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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.

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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, 11.2K 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

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2020 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.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Carmen

    July 21, 2020 at 10:24 pm

    “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).”

    Who did this research lol I’ve found sooooo many pro-ccp accounts on Twitter when the HK issue exploded last time

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Backgrounder

Digital Art or Visual Propaganda? China’s New Wave of Online Political Satire

Political, patriotic art mocking Western leaders is welcomed by social media users and propagated by Chinese officials.

Published

on

Image by What's on Weibo, highlighting various digital artworks by @乌合麒麟, @半桶老阿汤.

A specific genre of political satire has been gaining popularity on Chinese social media lately, with some images even making international headlines. While political satire mocking Chinese authorities is generally soon taken offline, these online works are brought to the limelight by Chinese official channels. Is it grassroots digital art? Or is it official visual propaganda?

When the parody image ‘The Last G7’ went viral on Chinese social media in June of 2021, it made international headlines for insulting the G7 summit, the West and Christianity, ridiculing ‘double-faced’ Australia, bashing Japan over Fukushima water, and offending India’s COVID19 situation. There was enough satirical symbolism and detail in the image to offend virtually any country that was -implicitly- portrayed in it.

Some media headers suggested the image was created by Chinese state media, others said it was done by ‘Chinese trolls’ or Chinese authorities.

The image was actually created by a Chinese computer graphics illustrator from Beijing who is active on social media, where he also sells his digital art online.

Online political satire in China has been around since the early start of social media in China and is often seen as a form of online activism. In media articles and academic literature focused on online political satire in China, the phenomenon is often discussed within the framework of censorship and dissidence, as a practice of resistance against Chinese authorities. Political satire can exist in many forms, from funny word jokes to catchy songs, from viral gifs to sophisticated cartoons.

Renowned Chinese political cartoon artists such as Badiucao (巴丢草), Hexie Farm (蟹农场), Kuang Biao (邝飚), and Rebel Pepper (变态辣椒) were previously active on Chinese social media platform Weibo, and their accounts were shut down dozens of times before publishing their work within China’s online environment became virtually impossible.

These artists are known for drawing cartoons that criticize and mock Chinese leaders, the central government, or their policies. Their work fits the narrative of online political satire being used as a weapon to resist authoritarian rule in spite of the highly censored online climate they exist in (Shao & Liu 2019, 517).

What exactly is political satire? It is “a specific form of criticism that ridicules political figures, events, or phenomenon” (ibid). Visual political satire is especially relevant within the context of Chinese social media because images allow for a creative form of expression, an outlet to critique political events, that is harder to detect by online censors than the use of potentially sensitive words and terms.

But what if political satire does not critique the Chinese party-state at all? What if it actually does not conflict with party ideology, or even suits the narratives that are propagated by Chinese officials?

 

Recent Examples of Chinese Political Satire on Social Media

 

In late December of 2020, a photoshopped image of an Australian soldier murdering a child stirred controversy on social media and beyond. The soldier, who is holding a knife to the throat of a child, is standing on an Australian flag, the shadows of bodies can be discerned lying on the floor. The image – which alluded to the report regarding unlawful killings of Afghan civilians and prisoners by Australian troops – was shared on Twitter by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian. The controversial post led to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanding an apology from China.

The computer graphic by Wuheqilin that was shared on Twitter by a Chinese official.

In January of 2021, around the time of Biden’s inauguration, another satirical work was shared on Twitter by a senior producer of CGTN (@Peijin_Zhang) and others. Like the earlier image, this political satire was also full of details and symbolism. It shows American President Biden holding a bomb in front of a White House background, while Trump is taken away by officers and Kamala Harris is standing by an open grave reserved for Biden – shovel in hand. The text underneath the image says: “What a paradise of freedom, democracy, and sweet air.”

Artwork titled ‘失乐园·末日余晖’ ‘Paradise Lost-Afterglow’ created by ‘半桶老阿汤’ aka ‘Half Bottle Of Old Soup.’

At the time of the online controversy over the Xinjiang cotton ban by the BCI in March of 2021, another digital illustration titled “Blood Cotton Initiative” made headlines for featuring (BBC) journalists in KKK-style hoods interviewing a scarecrow in a field, cotton-picking slaves in the background.

The image is a response to the allegations of forced labor and human rights abuses in Xinjiang, which various Chinese officials and state media have condemned as being ‘false,’ ‘manipulative,’ and ‘hypocritical’ in light of many western countries’ own human rights records. The image was shared on Twitter by, among others, the official account of China Daily Asia (@Chinadaily_CH) and China Daily Hong Kong (@CDHKedition).

“Blood Cotton Initiative” (血棉花) by Chinese artist Wuheqilin.

In June of 2021, another political satire made headlines, as mentioned earlier in this article. It was the image mocking the G7 members who issued a summit communique that called on China to “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms,” especially in relation to Xinjiang and Hong Kong autonomy, and also pushed for a new inquiry into the origin of the Covid-19 virus (link to pdf). The image, which is a parody of The Last Supper mural painting, is titled ‘The Last G7’ (最后的G7).

Image ‘The Last G7’ created by ‘半桶老阿汤’ aka ‘Half Bottle Of Old Soup.’

The image shows various animals sitting around the table, supposedly to represent Germany (left), Australia, Japan, Italy, US, UK, Canada, France, and India. Behind them are oxygen tanks, while the elephant on the right (India) is still receiving IV treatment and is not participating in the table talks. The Akita dog (Japan) is serving a green drink from a radioactive tea cattle while the bald eagle in the middle (US) is turning toilet paper into money. The beaver (Canada) is tightly holding on to a Chinese doll – a reference to Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou who has been in Canada ever since she was arrested during a stopover by Canadian police in 2018. On the table, there is a cake with the Chinese flag on it. 

“Through this we can still rule the world,” the words above the image state, while the text on the wall in the image says: “We have freedom and democracy.” State newspaper Global Times shared and explained the political satire in an article on June 13.

 

The Creators Behind the Artwork

 

Recent Chinese political satire images circulating on social media have been labeled as ‘propaganda’ by many commenters on Twitter, who assume the images were originally published by Chinese state media outlets. But although these images were often shared by official (media) accounts, their creators are seemingly unaffiliated with state media.

Chinese social media has seen a surge of (CG) artists dedicated to creating patriotic art and political satire mocking Western powers. At this time, the two most noteworthy names are Wuheqilin and Bantong Laoatang.

 
‘WUHEQILIN’ 乌合麒麟
 

The aforementioned Australian piece and the ‘Blood Cotton Initiative’ image both were created by Wuheqilin (乌合麒麟), a professional computer graphic (CG) artist with over 2.8 million followers on his Weibo account, which he opened in 2009. Wuheqilin’s real name is Fu Yu (付昱, 1988) – a business owner and art director from Harbin.

Although Wuheqilin became especially famous for his controversial Australia image of November 2020, his work was featured by Chinese state media before that time. In June of 2020, Global Times (English version) called him a “Wolf Warrior artist” who “strives to use new art to spread truth and inspire patriotism.”

Wuheqilin published his first political artwork on his social media account in 2019, at the time of the Hong Kong protests. In this work, titled ‘A Pretender God,’ the artist takes a critical stance towards the demonstrators, showing them bowing to a monster-like figure resembling the Statue of Liberty.

‘A Pretender God’ by Wuheqilin.

Another one of Wuheqilin’s recent viral pieces is titled ‘G7’, an old-looking photograph that was a satirical comparison of the G7 foreign ministers to the leaders of the Eight-Nation Alliance that invaded northern China in response to the Boxer rebellion in 1900. This image was also shared and explained by Global Times.

‘G7’ by Wuqihelin.

Wuheqilin clearly focuses on showing the dark side, hypocrisy, and supposedly bad intentions of Western powers in international politics. Noteworthy enough, he often uses English phrases in his work to emphasize his point, which may suggest he also intends for his art to be noticed by media and politicians outside of China.

Although Wuheqilin is most famous for political satire mocking Western powers, he also makes non-satirical patriotic art, such as the piece he dedicated to Chinese agronomist Yuan Longping (袁隆平), China’s ‘Father of Hybrid Rice,’ who passed away in May of 2021.

“I Always Had Two Dreams” “我一直有两个梦想” by Wuheqilin.

Over the past year, Wuheqilin and his work are often praised by Chinese official media outlets. It is often shared by English-language state media, or retweeted by Chinese officials or media accounts that are active on Twitter. Together with the fact that Wuheqilin uses English in his artwork, his work has gained major attention both in- and outside of China.

 
‘HALF BOTTLE OF OLD SOUP’ 半桶老阿汤
 

The creator of ‘The Last G7’ image and the White House image is active on social media under various names. On Weibo, where he has over 39,000 followers, the artist is known as @半桶老阿汤 (Bàntǒng lǎo ā tāng). On Twitter, he has an account under the name ‘Half Bottle Of Old Soup’ (@Half_soup), a direct translation of his nickname. The artist also has a site under the name Henry Yu. His webshop is under the ‘Laoatang’ nickname, which we will use here.

Laoatang is a concept designer and computer graphic artist from Beijing. On his Weibo account, the artist has been sharing artwork by himself and others for years. Like Wuheqilin, he has an online cloud link where people can download artworks for free, but he also has a site where people can support him by buying digital art files for the small price of 10-15 yuan ($1.5-$2.5).

Like Wuheqilin, Laoatang’s artwork is also often focused on mocking the supposed hypocrisy of Western powers regarding international affairs involving China. ‘The Last G7’ was the first work by Half Soup to make (international) headlines, but he previously did many other works in response to political affairs.

His work ‘That’s What U.S. did'(‘这是你们的愚蠢行径,我们不会’) was published at the time when news over the BCI [Better Cotton Initiative] Xinjiang cotton ban over forced labor concerns made waves in China.

‘That’s What U.S. Did’ by 半桶老阿汤

The image is part of a computer graphic video that shows black slaves working in American cotton fields while singing ‘My Lord Sunshine Sunrise.’ The next scene shows how one black man is held at gunpoint by a white hooded figure, a scarecrow with a BCI logo showing in the foreground. The words “That’s what U.S. Did, Not Us!” come up while two black figures can be seen hanging from the gallows.

In a different style, Laoatang has also created various other political satire illustrations. One from June 2021 is called ‘Investigate Thoroughly! Except Here’ (‘彻查!除了这儿’). It shows members of the WHO research team standing in front of the American army biochemical lab at Fort Detrick which is closed and guarded by Biden. In the background, there’s the scenery of a happy and open Wuhan city.

‘Investigate Thoroughly! Except Here’ (‘彻查!除了这儿’) by 半桶老阿汤 / Half Bottle of Old Soup

The illustration is a response to U.S. calls for a thorough investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus in China, while a possible link between the Fort Detrick institute and the COVID19 pandemic are allegedly ignored. This image was also shared by the Communist Youth League on social media.

 
OTHERS & INTERTEXTUALITY
 

Online creators such as Wuheqilin and Laoatang move in certain Chinese social media circles of artists producing work in similar genres who share each other’s work and comment on it. At times, there is also some kind of intertextuality or connection between these artworks.

A good example of this intertextuality is the work by the artist who is active on Weibo under the name ‘钢铁时代2011’ (Gangtie Shidai 2011). In December of 2020, they published the artwork below that reflects on the international commotion involving the Australian soldier image by Wuheqilin, which was tweeted out by Chinese official Zhao Lijian.

“Damn it, they know what we’ve done” by @钢铁时代2011 [Gangtie Shidai 2011].

The image shows artist Wuheqilin holding up one of his artworks relating to the alleged Australian war crimes in Afghanistan, while Zhao Lijian is holding up the other image by Wuheqilin. In the front, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is depicted turning his back to the images, with the sentence: “Damn it, they know what we’ve done.”

During the controversy over the BCI ban on Xinjiang cotton, there was also an outpour of online (unofficial) political art. Beijing illustrator Yang Quan @插画杨权 (1990) is also among those creating online political/patriotic art. He published an image titled “Cotton is Soft, but China is Strong.”

‘Cotton is Soft, But China is Strong’, by @插画杨权.

The dog has the letters “H” and “M” coming from his bloody mouth, referring to fashion chain H&M which was one of the major Western brands publishing a statement regarding the ban on Xinjiang cotton (read more here). Again, as in most of the recent works produced by the artists in this genre, the message of the image is reinforced through a text in English, suggesting the work is also meant for an international audience to understand.

 

In Between Censorship and Propaganda

 

Propaganda is part of Chinese media, and a ‘new’ kind of propaganda has been part of Chinese social media propaganda efforts over the past few years (also see here, here, here, here).

But separated from those mainstream, more centralized propaganda efforts, the artists mentioned in this article are part of a ‘new wave’ of political satire on Chinese social media because:

– They are independent artists and/or not officially part of state media outlets or the CCP Propaganda Bureau.
– Their style is very different from official (online) propaganda posters and imagery.
– Their works are labeled as ‘art’ and have definite artworks qualities; they are unique, are made with skill and technique, and are filled with symbolism and detail.
– Their works are praised and welcomed by state media outlets and/or government officials, as these are shared and propagated through multiple official channels.
– These artists and their creations are widely celebrated and praised by Chinese social media users.

The phenomenon of artists who are unrelated to official agencies creating political art that is then used as a tool for propaganda is not unique in the history of Chinese propaganda or that of other countries, but it is very noteworthy in the context of the short history of social media in China, where political satire is often targeted at Chinese government officials and policies and therefore censored.

Perhaps you could say it is not surprising at all that the political satire we see most in Chinese social media today is directed at foreign leaders and Western powers, since any images mocking the Chinese government would be censored immediately.

But to solely interpret these political images through this one-dimensional view would not do justice to the artwork, the artists, nor to the art aficionados, since there are several influences at play within the creation of this genre.

> Digital Art & Nationalism

There are many young artists in China today who are patriotic and nationalistic, and who use art as a way to express their political views. They do so in various ways, through personal websites, social media, cloud downloads, etc, providing an alternative to official, controlled media sources. Propaganda sometimes becomes art, and art sometimes becomes propaganda. These dynamics do not automatically turn these artists into ‘Chinese trolls,’ as some foreign media labeled them.

Artists such as Wuheqilin or the aforementioned artist named Yang Quan all belong to the post-80 generation. In this current, post-Mao generation, you find a “fourth generation” of nationalism, as described by Peter Hays Gries in China’s New Nationalism. This nationalism is very much alive in China’s online environment, and it is fused with anti-western sentiment that partly builds on the “one hundred years of humiliation” of China at the hands of the West (Zhang 2012, 2). Although this generation, that grew up amid China’s rapid economic growth, did not directly experience the past humiliations upon which their nationalist narratives are constructed, this history remains central to understandings of Chinese national identity and its place in the world today (Wang 2-11).

As pointed out by Tao Zheng (2012), the articulation and promotion of nationalist views by individuals and groups independent of the state have been a significant part of Chinese online culture for many years, with several online movements and campaigns focusing on pointing out “western arrogance and prejudice.” The current wave of political digital art is just another form of expression of this type of “cyber nationalism.”

> Building Communities

Another reason why it would be too crude to simply label China’s recent online political satire as ‘propaganda’ is because it has emerged from a dynamic digital environment where netizens engage in a participatory activity of creating, sharing, commenting, recreating, connecting, etc. – and it is through these practices that the artworks become meaningful.

In ‘The Networked Practice of Online Political Satire in China’ by Guobin Yang and Min Jiang (2015), the authors argue that the sharing and circulation of online political satire in China is a “networked social practice” that is actually more important than the meaning and significance of the content itself. It is a grassroots political expression that, in their mode of unofficial network operation, could be seen as “popular mobilizations against power” (216). Yang and Jiang also emphasize the social function of political satire, where the reception is just as relevant as the production.

> A Fine Line

In the end, the question of whether these works are grassroots digital artworks or official propaganda pieces is perhaps not one of either/or: they are both. They saw the light as digital artworks and then became tools within a framework of official propaganda once they were praised, shared, and used by Chinese state media and officials to project their own strategies.

The creators of these artworks, however, walk a fine line. When their artworks no longer suit the strategic interests propagated by official channels, they are still at risk of being censored within the highly controlled digital environment they operate in. In that case, their online influence, magnified by official actors, could actually be held against them.

For now, artists such as Wuheqilin are thriving on Chinese social media. In his last post, Wuheqilin drew his own conclusion about the current state of China’s online environment, writing:

For the public intellectuals and those with vested interests who once held on to the power of speech, these are perhaps the darkest times, because their “decade-long campaign for Enlightenment has been lost.” But for ordinary Chinese netizens, for those who love this country and believe in it, we have unprecedented confidence, creativity, and cohesion. These are the best of times, and we are marching towards the brightest future.”

 

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)

With special thanks to Piervittorio Milizia.

References

Gries, Peter Hays. 2004. China’s New Nationalism: Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy. Berkely and London: University of California Press.

Shao Li, Liu Dongshu. 2019. “The Road to Cynicism: The Political Consequences of Online Satire Exposure in China.” Political Studies 67(2): 517-536.

Yang, Guobin and Min Jiang. 2015. “The Networked Practice of Online Political Satire in China: Between Ritual and Resistance.” The International Communication Gazette 77(3): 215-231.

Zhang, Tao. 2012. “Anti-CNN and ‘April Youth’: Anti-Western Sentiment in Youth-oriented Chinese Online Media.” In Hernandez, L. (ed.), China and the West: Encounters with the other in Culture, Arts, Politics and Everyday Life,
Cambridge Scholars, 1-16.

Zheng Wang. 2012. Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations. New York: Columbia University Press.

Featured image created by What’s on Weibo, highlighting and using parts of various digital artworks by @乌合麒麟, @半桶老阿汤.

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Backgrounder

The Concept of ‘Involution’ (Nèijuǎn) on Chinese Social Media

Nèijuǎn (involution) has become a commonly used term on Chinese social media, but what is it?

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Chinese TV drama A Love for Dilemma (“小舍得”) has reignited an ongoing debate about the problem of ‘involution’ in Chinese society today.

A scene from the Chinese TV drama A Love for Dilemma (“小舍得”) has reignited online discussions on the concept of nèijuǎn 内卷, “involution,” which was also a top buzzword in China in 2020.

A Love for Dilemma is a 2021 TV drama directed by Zhang Xiaobo (张晓波), who also worked on other hit series including Nothing But Thirty. This season’s popular TV drama A Love for Dilemma is themed around family, parenting, and China’s competitive education system.

In the series, two stepsisters compete against each other over the school results of their children. The family’s ‘grandpa’, played by famous actor Zhang Guoli (张国立), tries to create harmony around the dinner table between his daughter and stepdaughter, but the rivalry between the two and how they raise their children intensifies nevertheless.

Scene from A Love for Dilemma.

While stepsister Tian Yulan urges her little son to work hard in school and focus on his grades so that he can go to the best high school and university, sister Nan Li places more emphasis on the general development of her children and wants them to enjoy their childhood. Both mothers, however, question their own choices when facing challenges with how their children perform at school.

The specific scene that has ignited current discussions is a dialogue between the husbands of the sisters, who sit outside to talk about the education system and how it sometimes feels like everyone is in a theatre watching a show together until one person stands up from their seat. This makes it necessary for other members of the audience to also stand up, until everybody is standing.

The dialogue continues, with the two talking about how it does not stop at the people standing up. Because then there are those who will take it a step further and will stand on their seats to rise above the others. And then there are even those who will grab a ladder to stand higher than the rest. But they are still watching the same show and their situation has actually not changed at all – except for the fact that everybody is now more uncomfortable than they were before.

Many netizens found it striking how this dialogue explains how the term ‘involution’ is used in China nowadays. After the show aired, the hashtag “How to commonly explain involution” (#如何通俗解释内卷#) became a trending topic in the week of April 19, receiving 260 million views in a few days.

 
What Is ‘Involution’?
 

As explained by Jialing Xie in this top buzzword article on What’s on Weibo, involution describes the economic situation in which as the population grows, per capita wealth decreases. Since recently, this word has come to be used to represent the competitive circumstances in academic or professional settings in China where individuals are compelled to overwork because of the standard raised by their peers who appear to be even more hardworking.

The term ‘involution’ and how it is used today comes from a work by American anthropologist Clifford Geertz titled Agricultural Involution – The Processes of Ecological Change in Indonesia (1963). In this work, Geertz explores the agricultural dynamics in Indonesia during the colonial period’s Cultivation System, where a radical economic dualism existed within the country: a foreign, Dutch economy and a native, Indonesian economy (p. 61-62).

Geertz describes how the Javanese faced a deepening demographic dilemma as they saw a rapidly growing population but a static economy, while the Dutch, who organized Javanese land and labor, were only growing in wealth (69-70). Agricultural involution is the “ultimately self-defeating process” that emerged in Indonesia when the ever-growing population was absorbed in high labor-intensive wet-rice cultivation without any changing patterns and without any progress (80-81).

When Geertz used the term ‘involution’ to describe the dynamics in Indonesia, he built on the work of another American anthropologist, namely Alexander Goldenweiser, who also used the term to describe “those culture patterns which, after having reached what would seem to be a definitive form, nonetheless fail either to stabilize or transform themselves into a new pattern but rather continue to develop by becoming internally more complicated” (Geertz 1963, 81).

 
The Involution Concept in the Chinese Context
 

The popular use of the Chinese translation of ‘involution’, nèijuǎn 内卷, started to receive attention in Chinese media in 2020. It is deviating from the original use of the term and is meant to explain the social dynamics of China’s growing middle class.

As suggested in the article “‘Involution’: The Anxieties of Our Time Summed Up in One Word” by Zhou Minxi (CGTN), the popularity of the term comes from “a prevalent sense of being stuck in an ever so draining rat race where everyone loses.”

China’s ever-growing middle class is now facing the question of how they and their children can remain in the middle class in a situation where everyone is continuously working harder and doing all they can to rise above the rest. Xiang Biao, a professor of social anthropology at Oxford University, is quoted by Zhou:

The lower class still hopes to change their fate, but the middle and upper classes aren’t so much looking upward, and they are marked by a deep fear of falling downward. Their greater fear is perhaps losing what they already have.”

The term ‘involution’ often comes up together with criticism on China’s ‘996’ work system (working from 9am-9pm, 6 days a week). Although Alibaba founder Jack Ma once called the 12-hour working day a “blessing,” the system is a controversial topic, with many condemning how Chinese (tech) companies are exploiting their employees, who are caught in a conundrum; they might lose their sanity working such long hours, and might lose their job and future career prospects if they refuse to do so.

But the term also comes up when discussing China’s education system, where competition starts as early as kindergarten and the pressure on children to succeed in the ‘gaokao’ college entrance exam starts many years before it takes place.

This image shows the “juan” 卷 character from ‘nei juan’ (involution) changing into a person on their bike with laptop. Image via http://www.bajieyou.com/new/431e6ef39aac4a6da232671122f66ff4

This discussion also came up with a now-famous image of a student riding his bike while also working on his laptop, using every moment to study. This was then also called “Tsinghua Inversion” (清华内卷), referring to one of China’s top universities, where competition is so vicious that students must double their efforts to catch up with others.

 
‘Involution’ Discussions on Chinese Social Media
 

By mid-2020, ‘involution’ attracted the attention on Weibo when popular academic accounts started discussing the term. Recently, ‘involution’ is used so often on Chinese social media that it has already gone beyond its original context, leading to many people discussing its meaning.

“We are forced to work overtime and are unable to resist, and yet it seems that everyone is doing it out of free will,” one Weibo user says, with another person adding: “The abnormal state of inversion has already become our normal state.”

A popular legal blogger (@皇城根下刀笔吏) on Weibo writes:

It is an internal bottomless vicious cycle of competition. For example, everyone used to work eight hours per day, five days per week. Then one company comes up where people work twelve hours per day, six days per week. Then this company will have major competitive strength in the market economy. But the outcome is that other companies are also compelled to do the same in order to compete. As time goes by, all companies will shift to a twelve-hour workday, six days a week, and job applicants entering the market can’t find any eight-hour workday positions for five days a week anymore. So, if another company wants to beat its competitors, it will have to introduce a seven-day workweek. And then other companies will need to follow in order to make a living. That is involution.”

By now, there are various images and memes that have come to represent the meaning of ‘involution’ in present-day China, such as one cram school sign saying: “If you come we will train your kids, if you don’t come, we will train the competitors of your kids.”

“The society’s resources are in short supply and to obtain the limited supplies, people are all madly practicing their skills to obtain them – regardless if they need them or not,” another Weibo user says.

Most comments relating to the discussion of ‘involution’ on Chinese social media express a sense of fatigue with an ongoing rat-race in the education and employment market.

On the interest-based social networking platform Douban, there are even some support groups for people who feel stuck in ‘involution’ and are looking for a way out. The “Center for Victims of Involution” (内卷受害者收容中心) group has over 3000 members, with smaller groups such as “Let’s Escape Involution Together” (我们一起逃离内卷) having a few dozen participants.

The generation that is mostly affected by this sense of socioeconomic stagnation is the post-90 generation. In 2020, a record high of 8.74 million university graduates entered the job market, but their chances of finding a job that suits their education and personal expectations are slim; many industries are recruiting fewer people than before in an employment market that was already competitive before the COVID19 pandemic. It leaves them facing a troubling Catch 22 situation: they will be stressed and pressured if they do not find that top job, but when they do, they are often also stressed and pressured.

It is a recurring topic on social media. Five years ago, a song by the Rainbow Chamber Singers (彩虹室内合唱团) titled “The Sofa Is So Far” immediately became a hit in China. Many young Chinese recognized themselves in the hardworking and tired people described in the lyrics, which started with: “My body feels empty / I am dog-tired / I don’t want work overtime.”

How to get away from the involution rat race is also a much-discussed topic on Weibo, where the hashtag page “How can young people resist involution” (#年轻人如何反内卷#) has received over 280 million views.

Some suggest the answer to ending the vicious cycle is to find a way to get rich fast, others suggest that not getting married and staying child-free is also a way to alleviate the pressure to participate in this zero-sum game.

Tech blogger Sensai (@森赛), who has over 2 million followers on Weibo, advises young people to find their true interest and to invest in it before the age of 30. Doing something that sparks joy, such as learning a new language or working on art, might start as a hobby but could turn into a valuable side business later, Sensai says.

For some, however, that goal seems unattainable. “I am already working 15 hours a day, how could I ever do that?!”

“This is just bringing us into a whole other level of involution,” others write.

In order to watch A Love for Dilemma (小舍得), the show that started so many of these discussions this month, you can go over to iQiyi or YouTube.

By Manya Koetse

References

Geertz, Clifford. 1963. Agricultural Involution: The Processes of Ecological Change in Indonesia. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Zhou Minxi. 2020. “‘Involution’: The anxieties of our time summed up in one word.” CGTN, Dec 4 https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-12-04/-Involution-The-anxieties-of-our-time-summed-up-in-one-word-VWNlDOVdjW/index.html [20.4.2021].

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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