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This Was Trending in China in 2018: The 18 Biggest Weibo Hashtags of the Year

Manya Koetse

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It’s been an eventful 2018 on Chinese social media. What’s on Weibo lists the 18 topics that have generated the most views and discussions on Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo over the past year.

What’s trending in Western media when it comes to China is not necessarily what is trending on Chinese social media, too. While topics such as the Xinjiang ‘re-education centers’, China’s nascent Social Credit System, #MeToo in China, or the allegedly “banned” Winnie the Pooh movie were some of the biggest China-related topics on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook this year, Chinese internet users were discussing other things – some issues trending in the Western media were not as big within the PRC due to censorship, but some also simply weren’t as big because of a seeming lack of public interest.

What’s on Weibo has selected the 18 biggest hashtags that were trending on Weibo in 2018, mostly based on their total views, but also based on the impact they had on the meme machine, and the overall discussions that flooded Wechat.

This list has been fully compiled by What’s on Weibo.1 Please note that we have left some topics and hashtags out. One such example is the World Cup. While the World Cup hashtag (#世界杯#) has received a staggering 31 billion views on Weibo alone, this is a more general hashtag that has also been used before 2018; we have attempted to make a selection of topics that were the biggest of this year and 2018 alone.

Due to the scope of this article, some major topics such as the arrest of Richard Liu, the Changchun vaccine scandal, or the online success of the two vlogging farmers and their bamboo rats, did not make the cut, simply because other hashtags garnered more views.

Here we go –

 

#1 The Didi Murders

Hashtag “Female Passenger Murdered by Didi Driver” (#女孩乘滴滴顺风车遇害#) – 2,45 billion views on Weibo. Hashtag “Stewardess Killed in Didi Ride” #空姐滴滴打车遇害案# – 55 million views.

See article here

This year Didi Chuxing, China’s most popular car-hailing app, faced huge public backlash on Weibo, where netizens threatened to boycott the company amid safety concerns. Over the past years, Didi has seen dozens of cases where female passengers were assaulted by their drivers. The terrible murders of two young women in 2018 sparked national outrage.

In May of this year, the murder of a 21-year-old flight attendant by her Didi driver became a major topic of discussion on Weibo. The young woman, Li Mingzhu, was killed in the early morning when she was on her way home from Zhengzhou airport. The body of the driver who killed Li was later found in a nearby river. In August, the 20-year-old passenger Xiao Zhao was raped and stabbed to death by her Didi driver on her way to a birthday party on a Friday afternoon. Hours later, the driver was arrested.

What contributed to the major impact this topic had on social media was the fact that several people came forward on WeChat and Weibo to tell how Didi was warned beforehand: Xiao’s friend immediately contacted Didi after her friend had called out for help during that fatal ride, but she was told to wait and no immediate action was taken. Another female claimed she had already reported the driver to Didi for indecent behavior earlier that week.

In a rapidly changing society where companies such as Didi play an increasingly important role in how people travel and navigate their lives, the Didi murders not only showed the enormous responsibility these companies have in creating a safe environment for passengers, but also showed that the public expects these companies to provide these secure conditions.

After the August murder, Didi suspended its Hitch service, which pairs drivers and passengers traveling the same route (the young women were killed while using Hitch), and added several new safety features to make Didi safer for passengers and to quickly assist customers with any problems they might have.

 

#2 Flaunt Wealth Challenge

Hashtag “Flaunt Your Wealth Challenge” (#炫富挑战#) – 2,3 billion views

See article here

The ‘Flaunt Your Wealth’ or ‘Falling Stars’ hype, in which people post staged photos of themselves ‘falling’ out of their vehicles surrounded by luxury items, first spread on social media in Russia in the summer of 2018, and then made its way to other countries. In China, it became one of the biggest social media hypes of this year.

But besides those photos of seemingly rich Chinese ‘falling’ out of their super expensive cars surrounded by Gucci bags and Chanel make-up, there was also an anti-movement that became hugely popular. It showed how people were mocking the challenge by laying on the floor surrounded by their diplomas, military credential, or study books – defying superficial ideas on the meaning of ‘wealth’ and what it actually looks like.

 

#3 The Traveling Frog Craze

Hashtag “Traveling Frog” (#旅行青蛙#) – 2,1 billion views

See article here

1997 was the year of Tamagotchi, 2018 was the year of the Traveling Frog. The mobile game, designed by a Japanese company, took Chinese social media by storm this year, with thousands of people sharing their struggles in taking care of their virtual frog, which often goes traveling.

The game is characterized by its rather uneventful nature. While at home, the frog sits around and eats or reads, and while away, the player can’t do anything but take care of the garden and wait for their virtual friend to send them a postcard before finally returning.

There are various theories explaining the success of the game. Some say the uneventful app is appealing for young Chinese with stressful lives since it has a calming effect, others might suggest it offers a sense of ‘home’ in a society where fewer people feel at home where they live, and there were even some voices in state media ascribing the success to China’s low birth rates.

 

#4 Jin Yong Passes Away

Hashtag “Jin Yong Passes Away” (#金庸去世#) – 2 billion views on Weibo

The passing of Chinese wuxia novelist Jin Yong (查良鏞), also known as Louis Cha, became big news on Chinese social media this fall. Wuxia (武俠) is a genre of Chinese fiction that focuses on the adventures of martial artists in ancient China, and Jin Yong is regarded as one of the best – if not the top – authors within the genre. Many of his works, of which over 300 million copies were sold worldwide, have been turned into tv series and films.

Jin’s passing set off waves of nostalgia on Weibo, where thousands of netizens shared their favorite works and scenes, thanked the author for all he did, and praised his contributions to Chinese popular culture.

Another person who passed away in November of 2018 is the renowned Hong Kong actress Yammie Lam (藍潔瑛). News of her death also received millions of views on Chinese social media.

 

#5 Gene-modified Babies

Hashtag “First Case of Gene-Edited HIV Immune Babies” (#首例免疫艾滋病基因编辑婴儿#) – 1,9 billion Weibo views 

See article here

News that a Chinese researcher from Shenzen has helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies made international headlines in November of this year. He Jiankui (贺建奎) claimed that together with his research team, he succeeded in altering the DNA of embryos, making them resistant to HIV. The twin girls were born earlier this year.

On social media, the topic received many mixed reactions, with many condemning the researcher’s work, and others praising it. Chinese authorities launched an investigation into the research shortly after news came out, and He Jiankui has not been heard of since. Many people on Weibo are now wondering about his whereabouts, what will happen to him, and how this will further impact the lives of the two girls whose genes were edited.

 

#6 Golden Horse Ceremony’s ‘Taiwan’ Speech

Hashtag “Gong Li Refuses to Confer Award” (#巩俐拒绝颁奖#) – 1,9 billion views on Weibo

See article here

The annual Golden Horse Film Awards in Taipei turned out to be a painful confrontation between mainland actors and Taiwanese pro-independence supporters this year. Although Ang Lee, chairman of the Golden Horse committee, had probably hoped to keep politics out of the film festival, the atmosphere of the live-streamed event changed when award-winning director Fu Yue expressed her hopes for an independent Taiwan during her acceptance speech. Later on in the show, actor Tu Men from mainland China struck back on stage by saying he was honored to present an award in “China, Taiwan.”

Things got more polarized and political when famous Chinese actress Gong Li, at the end of the show, refused to get on stage with Ang Lee to present the award for Best Feature Film. The evening officially seemed ruined when, at the end of the night, it turned out that most mainland actors and producers declined taking part in the celebratory award dinner and went straight back to the mainland instead.

This was not the only topic this year that showed that the current and future status of Taiwan is still an incredibly sensitive topic that can set off waves of angry nationalism on social media. A brief visit to Taiwanese bakery 85°C by ROC President Tsai Ing-wen and the surfacing of an old video of actress Vivian Sung in which she called Taiwan her “favorite country” also triggered major discussions on cross-Straits relations.

 

#7 Chongqing Bus Plunges Into River

Hashtag “Why Chongqing Bus Plunged in the River” (#重庆公交车坠江原因#) – 1,4 billion Weibo views

See article here

In late October of this year, an incident in which a public bus plunged off a bridge into the Yangtze river, causing all 15 passengers to die, became a huge topic on Chinese social media. The security camera footage from inside the bus later showed how a passenger who apparently had missed her stop gets angry with the driver and starts hitting him with her mobile phone. The driver then abruptly turns the steering wheel, hitting oncoming traffic, crashes through the safety fence, and plunges into the river.

The incident caused major concerns over aggression in Chinese public transport, with other videos of similar incidents also making their rounds on social media. The city of Nanjing soon introduced security partitions on buses, and the existence of special “grievance awards” for bus drivers who do not respond to angry passengers also became a topic of debate. Many people on Weibo called for bus cards to be linked to one’s identity so that troublemakers will be able to be blacklisted from buses in the future.

 

#8 The Kunshan Stabbing Case

Hashtag (#追砍电动车主遭反杀#) – 1,25 billion views on Weibo

See article here

A bizarre road-rage incident in which a muscular and tattooed BMW driver attacked an innocent cyclist with a big knife, but then ended up dead himself, was the biggest story on Chinese social media this summer, triggering countless of memes.

The entire scene was caught on security cameras. In the night of August 27, a BMW switched from the car lane to the bicycle lane in the city of Kunshan (Jiangsu), colliding with a man driving his bike, who seemingly refused to give way. Two men then step out of their BMW vehicle to confront the cyclist, with one man going back to his vehicle, suddenly pulling out a long knife and going after the cyclist, stabbing him. During the fight, however, the BMW driver suddenly lets the knife slip out of his hands, after which the bike owner quickly picks it up. With the knife in his hands, he now starts attacking the BMW driver, who eventually dies of his injuries.

One of the main reasons for the mass focus on this incident was that there was an ethical question involved, namely: to what extent could this be regarded as legitimate self-defense? It did not take long for the answer to come out, as authorities ruled it self-defense in September. For many, the news was proof that justice had prevailed.

 

#9 The Dolce and Gabbana Controversy

Hashtag “D&G Show Canceled” #DG大秀取消# and “D&G Designer Responds Again” (#dg设计师再次回应#) 820 & 940 million views on Weibo 

See article here

Although 2018 was supposed to be a great China year for Italian luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana, things unexpectedly spiraled out of control in November of this year, while the brand’s “D&G Loves China” campaign was in full swing.

It started with criticism on a video that was launched by the fashion brand to promote its upcoming Shanghai show. The video, that shows a Chinese model failing to eat Italian food with her chopsticks, was deemed sexist and insulting by many. Things started going downhill real fast after screenshots of comments attributed to fashion designer Stefano Gabbana, in which he scolds China and makes derogatory remarks about Chinese, went viral. It soon led to the cancellation of the big D&G show in Shanghai.

Despite apologies issued by the D&G founders, many netizens called for a boycott of the brand. It is yet unclear to what extent the marketing disaster has affected the brand, but one thing this incident shows is that cultural insensitivities in marketing campaigns can soon lead to a public relations mess.

 

#10 Wang Baoqiang’s Divorce Drama Continues

Hashtag “Wang Baoqiang Beats up Ma Rong” #王宝强殴打马蓉#) received some 520 million views before it was taken offline 

See article here 

Will there be another year when the 2016 split between Chinese celebrities Wang Baoqiang (王宝强) and ex-wife Ma Rong (马蓉) does not make into the top-trending lists?! Ever since the dramatic divorce of the two became one of the top hashtags of 2016, their fights have continued to be a major topic on Chinese social media.

This time, Chinese actress Ma Rong claimed that her ex-husband attacked her when she came to pick up her children at his house in early December. Dramatic photos and hospital footage soon made their rounds on Weibo, but when news came out that the ‘attack’ might have been staged, and that Ma Rong had caused a scene at her ex’s house, netizens condemned the actress for her actions.

The incident became a major source of inspiration for the Weibo meme machine, where others imitated the dramatic Ma Rong photo and photo-shopped it into gossip magazines.

 

#11 The High-Speed Train Tyrants

Hashtag “High-speed Train Tyrant Woman” (#高铁霸座女#) – 505 million views and #高铁霸座事件# – 110 million views

See article here

The two train tyrants of 2018 will probably go down in China’s social media history for their meme-worthy and bizarre behavior, that triggered a storm of criticism online. Both of their bad behaviors on high-speed trains were caught on video.

In August of this year, one rude man from Shandong, who refused to give up the seat he took from another passenger, became known as the “High-Speed Train Tyrant” (高铁霸座男 gāotiě bà zuò nán) on Chinese social media. A video showing the man’s rude behavior went viral, and netizens were especially angry because the man pretended he could not get up from the stolen seat and needed a wheelchair – although he did not need one when boarding the train.

In September of 2018, a woman from Hunan, who was dubbed ‘High-Speed Train Tyrant Woman’ (高铁霸座女 gāotiě bà zuò nǚ) by Weibo netizens, had also taken a seat assigned to another passenger while riding the train from Yongzhou to Shenzhen. Despite the conductor’s reasoning, she refused to get up from her window seat to return to her own seat.

Netizens soon linked the two ‘Train Tyrants,’ creating dozens of memes that showed the two as lovebirds getting married. The incidents also showed public support of China’s nascent Social Credit System, with many calling for a system that would allow these kinds of misbehaving people to be blacklisted from public transport in general.

 

#12 Invictus Gaming: The E-Sports Craze in China

Hashtag “The Meaning of IG Championship”  #IG夺冠的意义# – 540 million views on Weibo

See article here

People were going absolutely crazy over the success of China’s e-sports when ‘Invictus Gaming’ (IG) became the first Chinese team to win the League of Legends World Championship. Students were hanging banners from their dorm rooms, videos of cheering crowds in school canteens flooded Weibo, and dozens of new memes surfaced on Chinese social media. One of them showed two monkeys with a big “Congratulations IG” above them and one wondering “What is IG?!”, and the other telling him just to follow the rest in congratulating them anyway, signaling that many people had never heard of ‘Invictus Gaming’ before, and were clueless about the top trending lists being filled up with this new topic.

China’s e-sports craze also made one Weibo post the most popular of all time, when billionaire Wang Sicong announced he would be giving away more than $160,000 to Weibo users to celebrate the victory of the Chinese team.

 

#13 The Boy who was Duped at the Hair Salon

Hashtag “Hairline-boy expressions” (#发际线男孩表情包#) – viewed  470 million times on Weibo

See article

What was supposed to be a quick visit to the hairdresser turned into a disaster when the 18-year-old Wu Zhengqiang (吴正强) was presented with a 40,000 yuan ($5750) bill and a bad haircut. Although the teenager eventually could pay a much lower amount of money to the salon, Wu turned to local media to tell about his unfortunate haircut, and shared that he was not just sad about losing the money, but that he was also unhappy with his new hairstyle and hairline.

The story soon went viral and triggered the creation of dozens of new memes across Chinese social media, turning the duped boy into one of the biggest internet sensations of 2018.

 

#14 Meng Wanzhou WeChat Moments Post

Hashtag “Meng Wanzhou’s WeChat Moments Post after Release” (#孟晚舟保释后发朋友圈#) – 380 million views on Weibo

See article

The December 1st arrest of Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), the financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technology – which happens to have been founded by her father, Ren Zhengfei (任正非), – became huge news in China and across the world.

Meng was detained during a transit at the Vancouver airport at the request of United States officials. She is accused of fraud for violating US sanctions on Iran. Meng allegedly helped Huawei get around these sanctions by misleading financial institutions into believing that subsidiary company ‘Skycom’ was a separate company in order to conduct business in Iran. Chinese officials, demanding Meng’s release, have called the arrest “a violation of a person’s human rights.”

Meng was released on bail on December 11th. She then shared an update on her Wechat ‘Moments’ page, which received mass attention on Weibo. It showed the feet of a ballet dancer along with a quote saying that “there is suffering behind greatness” (伟大的背后都是苦难). Meng also thanked people for their support, and in doing so, once again received thousands of supportive messages on social media.

 

#15 The Tang Lanlan Case

Hashtag “The Truth about the Tang LanLan Case” (#汤兰兰案真相调查#) – viewed 340 million times on Weibo (also 汤兰兰性侵案 => hashtag now removed, then 50 million views)

See article 

The news story of a decade-old abuse case caused an uproar on Chinese social media in late January of 2018, when many netizens on Weibo believed that reporters of the story were biased and were harming the privacy of Tang Lanlan, the alleged victim in the case.

In 2008, a then 14-year-old girl named Tang Lanlan (汤兰兰, pseudonym) accused her father, grandfather, uncles, teachers, the rural director and neighbors of sexually abusing her since the age of seven. It later led to the prosecution of 11 people for rape and forced prostitution of a minor – including Tang’s own parents. As some of those people, including Tang’s mother, had since been released after serving their sentence, they sought the attention of the media in claiming that Tang, now 23 years old, had fabricated the story and that they were searching for her.

Netizens harshly criticized Chinese media outlets such as The Paper for featuring the story and giving away details about the identity of Tang, saying they should protect the victim instead of choosing the side of those convicted. The outrage was so huge that some reporters were even doxxed by netizens, and that articles and hashtags were removed, making the Tang Lan Lang case the greatest clash between Chinese media and netizens in 2018.

 

#16 Foreigners’ “Preferential Treatment”

Hashtag “Pretend to be foreign and Ofo gives back deposit right away” (#假装外国人ofo秒退押金#) – 250 million views. 

See article

There have been many topics over the past year that involved national pride and Chinese social media users feeling insulted or discriminated against. One such topic is the recent collective anger directed at bike sharing platform Ofo for allegedly helping foreigners much quicker than Chinese nationals.

A Weibo user who did not feel like waiting for hours on the phone to get his Ofo deposit back decided to pose as a foreigner to see if it would help. He sent an email in English via Gmail to Ofo, requesting his deposit back. It worked. He posted about it on Weibo, and millions of people responded with anger. Earlier in 2018, there was also outrage when a short movie went viral on Chinese social media that exposed the big differences between the dorm conditions of Chinese students and of foreigners studying in China.

 

#17 The Sweden Controversy

Hashtag “Chinese Tourists Abused by Swedish Police” #中国游客遭瑞典警察粗暴对待# and “Swedish TV Show Insults China” #瑞典辱华节目#– 170 and 50 million views on Weibo

See article here and here

The alleged maltreatment of a Chinese family in Stockholm ignited major discussions on Chinese social media this September when footage showed how a Chinese man was dragged out of a hotel lobby by Swedish police, while his elderly parents were crying on the sidewalk. The dramatic footage was shot after the tourists arrived at their hotel long before check-in time, and were refused permission to stay overnight in the lobby. When they refused to leave, police got involved.

Chinese media greatly criticized Swedish authorities for how they handled the incident, and it even led to the Chinese embassy in Sweden issuing a safety alert. Not long after, a satirical Swedish TV show made fun of Chinese people through a sketch that listed a number of do’s and don’ts for Chinese tourists, including “not taking a poo outside of historical places.” The TV show added fuel to the fire and was condemned by Chinese social media users. The Chinese embassy in Sweden denounced the satirical Swedish TV show for “maliciously attacking” China. The entire ordeal did not do any good for the relations between Sweden and China, that have already been tense due to the imprisonment of Swedish-Chinese author Gui Minhai.

 

#18 Fugitives on the Loose

Hashtag “Two Fugitives on the Loose” (#两名重刑犯逃脱#) – 170 million views

See article here

It was almost like a movie: two criminals spectacularly escaped from a Liaoning prison and the entire country went on a manhunt, with authorities giving out a big reward for those who’d catch them and setting out drones to catch the two.

Social media played an important role in the search for the fugitives, that took place in early October of this year. Ten thousands of people closely followed the ordeal, as security footage from a local store was posted online only hours after their escape, showing the two criminals buying some food and cigarettes. Within 50 hours of their escape, the fugitives were captured by the police through the help of local villagers.

While you’re here, also check out the top 30 best books to understand China we published earlier this year!

By Manya Koetse

*1 (We kindly ask not to reproduce this list without permission – please link back if referring to it).


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

 

 

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

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Backgrounder

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

Published

on

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
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    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined May 2011)

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    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Nov 2009)
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    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined June 2009)
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    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Aug 2014))

    New China 中文
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    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Aug 2015)

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    *(Xiaohui Wang 王晓辉 @wangxh65
    Editor-in-Chief of http://China.org.cn., 1194 followers
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    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined July 2009)

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    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Aug 2013)

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    VERIFIED ACCOUNT (Joined Dec 2016)

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    Women of China
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    By Manya Koetse


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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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