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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

    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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    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

“Fake” and “Hypocritical” – Western Anti-Racism Movements Criticized on Weibo

Chinese social media responses to the Western anti-racism movement after Floyd’s death.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

George Floyd and the global anti-racism movements have not just dominated headlines in the US and other western countries – in China, they have also become a major news topic. This is an overview of the general Chinese online media discussions of these global news developments, including all the big hashtags, from the George Floyd killing to global companies changing their policies amid concerns over racial stereotyping.

 
This is the “WE…WEI…WHAT?” column by Manya Koetse, original publication in German by Goethe Institut China (forthcoming), see Goethe.de: WE…WEI…WHAT? Manya Koetse erklärt das chinesische Internet.
 

George Floyd – it is a name that the entire world has come to know since the 46-year-old black man was killed during an arrest in May of this year.

The death of Floyd has sparked major Black Lives Matter protests around the world, inspiring international movements fighting against racism. The incident also led to unrest, riots, and the defacement of controversial statues in America and other countries.

In solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight against systemic racism, many organizations and companies in western countries have also made various anti-racist statements and announced policy changes.

Minneapolis graffiti mural honoring George Floyd, photo by Munshots, Unsplash.

In China, the case of George Floyd (transcribed as 乔治•弗洛伊德 Qiáozhì Fúluòyīdé) and its ongoing aftermath have also made headlines in the media and have become big news topics on social media sites such as Weibo.

In a year of COVID-19 crisis and geopolitical tensions – including escalating China-US tensions and the passing of the national security law for Hong Kong -, many of the recent news stories do not stand alone.

The way the news is reported and discussed in China by state media and web users is often part of larger narratives about China and its current relations within the international community. But it’s not just politics; cultural context also greatly matters when it comes to how the anti-racism movement in the Floyd aftermath is perceived in the PRC.

 

“Oh, How Free America Is” – Floyd’s Killing

 

As now widely known, the George Floyd incident took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, when police responded to a shopkeeper’s call about someone potentially using a counterfeit bill. Floyd was sitting in his car when officers arrived at the scene and was asked to step out of his vehicle.

Even though Floyd was compliant and unarmed, a bystander video shows how he was held face-down on the ground, the officer pressing his knee into the side of his neck, while Floyd was begging for air, uttering the sentence: “I can’t breathe.”

While the officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for over seven minutes, the 46-year-old could be seen losing consciousness and going limp.

The video of the fatal arrest went viral on social media overnight, and soon led to people protesting in Minneapolis and elsewhere across the US, demanding justice over the fatal arrest.

Black Lives Matter public demonstration in Cincinnati, photo by Julian Wan, Unsplash.

The four officers involved in George Floyd’s death have since been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department and have been criminally charged. Tensions in Minnesota reached a boiling point and protests escalated to riots and lootings, with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey declaring a state of emergency on May 29.

On that same day, CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, a reporter of color, was arrested and handcuffed on live television together with his cameraman and producer while reporting on the situation in Minneapolis. Although the CNN crew was released shortly after, the incident also further intensified the debate on discrimination and racism in America.

On Weibo, news of the George Floyd incident and the American protests soon went trending with various related hashtags.

By late May and early June, some of the top Weibo hashtags regarding the protests were “CNN Crew Arrested by Police” (#CNN报道团队被警方逮捕#, 170 million views), “Minneapolis Enters State of Emergency” (#美国明尼阿波利斯市进入紧急状态#, 370 million views),  “Protests Erupt over Case of Black Man Dying after American Police Applies Pressure on Neck” (#美警察压颈致黑人死亡引发抗议#, 7+ million views),  “American Anti-Racist Demonstrations” (#美国反种族歧视游行#, 3+ million views) and many more.

The hashtag “U.S. Riots” (#美国暴乱#) garnered over 5,3 billion views and triggered thousands of reactions on Chinese social media.

Many of the Weibo responses to the killing of George Floyd and its direct aftermath incorporated these developments into a bigger framework of strained US-China relations, pointing out the supposed American hypocrisy for criticizing China regarding freedom and human rights, especially in light of the COVID19-crisis and the Hong Kong situation.

“Oh how free America is,” one popular comment on Weibo said (“多么自由的米国”), with others saying things such as: “Are these the human rights you are advocating?”

Commenters expressed their disgust at the brutality of the policemen, calling the police officers “ruthless” and “sadistic,” with some – not without sarcasm – wondering if China should introduce an “anti-racism law” against US officials responsible for racial abuse.

News of CNN reporter Jimenez being arrested by the American state patrol was also shared on Weibo by the Communist Youth League official account, leading to many reactions criticizing America’s “freedom of press.”

“So this is so-called equality? Freedom? Democracy?” Another user writes: “So this is the freedom I’m yearning for? Is this called freedom?”

Some Weibo users shared compilations showing American officers using excessive force and violence while beating and shooting down people during their work.

Although criticism of the US-dominated Chinese online discussions of Floyd’s killing, there were also social media users showing support for the protesters: “I fully support the movement of Black Americans fighting for the rule of law, equality, and freedom,” one popular comment, receiving over 14,000 likes, said.

One blogger with over 123,000 followers wrote: “The riots erupting in the US will surely have a negative impact on society. But looking at it from another perspective, it still makes me envious because they have the guts to speak up, the courage to resist. If such a thing would happen in China, would you stand up?”

 

“Fake Anti-Racism” – From The Simpsons to Darlie Toothpaste  

 

As George Floyd protests have now ignited a wave of anti-racism efforts across the globe, there are also new hashtags popping up on Chinese social media that are generating a lot of discussion.

Although the protesters denouncing racism and police brutality directly after the Floyd killing were often praised on Chinese social media, some of the latest efforts by companies and brands – showing wider consideration of racism in media, fashion, and entertainment – met less sympathy among Chinese web users.

One example is the news-related hashtag “The Simpsons Cartoon Stops Using White People to Dub the Voices of Non-White Roles” (#动画辛普森不再用白人为非白人配音#), which had over 90 million views on Weibo at time of writing. In late June, producers of The Simpsons announced that they will no longer let white actors do the voices of characters of color.

“Bloody hell, [as if] you can hear by the voices if they are white or not?!”, a typical comment said, with other recurring comments saying: “This is crazy! Voices aren’t black or white.”

“Just make them all blue,” others suggested, with one person writing: “They [the Simpsons] all have yellow skin, why don’t they use actors of Asian descent to do their voices? This is fake so-called anti-racism.”

Others also argue that these kinds of initiatives only stress racial differences, instead of combating racism: “The more it’s like this, the more they stress the importance of racial distinction. Why?”

Other anti-discrimination initiatives, such as that of Unilever and beauty brand L’Oréal Paris to stop using words like “whitening” and “fair” in describing their products, together with other brands’ initiatives to remove some skin-whitening products altogether, also received a lot of attention on Weibo (hashtag #欧莱雅停用美白宣传语#, 110 million views).

“This goes too far,” “Unbelievable,” “How unnecessary,” many commenters wrote, adding: “What does this have to do with racial discrimination?” “Isn’t this just another form of discrimination?”

“Why do I feel that it’s Asians who are being discriminated against here,” some users said: “Different ethnicities have different beauty standards, different people also have different tastes in beauty. For many Asians, they just happen to think fair skin is pretty.“

Noteworthy enough, the critical stances that are ubiquitous on Weibo toward this kind of initiatives are not just visible from the most general comments; the news sources posting these news articles, from Xinhua to Sina Top Trending, also use ‘thinking face’ or ‘surprised’ emoji in their posts that suggest a certain reproachful attitude towards these kinds of developments.

Chinese media often use pensive/surprised emoji when reporting on western brands’ anti-racism policies (image: screenshot of Xinhua reporting on L’Oréal).

Another notable brand response to the anti-racism movement also ignited online discussions: Colgate announced a review of its Chinese toothpaste brand “Darlie”[1], once known as “Darkie” (literally “Black Man Toothpaste” 黑人牙膏 in Chinese), for featuring a man in blackface.

Some of the hashtags used in discussing this news are “Black Man Toothpaste is the Latest Brand Affected by American Anti-Racism” (#黑人牙膏成美反种族歧视受影响最新品牌#) and “Colgate Considers Changing the Name of the Chinese Market ‘Black Man Toothpaste’” (#高露洁考虑将中国市场黑人牙膏改名#, 110 million views).

Darlie toothpaste is a household name for many Chinese (image via Sina Weibo).

Darlie toothpaste is originally a Chinese brand, under the umbrella of the 87-year-old Shanghai company Hawley & Hazel, and is a household name for many Chinese. The overall sentiment in response to this news is that many do not understand how changing the brand is helpful in the battle against social injustice.

“I just don’t see how this is racial discrimination,” one person comments: “How is this stereotyping [black men]?”

News that America’s biggest bank JPMorgan Chase is dropping the terms “master,” “slave,” and “blacklist” from its technology material and programming code was also met with criticism on Weibo (#摩根大通停用黑名单等术语#), where some wondered if they had “gone mad” and whether this way some sort of “literary inquisition.”

In a recent blog article on Weibo discussing these latest developments, blogger Captain Wuya (@乌鸦校尉) wrote about the brands and companies involved that “they are waving their big stick of political correctness at anyone they can hit.“

“What really needs to change here, is American big brands exaggerating the facts,” another popular comment said.

 

“Excessive Political Correctness” – Rejection of Western Anti-Racist Policies

 

The latest anti-racism movement in western countries is clearly discussed in a very different way in the Chinese social media context than it is in the English-language social media sphere.

Although many of the latest anti-racism initiatives by brands and companies also draw a mix of praise and criticism on Twitter or Facebook, the general view on Weibo seems to be that they are “fake,” “overdoing it,” are “unnecessary” and “non-sensical,” and that they stress racial differences rather than equality. Another recurring sentiment is that anti-black racism is prioritized over racism against Asians.

The different views among Chinese social media users on what is deemed racist or not has attracted wide attention before. One noteworthy example is that of the 2016 Qiaobi laundry detergent commercial that shows a black man turning into a Chinese man after being ‘washed.’ The commercial was taken down after causing controversy outside of China.

The Chinese Qiaobi commercial drew much controversy for being racist in 2016.

A typical comment on Chinese social media, at the time, was: “Western media have just taken their concept of ‘racism’ and applied it [to this commercial]. In reality, the great majority of Chinese people have no notion of ‘white’ versus ‘black’ or ‘Asian’, and any supposed inferiority in this.”

Similar responses also came up when the 2018 CCTV Gala caused consternation in foreign media for featuring a Chinese actress wearing blackface in a segment emphasizing Sino-African relations.

The controversial skit included a Chinese actress in blackface (CCTV).

These attitudes and general comments seem to suggest that racism or discrimination is just less of an issue in China, or that it is soon trivialized. Is this the case?

Issues of racism and discrimination are certainly not trivialized in China when it is about anti-Asian racism. Throughout modern history, the Chinese have been victims of racism. Over recent years, there are myriad examples of collective anger and boycott campaigns because Chinese feel discriminated against.

For example, when Italian luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana launched a promotional video in which a Chinese-looking woman clumsily attempted to eat a large cannoli bread with chopsticks, many netizens on Chinese social media called it racist. After screenshots went viral of a China-bashing online conversation with the alleged Stefano Gabbana, the issue became one of the largest trending topics on Weibo in 2018.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to an increase in racism in the US and other countries directed at those of Asian descent, something that has recently become a hot topic on Chinese social media, triggering anger and calls for equal treatment of Asians.

Is it, then, perhaps that discrimination and racial inequality within mainland China are not so much of an issue? This certainly is also not the case. Besides the many different shapes and forms of discrimination – regional discrimination being one of them –, there are many examples of anti-black racism in China. Online racism against Africans has been an ongoing issue on Weibo ever since the platform was first launched in 2009 (example, example).

A notice at a Guangzhou McDonald’s restaurant saying “black people cannot come in” sparked international outrage earlier this year.

Voices against the discriminatory treatment of Africans in China have only grown louder during the coronavirus outbreak, when hundreds of Guangzhou-based Africans were evicted from hotels and apartments after local authorities began a campaign to forcibly test them for the coronavirus. A notice at a Guangzhou McDonald’s restaurant saying “black people cannot come in” sparked international outrage earlier this year.

All in all, it is not about racism being non-existent in China, nor is it trivialized. The fact that the latest western developments are discussed in such a different light on Chinese social media has much more to do with how American and European anti-racist policies, and the grip they hold on media, politics, and the corporate world, are rejected by Chinese netizens.

This does not mean that the Floyd incident is deemed any less horrific in China than elsewhere in the world. Social injustice and inequality are recurring topics on Chinese social media, and it is something that greatly matters to many Chinese web users, with these kinds of stories going trending all the time.

It does mean, however, that western approaches to anti-racism, with the racial etiquette that comes with it and a focus on what is correct or incorrect when it comes to language, imagery and behavior, are often deemed excessive (“矫枉过正”) by Chinese web users – or useless in actually combating social inequality.

These responses have a lot to do with current geopolitical developments and the position of China within the international community, but more so with the fact that China has a very different historical, cultural, and societal context when it comes to (anti-black) racism compared to the US or other western countries.

In a lengthy article posted on Weibo in early July by Chinese commentator and academic Guo Songmin (郭松民), who has been actively posting about the Black Lives Matter movement, the prominent leftist author explains that this also has a lot to do with the fact that, different from most western countries, “China has neither a history of slavery nor a history of colonizing Africa,” and that, at the same time, China is also not a country of immigrants.

In the end, some say that they do understand the latest anti-racist initiatives by American and European companies in their home markets, but also argue that they should not impose their political correctness upon the Chinese market.

A recent Weibo blog, reiterating the views of many on Weibo, argues that Darlie Toothpaste should still be ‘Black Man Toothpaste’ in China, and that cosmetic brands should continue to cater their ‘whitening’ products to the Chinese market. According to the author, these colors, words, and imageries mean something different in the PRC than in the West. “If European and American cosmetic companies truly respect the cultural and ethnic diversities across the world,” they write: “they should also respect the culture and aesthetics of East Asians.”

To what extent the anti-racist movement will eventually affect the Chinese market, and how -and if- this will change existing views on racism remains to be seen. Meanwhile, heated discussions continue on social media. For some Weibo commenters, the situation at hand seems clear enough: “American-style political correctness just makes no sense here.”

 

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

For COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

[1] Darlie is a toothpaste brand of Colgate partner Hawley & Hazel, that was established in Shanghai in 1933, and was originally marketed as a parody of American performer Al Jolson. He became popular for his blackface performances, and the whiteness of his teeth made him the face of the toothpaste brand.

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.

This text was written for Goethe-Institut China under a CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE license (Creative Commons) as part of a monthly column in collaboration with What’s On Weibo.

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Backgrounder

Coronavirus on Chinese Social Media: The 8 Major Trends in Times of the 2019-nCoV Crisis

The 8 main trends defining the online responses to the Wuhan coronavirus on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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Since the outbreak of the new coronavirus becoming big news in China and around the world, there have been few other topics going trending on Chinese social media than those related to 2019-nCoV. What’s on Weibo gives an overview of the most noteworthy online media trends in China regarding the corona-crisis.

 
By Manya Koetse, further research and news-gathering by Miranda Barnes
 

From panic to patriotism, the outbreak of the coronavirus has led to a wide range of different responses from Chinese netizens and online media outlets over the past few weeks.

Although the first reports on the emergence of a pneumonia-like illness in the city of Wuhan came out in late December, it wasn’t until mid-January that the new virus, belonging to the coronavirus family, started dominating the top trending lists on social media in China and beyond.

The hashtag “Nationally Confirmed Cases of New Pneumonia” (#全国确诊新型肺炎病例#) became one of the biggest news-related topics we have ever seen on Weibo, receiving eight billion views by January 25, and reaching a staggering 13,5 billion views by February 2.

As of February 6th, approximately 28,200 cases of the new virus were confirmed, with over 170 cases reported in countries outside of China. The death toll also became much higher than days before, rising to 564. With these numbers, the coronavirus has exceeded the scale of the 2003 SARS outbreak in terms of infected patients.

Along with the quick spread of the new coronavirus across the country, the general mood and direction of the discussions and trends in the Chinese online media environment have also been in constant flux.

At What’s on Weibo, we have been glued to our social media screens, but because editor-in-chief Manya Koetse has been flooded with daily media requests we have not been able to update the site with regular updates (meanwhile, @manyapan did post regular updates on Twitter).

Here, we will highlight some of the main social media trends we spotted during the outbreak of the new Chinese coronavirus, now and over the past weeks.

 

TREND #1:

Online Backlash against the Eating of Wild Game

As an online media panic broke out around January 20, when a third person had died of the new Wuhan virus, one of the main trends to come up on Chinese social media was an online backlash against the eating of wild game (as reported here by Jessica Colwell).

The backlash flooded Weibo after the downtown Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market (武汉华南海鲜批发市场), selling a wide range of dead and alive wild animals – anything from snakes and crocodiles to rats, hedgehogs or bats, – was identified as the suspected source of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Image posted by Sina Parenting on February 1st.

Since Chinese researchers linked the novel coronavirus (nCoV-2019) to bats, videos and images of bat dishes and people eating bat soon made their rounds on social media.

Many of these videos were actually unrelated to Wuhan, but were used in condemning the practice of eating (illegal/unsafe) wild game in general.

Around January 23, hashtags such as “Support the Banning of Wild Game Markets” (#支持禁绝野味市场#), “Refusing Eating of Wild Game Starts with You” (#拒吃野味从我做起#), “Control Your Mouth, Refuse Wild Game” (#管住嘴拒绝吃野味#) went viral on Weibo.

As images or videos of people eating bats or other exotic animals soon also spread to Twitter and other non-Chinese social media, some English-language media labeled them as “xenophobic” or “racist” – ignoring the fact that the anti-wild game storm actually started in the Chinese online media environment.

Online information leaflet spread by People’s Daily, “Resisting the Consumption of Wild Game Starts with Ourselves”

State media outlets such as People’s Daily, for example, played a role in the online dissemination of information against the eating of wild game and actually hosted some of these hashtag pages on Weibo.

The main argument behind the backlash is that those eating (unsafe, illegal) exotic and/or wild animals could risk their own health and that of their community and that what you eat is also your responsibility in keeping others safe.

A news story of a man hunting wild animals for consumption made its rounds on Weibo this week.

The backlash against the eating of wild game and online anger against people hunting or illegally buying wild animals for consumption is still ongoing, with some directing their anger against Wuhan people in specific.

This has also triggered discussions on Weibo about discrimination – not against Chinese people in general, but against Chinese netizens discriminating against Wuhan people or even against people from the Hubei province.

 

TREND #2:

Fake News and Censorship

Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo are tightly controlled online environments. When certain sensitive topics pop up, such as the anniversary of the Tiananmen protests, the Hong Kong demonstrations in their early phases, or big political events, virtually all related posts and news sharing will sometimes be removed by online censors.

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, this was not necessarily the case. From the start, there was a lot of reporting, sharing, and discussion of the virus online.

However, there certainly has been ongoing censorship of the topic. This was mainly done in the case of netizens reposting videos of chaotic situations in streets or at hospitals, but also in the case of ‘fake news’ posts (mostly called “starting rumors”).

Posts that could potentially trigger unrest or panic also were censored. One hashtag that made its rounds around January 22 was “Escaping Wuhan” (#逃离武汉#), with people trying to leave Wuhan before the city would go on lockdown. That hashtag page was soon completely removed from Weibo.

The comments sections of some posts reporting on controversial or sensitive news were also completely turned off (such as this report addressing local authorities in Wuhan allegedly taking donated face masks).

One Weibo user (@魔女小稀), an alleged nurse, posted a video of people in a hospital hallway on January 24th, claiming that “three [dead] bodies” had been lying in a Wuhan hospital for the entire afternoon covered in white sheets without being removed.

The post and the Weibo user were completely removed from the platform on January 25. By that time, however, the video and allegations were already picked up and reposted internationally.

According to Sina News, the post had been completely false; there were no bodies lying around this Wuhan hospital. If there were people covered in white sheets, it was merely people sleeping in the hallway after waiting for a long time.

This is but one of many examples of ‘fake news’ floating around Chinese social media over the past two weeks, with images and videos being placed in a misleading context, people claiming that patient or deceased numbers were much higher than those reported by the official media, and some even bringing up conspiracy theories about the source of the coronavirus (e.g. that the Americans started it, that it leaked from a biolab in Wuhan, etc).

The problem in this issue is, of course, when do we call it ‘fake news’ and when do we call it ‘censorship’? Amid the chaos and uncertainty of the coronavirus outbreak, it is not always easy to separate the two.

This is also a contributing factor in the general distrust in official media reports that clearly surfaced on Weibo over the past weeks. “I don’t believe it,” is a sentence popping up everywhere on social media.

Spreading online “rumors” is a crime under China’s Criminal Law and is punishable by up to seven years in prison. Although some foreign media outlets, such as this one, make it seem as though it is illegal to share fake news about the coronavirus in particular, it is actually illegal in China to share fake news in general.

 

TREND #3:

Virus Vigilantism

Another trend we noticed on social media during the wake of the coronavirus outbreak is not just a distrust in official media and authorities, but also distrust in fellow citizens.

One clear example that blew up on Weibo is that of a young woman from Wuhan who posted about her traveling to France – and enjoying nice food – despite suffering from a fever and cough. Because she took fever reducers, she claimed to have passed airport temperature monitors without issue.

The post sparked great anger among Chinese netizens and triggered the so-called ‘human flesh search engine,’ with people digging into her personal details.

The incident even led to the Chinese embassy in France investigating the matter. The woman turned out not to have been infected with the virus.

But there are many examples of people exposing and doxing those who allegedly are hindering the collective goal of minimizing the risk of a further spreading of the virus, for example by not self-isolating after visiting Wuhan.

There’s also been widespread online condemnation of people stealing tissue paper from public elevators. Many apartment buildings around China now provide a box of tissue paper for hygienic reasons so that people do not need to touch the elevator buttons.

Surveillance videos of people stealing these boxes have been making their rounds on Weibo and WeChat, such as this lady in an elevator in Chongqing, with thousands of netizens expressing their anger over their behavior – and sometimes naming and shaming them.

 

TREND #4:

Social Media as a Practical Communication Tool

Soon after the scale of the coronavirus outbreak started to become clear, social media platforms such as Weibo were started to be used as practical communication tools for authorities, (medical) organizations, and individuals to spread information or to ask for help.

Social media is now widely used as a practical communication tool for very general matters in the coronavirus crisis (e.g. providing information on how to avoid getting the virus), but also for more specific issues.

Various hospitals in Wuhan, for example, spread digital leaflets online summing up their specific shortages in supplies (face masks, surgical gloves, etc), and how people and organizations can contribute.

Another example is how authorities at various times use social media to search for people who were on board of certain trains or where passengers were later diagnosed with the virus.

But we have also seen individuals reaching out through social media. One woman, for example, reached out to netizens online after she and her husband fell ill and needed someone to look after their children.

Through the help of social media, there are now also local volunteers who help taking care of people’s pets while they are unable to return home to feed them.

One of the hashtags increasingly receiving attention online since early February is “Rescuing the Pets Left Behind in Wuhan Homes” (#武汉滞留家中宠物救援#).

Since January 26, Tencent’s WeChat has also opened a special “epidemic supervision” channel within its app where WeChat users can go to get the latest local information about the virus in their area or ask for medical help.

 

TREND #5:

Propaganda, Pride and Patriotism in Times of Crisis

The outbreak of the coronavirus coincided with the most important holiday of the year in China: the Spring Festival. On Friday, January 24, the CCTV broadcasted its annual Spring Festival Gala (Chunwan), a 4-hour long show that has been airing since 1983. The show is the biggest live TV event in the world, with a viewership of one billion.

The show is usually meticulously planned up to every second – with rehearsals starting months before -, but this year, for the first time ever, it included a segment on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. It showed scenes from inside a Wuhan hospital, and the show’s main presenters paid their respects to all the medical workers working day and night.

The event became trending on Weibo under the hashtag “For the First Time in History, ‘Chunwan’ Includes a Non-Rehearsed Segment” (#春晚历史上首次没有彩排的片段#)

It was during this time, with twenty million people under travel lockdown, that the sentence “Jiayou Wuhan, Jiayou Zhongguo” (“Come on Wuhan, Come on China”) was propagated by state media and became widely used on Chinese social media.

By now, the hashtag “Go Wuhan!” (#武汉加油#, hosted by Party newspaper People’s Daily) has over 12 billion views on Weibo.

“1.4 billion Chinese salute you”

Starting from the Spring Festival weekend, Chinese state media began to propagate more positive, patriotic, and nationalistic messages online during the corona crisis, focusing on the unity of China and the dedication and resilience of common Chinese people, with a specific emphasis on medical and army staff.

It is not uncommon, or actually rather common, for Chinese authorities and state media to propagate nationalism in times of hardship (also see our article on online propaganda during the Hong Kong protests).

 

TREND #6:

Quarantine Boredom: From Panic to Humor

From late January, the first humorous memes and videos starting flooding Chinese social media in light of the coronavirus.

Around January 25, there were over forty confirmed deaths due to the new coronavirus and over 1380 known infected patients. Along with the travel lockdown, most of the major tourist attractions across China had shut down, and driving bans were implemented in the city of Wuhan to restrict people’s movements in efforts to contain the outbreak.

What was supposed to be a time of joy and reunion and entertainment (the Chinese New Year) turned into a time of fear and self-isolation for many families in Wuhan and beyond.

Practically locked up in their homes, some people used humor as a ‘defense mechanism’ in times of coronacrisis.

The videos embedded in the thread below are some examples of people making the most of their times in lockdown.

But besides the creative solutions of people avoiding boredom inside the home, there were also many memes going around WeChat and Weibo making fun of the extreme measures taken by people and authorities, such as this photo below that was allegedly taken at a station in Yiwu, Zhejiang, saying: “Some people got off the train in Yiwu but thought they’d ended up in Saudi Arabia.”

There was also this viral image below of an office canteen where people were self-isolating for safety reasons, saying: “Eating at the cantine of my unit now feels more like taking an exam.”

Videos and images of people using sanitary pads, bras, plastic bags, or even fruit to protect their faces due to a scarcity of face masks also continue to make their rounds on social media, with people sometimes mocking neighbors, their friends or family, or even themselves in the extreme and sometimes silly measures they are taking to avoid getting the coronavirus.

 

TREND #7:

Anger against Local Authorities and Illegal Lock-Ins

As panic over the spreading coronavirus has become bigger over the past few weeks, the voices criticizing local authorities and organizations for mishandling the situation have also grown louder.

While loud criticism of the central government is usually censored before triggering bigger discussions, there has been ample criticism of provincial, city, and county authorities and organizations – and not without consequence.

In Hubei, local authorities have been criticized for, among others, initially censoring reports of an emerging new illness in December of 2019.

The mayor of Wuhan, Zhou Xianwang, became a major target of netizens’ anger. In late January, Zhou admitted that he had failed in disclosing information in a timely manner and also “did not use effective information” to improve the local government’s work.

The Hubei branch of the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC, 中国红十字会) also received massive criticism online in early February when it turned out that, while the public donated medical supplies and money, most of it remained in the Red Cross warehouse.

On February 4, Chinese state media reported that the Hubei Red Cross deputy director had been removed from office and dismissed from the leading Party members group of the RCSC branch.

On village and prefecture-level, there has also been public condemnation of how authorities are handling the corona crisis.

Some videos going around social media showed how people, seemingly against their will, were locked up inside their own homes by local authorities after returning from Wuhan (“武汉返乡人员”).

China Youth Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Youth League of China, also condemned these practices as “illegal” and “inhumane” in an article that has since been deleted.

Through a new WeChat function mentioned earlier in this post, Chinese netizens can now also report any mishandlings of the coronavirus situation.

At the time of writing, there seems to have been some increased censorship, but nevertheless, criticism on local authorities keeps flooding Weibo.

“While people are busy helping themselves and each other, what are the leaders of Hubei and Wuhan doing?”, some people wonder: “Supplies in the hospitals are still scarce, there are still people who are unable to receive help!”

 

TREND #8:

Corona Panic Buying

It was around January 21st when the coronavirus panic reached a peak in China; a third infected patient had died of the virus the day before, the first cases were confirmed outside of China, and several big travel platforms had started to offer refunds or change flights via Wuhan.

Similar to the SARS outbreak in 2003, news of the coronavirus led to waves of “scare shopping” – a trend that also became very visible on social media.

Medical face masks soon sold out in Chinese pharmacies and on e-commerce platforms: around 80 million face masks were sold on Alibaba’s Taobao platform alone on January 20 and January 21st. Those (online) shops still offering face masks exploited the shortage of face masks, and would only sell them at exorbitant prices.

Twenty dollars for a face mask?

Although Alibaba soon announced it would remove sales of face masks from shops that were selling them at unstable prices, the sales and availability of (disposable) N95 masks is still an issue across China, with netizens complaining about it on Weibo every single day.

Another example of consumer panic followed the Jan 31st reports by two medical research institutions on the TCM oral medicine Shuanghuanglian, which would allegedly be effective in combating the new coronavirus.

Shortly after the reports came out, the herbal remedy sold out in stores across the country.

Chinese state media now warn people against “irrational purchases,” saying that the effectivity of herbal remedies such as Shuanghuanglian is still unsure.

Panic buying is a trend that is not just visible on Chinese social media, it is a trend that also seems to be triggered through social media, with rumors and reports of existing shortages of certain products leading to panic.

A clear example is the February 5 run on toilet paper in Hong Kong after rumors spread that the coronavirus outbreak would lead to insufficient supplies.

 

As there are still many new developments and news reports coming out concerning the coronavirus, we will keep on publishing more on What’s on Weibo about what’s trending on Chinese social media. (Also read: Distrust and despair on WeChat and Weibo after the death of Wuhan whistleblower Li Wenliang).

If it’s quiet here, please also follow us on Twitter here and here.

By Manya Koetse, additional research and news-gathering by Miranda Barnes
Follow @whatsonweibo

SUPPORT WHAT’S ON WEIBO HERE.

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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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