 2065; Huang & Wang 2020, 118).

The One Belt, One Road summit in May of 2017 was an important digital media moment as Chinese state media and official social media accounts shared new kinds of promotional campaigns targeted at domestic and foreign audiences (see our article). In that same year, social media also played a major role in the propagation of PRC’s “New Era,” which was promoted via short videos, cartoons, and gifs (also see this article).

Whereas China’s foreign online public diplomacy previously mostly seemed to focus on promoting the positive image of China as a peaceful nation (the 2020 study by Huang and Wang on ‘panda engagement’ analyzes the panda-themed tweets of official media accounts on Twitter), we have seen a different trend in China’s digital public diplomacy over the past year.

Yes, there are still panda tweets. But Twitter is also used more and more to also aggressively defend China’s image and attacking others while spreading official narratives on contentious issues such as the South China Sea dispute, US-China trade war, alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang, the Hong Kong protests, and China’s handling of the COVID19 outbreak.

Example of public diplomacy on Twitter, via Ministry of Foreign Affairs @MFA_China (screenshot by What’s on Weibo).

This is not always done in the most sophisticated way. One noteworthy example is that of the China State Council Information Office, tweeting under the (unverified) handle of @chinascio. In 2016 and early 2017, the account repeatedly responded to other twitterers using slang terms such as “dude” or “bro” (“better for you to learn a whole picture of China, dude“), causing hilarity among Twitter users. James Griffith (@jgriffiths) even covered the issue on the CNN website, highlighting the account’s use of the “truth ain’t lie dude” phrase. The controversy was also covered by Chinese Huanqiu Online (Global Times) media outlet.

Other official accounts, such as People’s Daily or that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have also sent out tweets in the past that seemed somewhat out of character, using common slang terms such as “dude” or “LOL.”

Over the past two years, Chinese Twitter strategies seem to have become more sophisticated, with an increasing number of state media, diplomatic missions and government organizations joining the American social media platform.

There are, however, new rows coming up over the Twitter use of Chinese officials. In May of 2020, China’s embassy in Paris sent out a tweet portraying a grim reaper – dressed in US flag while holding a scythe with the Star of David – knocking on the door of Hong Kong, with a text saying: “Who’s next?”

Screenshot as posted by Isaac Stone Fish on Twitter
@isaacstonefish

The embassy soon deleted the tweet and released a statement saying its Twitter was hacked. It was not the first time the Embassy came under scrutiny for its Twitter use; the Chinese Ambassador to France was summoned to the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs in April for a series of other provocative tweets during the coronavirus crisis.

The French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs stated that the tweets were not “keeping with the quality of the bilateral relationship between our two countries.”

Although Chinese state media outlet Global Times wrote about the official Twitter account that the “Chinese Embassy’s humorous satirical taste delights social media users,” these kinds of online altercations show that China’s global diplomatic offense on Twitter can lead to offline clashes, or rather, that online and offline diplomacy are no longer separate worlds. Digital diplomacy is thus not necessarily just ‘digital diplomacy’ – it’s diplomacy, period.

 

TWITTER USE IN CHINA

 

That there is a growing presence of Chinese official accounts on Twitter does not mean that there is also growing freedom for Chinese web users to use the platform from within mainland China.

Twitter has been blocked in China since June 2009, and is inaccessible unless web users make use of software to circumvent censorship and to jump over the Great Firewall of China. Only a small percentage of Chinese web users do so.

According to a survey by political scientist Daniela Stockmann, cited in the New York Times, some 0.4 percent of China’s internet users, roughly 3.2 million people, use Twitter.

Not only is Twitter blocked in China – Chinese nationals who post critical views on the platform could end up in trouble. In his 2019 New York Times article, Paul Mozur explored the Beijing crackdown of Twitter, writing that a growing number of Chinese twitterers are questioned or even detained for their activities on Twitter.

Chinese activists quoted in the article talk about being advised to remove tweets, and also about being interrogated, threatened, and physically restrained over their Twitter behavior.

Telling – or rather, Twittering – China’s stories well is a key mission in China today. But who Twitters these stories in what ways is strictly controlled.

 

ABOUT THIS LIST

 

To give you an idea of China’s new Twitter diplomacy and to provide insight into the ‘official’ accounts that are active on Twitter today, we have compiled the list below for reference, consisting of some 280 relevant accounts in total.

This list only covers accounts representing mainland Chinese state media, diplomatic missions, and other government & state organizations. It leaves out individual Chinese Twitter users unless they are officially representing Chinese media and/or state and government organizations.

The number of followers for each account is recorded at the time of writing between July 11-20. Accounts are listed going from most number of followers on top.

This list is by no means complete. We might have overseen official accounts (please let us know), and it has left out, for example, the many different accounts run by Confucius Institutes worldwide, and also does not list the state-owned enterprises that are active on Twitter.

This list has been compiled manually by What’s on Weibo – it is not an official list by any means. Please note that we have included accounts that have not been verified by Twitter, as most of these accounts do not have the verified ‘v’ status (yet) – the fact that Twitter’s verified account program has been on hold for a long time might have to do with this.

Although caution is thus advised, we currently have no reason to assume that any of the accounts in this list do not belong to the person or organization they say they represent in their bio.

Contributing to this is the fact that these accounts are also followed by other official accounts that have already been verified. If an account is officially verified, we have tagged it as “VERIFIED ACCOUNT.”

In writing personal names, we stick to the way the person presents their name on Twitter. Mostly, they state their last name first, followed by the given name, but sometimes they use the Western style and turn it around.

This list is not necessarily focused on accounts tweeting in English. Many of the accounts tweet in (traditional) Chinese or other languages including Spanish, Japanese, German, or French (both media and accounts of diplomatic missions).

 

NOTEWORTHY FINDINGS

 

The first official Chinese media accounts to join Twitter are Global Times, CCTV, China Daily, and China Plus News (CRI). They all joined from April-Nov 2009, three years after the founding of Twitter, and in the same year that the platform was blocked in mainland China. This was also the year that the Chinese government under Hu Jintao reportedly spent $8.7 billion on a foreign media expansion project.

From that moment on, Chinese media accounts slowly start joining Twitter. Around the 2012-2013 period, when President Xi Jinping introduces the idea of promoting China in the digital age by “telling China’s stories well,” accounts such as China News, Xinhua News, Guangming Daily, and CGTN all join Twitter. Region-specific accounts, including People’s Daily Arabic, Xinhua Spanish, or CGTN Africa, also all join around this period.

Around the year 2017, we see a small surge in Chinese media, government, and city accounts joining Twitter. This is the year that China’s Belt and Road propaganda machine is running at full speed. It is also the year of the 19th National Congress, when Chinese media focus on the message of “supporting China’s New Era.”

But the most noteworthy first surge of Chinese ‘official’ government-related and diplomatic accounts takes place in 2019 at the time of the Hong Kong Protests. While mass demonstrations and violent clashes take place in Hong Kong, we see a total of 35 new official diplomatic/government accounts joining Twitter from July to November of 2019.

The second rise of Chinese official accounts on Twitter takes place in the period of January to March 2020, when a total of 47 new official diplomatic/government accounts join the platform during the international COVID19 crisis.

There also seems to be a clear shift in China’s “Twiplomacy” regarding the overall tone of Twitter posts. Whereas most of the city and regional accounts – arriving on Twitter since 2012 – engage in “panda twiplomacy” and promote China as a harmonious leader and beautiful tourist destination, many diplomatic and media accounts that joined Twitter later shifted tones in addressing international criticism or clarifying China’s stance in main issues concerning the international community, including the South China Sea issue and the US-China trade war.

Over recent months and weeks, the accounts of many diplomats and other accounts in this list have tweeted out images/information sheets, articles, or videos on “What is True and What is False” regarding international media reports on China’s alleged human rights violations, Hong Kong National Security Law, and COVID19 pandemic. These kinds of “true” and “false” images are often produced by Chinese media outlets and then retweeted by many embassy and/or diplomatic accounts and other media accounts. 

    We also found that this list of Twitter accounts does not mirror Weibo at all – many of the accounts in this list have no presence on Weibo and thus were solely created to speak to an overseas audience.

    The accounts in this list amplify each other by following each other and through retweeting. For example, the @MFA_China account (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) has over 178k followers on Twitter, and often retweets the tweets by other official accounts. The diplomatic, media, and city/region accounts often follow each other.

    Here’s our list! (First version July 21, 2020, updated by adding three more diplomats on July 22, 2020).

    Update August 7 2020: As of August 6, 2020, Twitter implemented government and state-affiliated media account labels on its platform. The label appears on the profile page of the relevant Twitter account, as shown in the example below.

     

    LIST OF CHINA ACCOUNTS ON TWITTER

     

    CHINA GOVERNMENT & STATE RELATED ACCOUNTS


     

    CHINA DIPLOMATIC MISSIONS

     

    Chinese Embassy in Pakistan
    @CathayPak, 104.8K followers
    (Joined Sep 2015)

    Chinese Embassy in Brazil
    @EmbaixadaChina, 72.8K followers
    (Joined May 2018)

    Chinese Embassy in Japan 中華人民共和国駐日本国大使館
    @ChnEmbassy_jp, 69K followers
    (Joined April 2014)

    Chinese Embassy in US
    @ChineseEmbinUS, 45.6K followers
    (Joined June 2019)

    Chinese Mission to UN
    @Chinamission2un, 39.8K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined April 2015)

    Chinese Embassy in Italy
    @AmbCina, 33K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined May 2018)

    Chinese Embassy in Spain
    @ChinaEmbEsp, 26.3K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Sep 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Turkey
    @ChinaEmbTurkey, 28.5K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Oct 2015)

    Chinese Embassy in France
    @AmbassadeChine, 24.1K followers
    (Joined August 2019)

    Chinese Embassy to Yemen
    @ChineseEmbtoYEM, 18.2K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined September 2019)

    Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the EU
    @ChinaEUMission, 16K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Sep 2013)

    Chinese Embassy in UK
    @ChineseEmbinUK, 13.7K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Nov 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in the Philippines
    @Chinaembmanila, 12.2K followers
    (Joined Feb 2017)

    Chinese Embassy in South Africa
    @ChineseEmbSA, 12K followers
    (Joined Sep 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Kenya
    @ChineseEmbKenya, 6662 followers
    (Joined March 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Canada
    @ChinaEmbOttawa, 6492 followers
    (Joined June 2014)

    Chinese Embassy in Tanzania
    @ChineseEmbTZ, 6,064 followers
    (Joined Dec 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe
    @ChineseZimbabwe, 5,856 followers
    (Joined Sep 2018)

    Chinese Consulate General in Istanbul
    @chinaconsulist, 4778 followers
    (Joined Feb 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Congo
    @AmbCHINEenRDC, 4654 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Jan 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Uganda
    @ChineseEmb_Uga, 3943 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Jan 2018)

    Chinese Embassy in Venezuela
    @Emb_ChinaVen, 3785 followers
    (Joined September 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Somalia
    @ChineseSomalia, 3424 followers
    (Joined June 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Argentina
    @ChinaEmbArg, 3212 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka
    @ChinaEmbSL, 2920 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia
    @ChinaEmbAddis, 2809 followers
    (Joined December 2019)

    China Mission Geneva
    @ChinaMissionGva, 2574 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined May 2015)

    Chinese Embassy in Hungary
    @ChineseEmbinHU, 2527 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Oct 2019)

    Permanent Mission of China in Vienna
    @ChinaMissionVie, 2344 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Oct 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Germany
    @ChinaEmbGermany, 2339 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined December 2019)

    Chinese Consulate General in Chicago
    @ChinaConsulate, 2315 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Feb 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in the Republic of Chad
    @ambchinetchad, 2272 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Sep 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Iraq
    @ChinaIraq, 2187 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined January 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Ireland
    @ChinaEmbIreland, 2157 followers
    (Joined Feb 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Poland
    @ChinaEmbPoland, 2102 followers
    (Joined July 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Grenada
    @ChinaEmbGrenada, 2033 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Oct 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan
    @ChinaEmbKazakh, 1957 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Sep 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Burundi
    @AmbChineBurundi, 1818 followers
    (Joined June 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Guinea 中国驻几内亚大使馆
    @chine_guinee, 1769 followers
    (Joined Sep 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Slovenia
    @ChinaEmSlovenia, 1632 followers
    (Joined Dec 2017)

    Chinese Embassy in Mali
    @Chine_au_Mali, 1452 followers
    (Joined Aug 2018)

    Chinese Consulate General in Calgary
    @ChinaCGCalgary, 1442 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Dec 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Austria
    @chinaembaustria, 1391 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Jan 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Colombia
    @china_embajada, 1343 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Feb 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Jordan
    @ChineseembassyJ, 1321 followers
    (Joined Sep 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Angola
    @ChinaEmbAngola, 1391 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Jan 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Papua New Guinea
    @ChineseEmb_PNG, 1344 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Feb 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Samoa 中国驻萨摩亚大使馆
    @chinaandsamoa, 1187 followers
    (Joined September 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Liberia
    @ChineseLiberia, 1163 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined December 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Cameroon
    @AmbChineCmr, 1130 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Dec 2019)

    Consulate-Generale of China in Rio de Janeiro
    @ConsulChinaRJ, 1119 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined December 2019)

    Consultate General of People’s Republic of China in Nagoya
    @ChnConsulateNgo, 1071 followers
    (Joined Feb 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Albania
    @ChinaembassyT , 1023 followers
    (Joined April 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Belarus 中国驻白俄罗斯大使馆
    @ZhongBai2020, 975 followers
    (Joined Jan 2020)

    Consulate General of China in Barcelona 中国驻巴塞罗那总领馆
    @ConsulChinaBcn, 968 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Feb 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Nigeria
    @china_emb_ng, 946 followers
    (Joined Sep 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Denmark
    @ChinaInDenmark, 904 followers
    (Joined May 2017)

    Chinese Embassy in the Slovak Republic 中国驻斯洛伐克使馆
    @ChinaEmbSVK, 867 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Feb 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Peru
    @ChinaEmbPeru, 799 followers
    (Joined Feb 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Suriname
    @CHNEmbSuriname, 793 followers
    (Joined Sep 2019)

    Consulate of China in Niigata 中華人民共和国駐新潟総領事館の新ちゃん
    @ChnConsulateNgt, 737 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Consulate General of China in Jeju
    @jejuZLG, 736 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined October 2019)

    Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Dubai
    @CGPRCinDubai, 724 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Dec 2019)

    Consulate General of China in Fukuoka 中華人民共和国駐福岡総領事館
    @ChnConsulateFuk, 722 followers
    (Joined April 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Russia
    @ChineseEmbinRus, 673 followers
    (Joined Feb 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Tonga 中国驻汤加大使馆
    @embassy_chinese, 611 followers
    (Joined Nov 2019)

    Chinese Embassy in Czech Republic
    @ChineseEmbinCZ, 502 followers
    (Joined Feb 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Ghana
    @ChinaEmbinGH, 478 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Djibouti
    @ChineAmbDjibout, 424 followers
    (Joined April 2020)

    Consulat Général de Chine à Lyon
    @China_Lyon, 280 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Embassy of China in the Netherlands
    @ChinaEmbNL, 269 followers
    (Joined June 2020)

    Chinese Consulate General in Johannesburg
    @ChnConsulateJhb, 241 followers
    (Joined Oct 2019)

    Chinese Consulate General in Sydney
    @ChinaConSydney, 227 followers
    (Joined April 2020)

    Chinese Embassy in Serbia
    @EmbChina_RS, 216 followers
    (Joined May 2020)

    Consulate-General of China in Strasbourg
    @consulat_de, 203 followers
    (Joined Feb 2020)

    Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco
    @ConsulateSan, 131 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Chinese Consulate General in Edinburgh
    @chinacgedi, 110 followers
    (Joined Feb 2020)

    Chinese Consulate General in Belfast 中国驻贝尔法斯特总领事馆
    @CCGBelfast, 39 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

     

    CHINESE AMBASSADORS AND DIPLOMATS

     

    Cui Tiankai, @AmbCuiTiankai
    Chinese Ambassador to the US, 79.2K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined June 2019)

    Sun Weidong, @China_Amb_India
    Chinese Ambassador to India, 75.8K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Dec 2017)

    Liu Xiaoming, @AmbLiuXiaoMing
    Chinese Ambassador to the UK, 67.8K Followers
    (Joined Oct 2019)

    Yang Wanming, @WanmingYang
    Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Federative Republic of Brazil, 47.7K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Nov 2015)

    Hou Yanqi, @PRCAmbNepal
    Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Nepal, 43.7K Followers
    (Joined June 2019)

    Chen Weiqing, @AmbChenWeiQing
    Ambassador of China in Saudi Arabia , 33.3K followers
    (Joined July 2019)

    Chang Hua, @AmbChangHua
    Ambassador of China to the Islamic Republic of Iran, 16.6K followers
    (Joined Oct 2019)

    Wei Qiang 魏强 , @weiasecas
    Chinese Ambassador to Panamá, 15.9K followers
    (Joined Nov 2017)

    Zhang Heqing, @zhang_heqing
    Cultural Counsellor, Director of China Cultural Center in Pakistan, 15.2K followers
    (Joined May 2020)

    Zhang Run, @EmbZhangRun
    Chinese Ambassador to Dominican Republic, 12.1K followers
    (Joined Dec 2018)

    Zhang Lizhong, @AmbassadorZhang
    Chinese Ambassador to Maldives, 11.8K followers
    (Joined June 2019)

    Wang Yu 王愚, @ChinaEmbKabul
    Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan, 11.2 followers
    (Joined Jan 2017)

    Li Xiaosi, @li_xiaosi
    Chinese Ambassador to Austria, 11.1K followers
    (Joined Sep 2019)

    Deng Xijun, @China2ASEAN
    Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to ASEAN, 10.3K followers
    (Joined Jan 2020)

    Chen Bo, @AmbChenBo
    Ambassador of China to Serbia, 9531 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Zha Liyou 查立友, @ZhaLiyou
    CG of China in Kolkata 中国驻加尔各答总领事, 9935 followers
    VERIFIED (Joined August 2019)

    Mu Xiaodong 沐小东, @Xiaodong_Mu
    Diplomat and Consul of Chinese Embassy in Myanmar, 8086
    (Joined April 2016)

    Zhang Yiming, @Amb_Yiming
    Ambassador of China to the Republic of Namibia, 7467 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Sep 2019)

    Guo Shaochun, @China_Amb_Zim
    Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, 7434 followers
    (Joined April 2019)

    Liao Liqiang, @AmbLiaoLiqiang
    Chinese Ambassador to Egypt, 7232 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Dec 2019)

    Li Bijian 李碧建, @libijian2
    Consul General of China to Karachi, 7011 followers
    (Joined January 2020)

    Ji Rong, @ChinaSpox_India
    Spokesperson of Chinese Embassy in India, 6330 Followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Quan Liu @AmbLiuQuan
    Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of Suriname, 5814 followers
    (Joined Sept 2019)

    Wang Kejian, @ChinainLebanon
    Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon, 5752 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Feb 2020)

    Zhu Liying (朱立英), @LiyingZHU1
    Chinese Ambassador to Mali, 5593 followers
    (Joined August 2019)

    Ou Jianhong, @oujianhong
    Embajadora de China in El Salvador, 4619 followers
    (Joined August 2018)

    Feng Biao, @AmbFengBiao
    Chinese Ambassador To Syria, 4630 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Liu Guangyuan, @AmbLiuGuangYuan
    Chinese Ambassador to Poland, 3867 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Xu Hong, @PRCAmbNL
    Chinese Ambassador to the Netherlands, 3485 followers
    (Joined Nov 2019)

    Zhu Jing 朱京, @Amb_ZhuJing
    Ambassador of People’s Republic of China to Congo, 3360 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Jan 2020)

    Chen Xu, @Amb_ChenXu
    Chinese Ambassador, Permanent Representative to UN office in Geneva, 3171 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Dec 2019)

    Zhang Jun, @ChinaAmbUN
    China’s Permanent Representative to the UN, 3013 followers
    (Joined Feb 2020)

    Liu Yuxi, @Ambassador_Liu
    Chinese Ambassador to the AU and the UNECA, 2787 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined October 2019)

    Zhao Yongchen, @DrZhaoyongchen
    Chinese Ambassador to Grenada, 2416 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined July 2019)

    Huang Xingyuan, @AmbassadorHuang
    Chinese Ambassador to Cyprus, 2069 followers
    (Joined Feb 2020)

    Cao Yi (Abou Wassim), @CAOYI170610
    Consul, Embassy of China in Lebanon, 2015 followers
    (Joined May 2018)

    Zhang Ping, @CGZhangPingLA
    Official Twitter for Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles, 1642 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Nov 2019)

    Dong Zhihua, @Dong_zhihua
    WA Consul General, 1607 followers
    (Joined Sep 2019)

    Lin Jing 林静, @CGCHINA_CPT
    Chinese Consul General in Cape Town, 1451 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Cao Zhongming, @ChinaAmbBelgium
    Chinese Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, 1429 followers
    (Joined Dec 2019)

    Liu_Hongyang, @LiuHongyang4
    Ambassador of China to Malawi, 1265 followers
    (Joined Feb 2018)

    Zheng ZhuQiang, @ChinaAmbUganda
    Ambassador of China to Uganda, 1163 followers
    (Joined March 2018)

    Li Li, @AmbassadeurLiLi
    Ambassador of China to Marocco, 1085 followers
    (Joined Jan 2020)

    Zhao Qinghua, @Dr_ZhaoQinghua
    Consul General of China in Zurich and for the Principality of Liechtenstein, 765 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Feb 2020)

    Li Yang, @CGChinaLiYang
    Consule-General China in Rio de Janeiro, 727 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Yan Xiusheng 延秀生, @YXiusheng
    Chinese Ambassador to Barbados, 614 followers
    (Joined April 2020)

    Chinese Embassy Bangkok, @chineseembassy1
    Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Thailand, 567 followers
    (Joined May 2019)

    Fang Yi @FangYi85320692
    Spokesperson & Head of Political Office of the Chinese Embassy in Uganda, 550 followers
    (Joined Jan 2018)

    Gu Wenliang 顾文亮, @GuWenliang
    Agricultural Commissioner, Chinese Embassy in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 527 followers
    (Joined Feb 2020)

    Lijun Xing 邢立军 @xing_lijun
    Chinese Diplomat in Pakistan, 514 followers
    (Joined April 2017)

    Lei Kezhong, @AmbassadorLei
    Chinese Ambassador to Lesotho, 494 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Zhou Jian, @AmbZhouJian
    Chinese Ambassador to the State of Qatar, 452 followers
    (Joined Feb 2020)

    Li Song 李松, @Amb_LiSong
    Chinese Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs, Deputy Permanent Representative to UN Office in Geneva, 437 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined June 2020)

    Du Xiaohui, @GeneralkonsulDu
    Generalkonsul der VR China in Hamburg, 341 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined February 2020)

    Ribiao Chen, @RibiaoChen
    Minister Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in the Hague, 249 followers
    (Joined Jan 2020)

    SONG C.Q., @Song_Chq
    Deputy Chief & Political Counselor of Chinese Embassy in Lesotho, 216 followers
    (Joined Sep 2007)

    Wang Donghua, @WDonghua
    Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in San Francisco
    (Joined March 2020)

    Spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Egypt
    @CHN_EGY, 126 followers
    (Joined June 2020)

    Song Yichu, @YichuSong
    Chinese diplomat in Pakistan, 98 followers
    (Joined April 2020)

    Zhang Meifang 张美芳总领事, @CGMeifangZhang
    Consul General of China to Belfast, 63 followers
    (Joined Jan 2020)

    Liu Yuyin 刘玉印, @ChnMission
    Spokesperson Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations, 13 followers
    (Joined Jan 2020)

     

    CHINA GOVERNMENT & STATE ACCOUNTS

     

    Zhao Lijian 赵立坚 / Foreign Ministry Spokesperson
    @zlj517, 731.1K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined May 2010)

    Hua Chunying 华春莹 / Foreign Ministry Spokesperson
    @SpokespersonCHN, 579.4K followers
    (Joined October 2019)

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Spokesperson发言人办公室
    @MFA_China, 177.4K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined October 2019)

    State Council Information Office of China 中华人民共和国国务院新闻办公室
    @chinascio, 38.6K followers
    (Joined September 2015)

    Hu Zhaoming / Spokesperson of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee 中联部发言人胡兆明
    @SpokespersonHZM, 6494 followers
    (Joined April 2020)

    CIDCA China International Development Cooperation Agency
    @cidcaofficial, 4969 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Fu Cong 傅聪 / Director-General of The Department of Arms Control (MFA)
    @FuCong17, 2945 followers
    (Joined June 2020)

     

    CITY / REGION ACCOUNTS 


     

    Visit Xiamen
    @VisitXiamen, 228.1K followers
    (Joined Oct 2016)

    Suzhou, China
    @VisitSuzhou, 187.8k followers
    (Joined Jan 2015)

    Visit Wuhan
    @visit_wuhan, 154.6K followers
    (Joined Jan 2018)

    Visit Beijing
    @VisitBeijingcn, 117.4K followers
    (Joined July 2014)

    Shenyang
    @ShenyangChina, 102.3K followers
    (Joined Nov 2017)

    Kunshan
    @Kunshan_China, 100.5K followers
    (Joined Dec 2016)

    HANGZHOU TOURISM and CULTURE
    @TOURISMHANGZHOU, 100.3L followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Sep 2014)

    Hangzhou, China
    @Hangzhou_CHINA, 95.8K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined May 2012)

    Jiangsu, China
    @GoJiangsu, 84.3K followers
    (Joined Jan 2015)

    Visit Shaanxi
    @visitshaanxi, 66.7K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Dec 2013)

    VisitJiangsu
    @VisitJiangsu, 53.4K followers
    (Joined Feb 2016)

    Changsha
    @ChangshaCity, 46.8K followers
    (Joined April 2017)

    Anhui China
    @AnhuiChina, 45.1K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Jan 2018)

    Visit Sichuan-China
    @Amazingsichuan, 39.9K followers
    (Joined Aug 2014)

    Guangzhou China
    @Guangzhou_City, 39.4K followers
    (Joined July 2015)

    FuzhouCity
    @FuzhouCity, 37.2K followers
    (Joined Dec 2015)

    Wuzhen China
    @Wuzhen__China, 34.8K followers
    (Joined April 2017)

    Xiangyang
    @XiangyangCity, 33K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Nov 2015)

    Wuxi China 魅力無錫
    @WuxiCity, 31.7K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined March 2015)

    Rugao City
    @RugaoCity, 24.5K followers
    (Joined Jan 2018)

    Visit Guangxi-China
    @VisitGuangxi, 23.8K followers
    (Joined Dec 2017)

    Nanjing China
    @GoToNanjing, 22.1K followers
    (Joined Oct 2017)

    Guizhou, China
    @iloveguizhou, 14K followers
    (Joined July 2018)

    Visit Weifang, China
    @visitweifang, 12.8K followers
    (Joined Sep 2016)

    Hefei, China
    @HefeiChina, 8857 followers
    (Joined March 2018)

    Ordos, China
    @OrdosChina, 7447 followers
    (Joined May 2017)

    Visit Haikou
    @visithaikou, 7020 followers
    (Joined Oct 2016)

    Discover Foshan
    @DiscoverFoshan, 6812 followers
    (Joined Dec 2019)

    Visit Yantai
    @VisitYantai, 6113 followers
    (Joined Nov 2016)

    Incredible Jinan
    @JinanofChina, 6513 followers
    (Joined August 2019)

    Chengdu China
    @Chengdu_China, 4710 followers
    (Joined Feb 2012)

    Discover Hohhot
    @HohhotChina, 4547 followers
    (Joined July 2019)

    Visit Xi’an
    @VisitXian, 3734 followers
    (Joined Aug 2017)

    Friendly Shandong
    @VisitShandong, 3437 followers
    (Joined Nov 2013)

    Discover Ningxia
    @DiscoverNingxia, 2821 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Sep 2015)

    This is Zhongshan
    @ThisisZhongshan, 1890 followers
    (Joined April 2020)

    Discover Yunnan
    @DiscoverYunnan, 1720 followers
    (Joined Oct 2014)

    Inner Mongolia China
    @InnerMongolia70, 1686 followers
    (Joined June 2017)

    Discover Kunming
    @DiscoverKunming, 1621 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Dec 2014)

    Xiong’an New Area
    @Xiongan_NewArea, 1271 followers
    (Joined Nov 2017)

    Guangdong China
    @iGuangdong, 1164 followers
    (Joined Nov 2015)

    Visit Rizhao
    @VisitRizhao, 562 followers
    (Joined January 2017)

    Visit Wulong
    @VisitWulong, 550 followers
    (Joined Sep 2016)

    Visit Zhengzhou
    @visitzhengzhou, 390 followers
    (Joined Feb 2017)

    Visit Kaifeng
    @visitkaifeng, 275 followers
    (Joined September 2016)

    Visit Jining
    @VisitJining, 180 followers
    (Joined Feb 2017)

    Visit Tianjin
    @VisitTianjin, 163 followers
    (Joined Jan 2017)

    Visitluoyang
    @VisitLuoyang, 136 followers
    (Joined March 2017)

    Visit Fuzhou
    @visit_fuzhou, 113 followers
    (Joined April 2017)

    Visit Zunyi
    @VisitZunyi, 93 followers
    (Joined Dec 2016)

    Visit Weihai,China
    @VisitWeihai, 71 followers
    (Joined Oct 2016)

    Zhejiang Tourism
    @tourzj1, 54 followers
    (Joined March 2014)

    Invest Nantong
    @InvestNantong, 46 followers
    (Joined March 2020)

    Visit Quzhou
    @VisitQuzhou, 3 followers
    (Joined June 2020)

     

    CHINA OFFICIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS AND STATE-OWNED MEDIA OUTLETS


     

    CGTN
    @CGTNOfficial, 13.9M followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Jan 2013)

    China Xinhua News
    @XHNews, 12.6M followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined February 2012)

    People’s Daily, China
    @PDChina, 7.1M followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined May 2011)

    China Daily
    @ChinaDaily, 4.3M followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Nov 2009)
    *(Wang Hao, @hongfenghuang
    Deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily, 8811 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Sep 2017))

    Global Times
    @globaltimesnews, 1.8M followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined June 2009)
    *(Hu Xijin @胡锡进
    Editor-in-chief Global Times, 408.3K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Aug 2014))

    New China 中文
    @XinhuaChinese, 1.3M followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Aug 2015)

    China.org.cn
    @chinaorgcn, 1.1M followers
    (Joined May 2010)
    *(Xiaohui Wang 王晓辉 @wangxh65
    Editor-in-Chief of http://China.org.cn., 1194 followers
    (Joined April 2020))

    CCTV
    @CCTV, 1M followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined July 2009)

    CGTN Français
    @CGTNFrancais, 1M followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Aug 2013)

    China Science
    @ChinaScience, 1M followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Aug 2019)

    Modern China
    @PDChinaBusiness, 931.8K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Aug 2019)

    Beautiful China
    @PDChinaLife, 870.1K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Aug 2019)

    China Plus News
    @ChinaPlusNews, 771.8K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined April 2009)

    People’s Daily 人民日報
    @PDChinese, 753.3K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined June 2013)

    CGTN Arabic
    @cgtnarabic, 692.3K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Dec 2016)

    Xinhua Sports
    @XHSports, 656K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined May 2016)

    China News 中国新闻网
    @Echinanews, 649.9K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined July 2011)

    CGTN en Español
    @cgtnenespanol, 604.6K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Aug 2016)

    Xinhua Culture&Travel
    @XinhuaTravel, 545k followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Feb 2019)

    China News Service 中國新聞社
    @CNS1952, 486.2K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined July 2013)

    FlyOverChina
    @FlyOverChina, 448.2K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined March 2019)

    SHINE (Shanghai United Media Group)
    @shanghaidaily, 415.9K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined January 2009)

    CGTN America
    @cgtnamerica, 289.1K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined June 2012)

    Yicai Global 第一财经 (Financial news arm of Shanghai Media Group)
    @yicaichina, 263,2K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined March 2016)

    Guangming Daily
    @Guangming_Daily, 238.6K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined June 2012)

    Pueblo En Línea /Spanish version of People’s Daily Online
    @PuebloEnLnea, 150K followers
    (Joined Dec 2012)

    CGTN Africa
    @cgtnafrica, 146.2K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined June 2012)

    People’s Daily Arabic صحيفة الشعب اليومية بالعربية
    @PeopleArabic, 132.5K followers
    (Joined Dec 2012)

    China Xinhua Español
    @XHespanol, 118.1K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined July 2012)

    CPEC Official (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor by CRI)
    @CPEC_Official, 102.7K followers
    (Joined Jan 2016)

    Beijing Review
    @BeijingReview, 96.6K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined June 2009)

    Quotidien du Peuple
    @french_renmin, 86.7K followers
    (Joined Aug 2011)

    CRI Français
    @CriFrancais, 77K followers
    (Joined Jan 2016)

    Sixth Tone (Shanghai United Media Group)
    @sixthtone, 75.6K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Feb 2016)

    China Xinhua News Japanese
    @XHJapanese, 61.8K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined March 2015)

    Xinhua North America
    @XHNorthAmerica, 38.8K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Dec 2016)

    People’s Daily Japanese 人民網日本
    @peopledailyJP, 34.3K followers
    (Joined May 2011)

    ShanghaiEye (SMG: Shanghai Media Group)
    @ShanghaiEye, 29.4K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined October 2015)

    China Daily Asia
    @ChinaDailyAsia, 28.3K followers
    (Joined April 2011)

    CCTV+
    @CCTV_plus, 27.7K followers
    (Joined Jan 2015)

    Renmin Ribao Online
    @RenminDeutsch, 27.4K followers
    (Joined May 2014)

    China Culture
    @Chinacultureorg, 21.8K followers
    (Joined Nov 2015)

    CRI Japanese CRI日本語
    @CRIjpn, 20.5K followers
    (Joined Feb 2015)

    Qingdao / ChindaDaily
    @loveqingdao, 19.7K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Nov 2016)

    Global Times Chinese 环球时报
    @GlobalTimes_CN, 18.9K followers
    (Joined May 2018)

    Chine Nouvelle
    @XHChineNouvelle, 17.3K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined July 2014)

    Xinhua Myanmar
    @XHMyanmar, 13.1K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Feb 2015)

    ChinaXinhuaPortugues
    @XHportugues, 12.8K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Sep 2015)

    The Business Source
    @GlobalTimesBiz, 12.6K followers
    (Joined Feb 2016)

    China Daily Europe
    @ChinaDailyEU, 10.9K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined May 2011)
    *(Chen Weihua 陈卫华, @chenweihua
    China Daily EU Bureau Chief, 21.5K followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Nov 2009))

    @XHSwahili
    @XHSwahili, 9587 followers
    (Joined July 2015)

    CGTN Europe
    @CGTNEurope, 8302 followers
    (Joined Dec 2016)

    The Paper 澎湃新闻 (Shanghai United Media Group)
    @thepapercn, 7725 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined August 2019)

    CCTV Arabic
    @cctvarabic, 6446 followers
    (Joined July 2012)

    China Xinhua Deutsch
    @XHdeutsch, 5981 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Sep 2015)

    XinhuaRomania
    @XHRomania, 5491 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined July 2015)

    Global Times Russia
    @GlobalTimesRus, 2589 followers
    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Nov 2017)

    GTLife
    @GlobalTimesLife, 1720 followers
    (Joined April 2016)

    CGTN World Insight with Tian Wei
    @WorldInsight_TW, 1517 followers
    (Joined Feb 2017)

    Women of China
    @womenofchina, 1400 followers
    (Joined Jan 2011)

    People’s Daily app

    @PeoplesDailyapp, 1379 followers
    (Joined Feb 2018)

    China Daily Hong Kong
    @CDHKedition, 1141 followers
    (Joined May 2020)

    CGTNChina24
    @China24Official, 720 followers
    (Joined Oct 2019)

    China Daily Africa
    @CDAfricaNews, 690 followers
    (Joined Aug 2016)

    China Daily USA
    @ChinaDailyUSA, 652 followers
    (Joined Sep 2018)

    Visual China / ChinaDaily
    @CD_visual, 645 followers
    (Joined May 2020)

    China.org.cn German
    @germanchinaorgc, 596 followers
    (Joined August 2011)

    Xinhua Africa
    @xinhua_africa, 568 followers
    (Joined April 2012)

    China Daily World
    @ChinaDailyWorld. 535 followers
    (Joined May 2020)

    CGTN Global Watch
    @GlobalWatchCGTN, 514 followers
    (Joined May 2018)

    People’s Daily – Hong Kong
    @PDChinaHK, 451 followers
    (Joined June 2020)

    China Daily Life
    @ChinaDaily_Life, 418 followers
    (Joined May 2020)

    CGTN Culture
    @CGTN_Culture, 362 followers
    (Joined Oct 2019)

    CGTN Tech
    @CGTNTech, 286 followers
    (Joined Dec 2018)

    CGTN Stories
    @CGTNStories, 267 followers
    (Joined November 2019)

    China Daily Opinion
    @CdOpinion, 254 followers
    (Joined May 2020)

    CGTN Sports
    CGTNSports, 183 followers
    (Joined Dec 2016)

    China Daily Asia-Pacific 中國日報亞太
    @Chinadaily_CH, 153 followers
    (Joined May 2020)

    China Daily Russia
    @chinadailyrus, 131 followers
    (Joined April 2020)

    China Daily EU
    @ChinaDaily_EU, 104 followers
    (Joined Feb 2019)

    China Youth Daily
    @ChinaYouthOL, 69 followers
    (Joined Sep 2019)

    By Manya Koetse


    Do you find this kind of research insightful? Would you like to read more about trends in China and its online media? Please consider supporting What’s on Weibo here so we can keep writing articles such as this one. Your small donation makes a big impact.

    This is original work by What’s on Weibo, please do not copy, reproduce this content, nor distribute any part of this content over any network.

    References

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