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Top 6 of China’s Popular News Apps

In an online environment with hundreds of news apps, these are some must-know apps Chinese netizens use to stay updated on the news.

Gabi Verberg

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In China’s dynamic online media environment, where hundreds of news apps are competing over clicks, these are five different news apps that are currently popular among Chinese netizens.

China is the world’s largest smartphone market, and the mobile app business is booming. Chinese netizens, of which some 98% access the internet via mobile phone, have thousands of app to choose from across dozens of app stores.

To provide some insights into this huge market, What’s on Weibo has listed some of the most popular and noteworthy apps in China today in various categories, namely news, education, health, games, and short video & live streaming. Check our top 5 of most popular short video apps here. This article will focus on some of China’s most popular news apps. Stay tuned for the other categories, that will follow shortly and will be listed below this article.

We made our selection based on the data from the Android app stores Tencent, Baidu, Huawei, and Zhushou360. We tried our best to give you a representative overview of a variety of apps that are currently most used in China, but want to remind you that these lists are by no official “top 5” charts.

When it comes to news apps, we see there’s a clear preference for the more commercial media outlets rather than traditional Chinese state media newspaper titles, and that besides gaming, live streaming, shopping, and music, news gathering is still very much a popular online activity among Chinese netizens.

 

#1 Jinri Toutiao 今日头条


Jinri Toutiao, which translates as ‘Today’s Headlines’, currently ranks as the most popular app in the Chinese Apple store, together with its ‘speed version’ (今日头条极速版) version, which offers a different interface.

The Jinri Toutiao app is a core product of China’s tech giant Bytedance Inc., which has also developed popular apps such as TikTok, Douyin (抖音), Xigua (西瓜) and Huoshan (火山).

The main difference between the normal and speed version app is that the Jinri Toutiao has some extended features; its layout can be adjusted according to user’s preferences and its installment takes up more space on the device.

Toutiao’s success is mainly due to its artificial intelligence functions that sources news and other articles for its users. Through the app’s machine-learning algorithm, Jinri Toutiao can understand its user’s preferences and personalizes the selected content its shows on the main page. In doing so, Toutiao is a so-called news aggregator that has some 4000 news providing partners and is comparable to American apps such as Flipboard.

In 2018, Jinri Toutiao had 700 million registered users, with 120 million daily readers, spending approximately 76 minutes on the app, viewing a total of 4.2 billion(!) articles.

 

#2 Ifeng News 凤凰新闻


Ifeng News or Phoenix News is part of Phoenix TV, a broadcasting company established in 1996. The media company, that is headquartered in Hong Kong, is active in traditional media as well as in new media.

According to Phoenix TV, users of the Ifeng News app approximately spend more than 37 minutes on the app daily.

Like Toutiao, the Ifeng News app also offers personalized content for users based on AI algorithms. Different from Toutiao, Ifeng is not just a news aggregator but also produces its own content.

Ifeng News is the app to consult when you want to get somewhat more in-depth insights into the main headlines from around globe. In addition, Ifeng also offers 24/7 live news broadcasts from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

 

#3 Caijing Toutiao 财经头条

Caijing Toutiao is an app developed by Caijing Magazine, an independent financial magazine based in Beijing that, in addition to economic issues, also focuses on social and public affairs and civil rights. It has long been known for its progressive and critical content, which is why we list it here, although some other commercial news apps, such as Tencent News, Sohu News, Netease, and The Paper, might be more popular in terms of the total number of downloads.

Caijing Magazine was established in 1998 by Hu Shuli (胡舒立) as part of the Media Group Limited. Especially in the first ten years of the magazine’s existence, it enjoyed relative freedom regarding press restrictions. But the ‘golden era’ of Caijing came to an end in 2009, when Hu Shili resigned after facing more control over news by the authorities.

Nevertheless, Caijing is still known as an authoritative news platform for business and financial issues in China.

The Caijing app, in addition to its live stream and headlines, offers rich financial content organized in various categories. The app is not only among the most popular news apps, but it was also ranked the most downloaded financial app in the first half of 2018.

 

#4 People’s Daily 人民日报


People’s Daily, one of the leading news outlets of China, is the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. The news office was established in 1948 and is headquartered in Beijing.

Despite being seventy years old, People’s Daily has adopted various strategies over the past years to reach Chinese younger audiences in the digital era. The news app, launched in 2014, is part of its digital strategy, and now ranks amongst the most popular news apps of China across different app app stores.

A large number of People’s Daily‘s news articles focus on political matters. Users of the app can choose whether they want to see the standardized content showed to all users, or opt-in to recommended articles based on monitored personal preferences.

 

#5 Tencent News 腾讯新闻

Tencent News, which is part of the Shenzhen-based Tencent Group, is one of the leading news-apps of China. In addition to the app, the company also has its online portal QQ.com, where they release the same content as the app, complemented with other services.

In 2017, Tencent brought the two apps together when it added a news feed and search function to its super app WeChat. This means that, regardless if you have the Tencent News app installed on your device, you will be directed to Tencent News when you enter certain search words in WeChat. With WeChat’s 1.08 billion monthly active users globally, this sets off a tremendous user flow from WeChat to Tencent News.

The majority of the news articles on the app come from third-party platforms. In addition to the news, the app features other Tencent products such as Tencent Video and their live streaming service.

In the final quarter of 2018, Tencent News users grew from 94 million to 97.6 million daily active users, making it the second most popular news app of China.

 

#6 Zhihu 知乎


Zhihu is no typical news app: it actually is China’s biggest Q&A platform, comparable to Quora.

In 2018, Zhihu had 160 million registered users, of which 26 million visited the app daily. Despite the fact that Zhihu is not a traditional news content app, it plays an important role in China’s online news media landscape, as it provides an open space where users get (news) information and can get answers to their questions relating to the news and other things.

What sets it apart from other social media platforms is that users do not need to be ‘connected’ or ‘follow’ each other in order to see each other’s questions and comments. Zhihu‘s algorithm pushes up the most popular content, driving engagement.

How does Zhihu exactly work? All Zhihu users can create topics or questions, and reply to those of others. By voting on the best response of other users, the app automatically features the most appreciated comments on the top of the page.

To guarantee the reliability of the information provided by users, Zhihu has rolled out a ‘point system’ that credits users for their content, profile, and behavior on the platform. By giving every user a personal score, Zhihu allegedly hopes to promote more “trustworthy” content.

Apart from the Q&A feature, Zhihu also offers electronic books and paid live streaming. Zhihu also launched the so-called ‘Zhihu University’ that offers paid online courses in business, science, and humanities.

Also see:

By Gabi Verberg, edited by Manya Koetse

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

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Gabi Verberg is a Business graduate from the University of Amsterdam who has worked and studied in Shanghai and Beijing. She now lives in Amsterdam and works as a part-time translator, with a particular interest in Chinese modern culture and politics.

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China Insight

“Support Xinjiang MianHua!” – China’s Social Media Storm over Xinjiang Cotton Ban

The hashtag “Wo Zhichi Xinjiang Mianhua” – “I Support Xinjiang Cotton” – received over 6 billion views on Weibo.

Manya Koetse

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Western brands faced heavy criticism in China this week when a social media storm erupted over the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and its brand members for no longer sourcing from China’s Xinjiang region. The ‘Xinjiang cotton ban’ led to a major ‘Xinjiang cotton support’ campaign on Weibo, and a boycott for those brands siding with BCI.

In 2019, an extensive brand ‘witch hunt’ took place on Weibo and other Chinese social media networks in light of the protests in Hong Kong, with international fashion and luxury brands, from Versace to Swarovski, getting caught in the crossfire for listing Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as separate countries or regions – not part of China – on their official websites or brand T-shirts.

Now, another brand ‘witch hunt’ is taking place on Chinese social media. This time, it is not about Hong Kong, but about Xinjiang and its cotton industry.

H&M, Uniqlo, Nike, Adidas and other international brands have caused public outrage for the stand they’ve taken against the alleged use of forced labor involving the Muslim Uyghur minority to produce cotton in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

The social media storm started earlier this week on Wednesday, March 24, and is linked to H&M and the ‘BCI’ (Better Cotton Initiative), a Swiss NGO that aims to promote better standards in cotton farming.

In October 2020, H&M shared a statement on its site in which the Swedish retailer said it was “deeply concerned” over reports of forced labor in the production of cotton in Xinjiang, officially Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

H&M stated that it would no longer source cotton from Xinjiang, following the BCI decision to suspend licensing of BCI cotton in the region.

 

BCI and its Suspension of Activities in Xinjiang

 

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is the largest cotton sustainability program in the world. It practices across 23 countries and accounts for 22% of global cotton production. The governance group was established in 2005 in cooperation with WWF and leading retailers, with the aim of promoting the widespread use of improved farm practices.

While H&M is a ‘top member’ of the Better Cotton Initiative (link), many others brands such as IKEA, Gap, Adidas, Nike, Levi’s, and C&A are also brand members.

January 2020
In January of 2020, the BCI was slammed by Dr Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington DC, for its refusal to pull out of the Xinjiang region. At the time, 20 percent of its ‘better cotton’ was sourced from Xinjiang, which is China’s largest cotton growing area.

According to a 2020 report by EcoTextile, the BCI maintained that its implicated council member, the yarn producer Huafu, denied the allegations and that an independent audit of the company’s Aksu facility in Xinjiang had failed to identify any instances of forced labor. An earlier report by Adidas from 2019 also stated that their independent investigations found no evidence of forced labor.

March 2020
In late March of 2020, the BCI reportedly did suspend activities with licensed farmers in the Xinjiang region for the 2020/21 cotton season while also contracting a global expert to conduct an external review of the Xinjiang situation. Chinese state media Global Times later reported that despite suspending its licensing activities, the BCI would remain committed to cotton farming communities in Xinjiang and would continue to engage in activities in the region.

July 2020
The pressure on BCI and other brands to stop sourcing from Xinjiang was heightened when a coalition of civil society groups raised concerns over the treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China and the “grave risk of forced labor.” Reuters reported that more than 180 organizations urged brands from Adidas to Amazon to end sourcing of cotton and clothing from the region and cut ties with any suppliers in China that would benefit from the alleged forced labour of Uyghur other Muslim groups.

October 2020
In October of 2020, the Better Cotton Initiative announced it would cease all field-level activities in Xinjiang with immediate effect because the region had reportedly become “an increasingly untenable operating environment.” The aforementioned statement by H&M came out in the same month.

March 2021
By late March 2021, various Chinese state media reported on the BCI suspension. These reports came days after a coordinated effort by the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada to impose sanctions on Chinese officials over China’s alleged human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang, something which was called a “concerted effort to slander China’s policies in its Xinjiang region” by Global Times. The news outlet linked these “anti-China forces’ efforts” to the BCI decision to suspend its Xinjiang activities.

 

A Social Media Storm over Xinjiang Cotton

 

The news developments were followed by a wave of social media boycott movements and Chinese brand ambassadors cutting ties with international brands, with H&M being the main target over its Xinjiang statement.

Chinese e-commerce platforms Taobao, JD.com, Pinduoduo, Suning.com, and Meituan’s Dianping on Thursday all removed H&M from their platforms, with Chinese Android app stores also removing H&M. On Thursday, a search for “H&M” came up with no results on these sites (see images below).

Two of China’s largest online maps also removed H&M from its systems.

No H&M on these maps.

On Thursday, virtually all topics in Weibo’s top trending lists related to the Xinjiang cotton ban (see image below), with Chinese famous influencers and celebrities one by one announcing they would terminate their contracts with international brands related to the Xinjiang cotton ban.

The storm became so big this week that some people on social media even commented that “if you’re a Chinese celebrity and you don’t have any contracts to terminate now, you’re not doing so well.”

After H&M, an entire list of brands was targeted, including Adidas, Nike, Calvin Klein, New Balance, Tommy Hilfiger, Uniqlo, Converse, Puma, Burberry, and Lacoste.

In light of the heated discussions and calls for boycotts, there was also another hashtag that popped up on Weibo, namely that of “don’t make it hard for the workers” (不要为难打工人). The hashtag came up after some Chinese staff members at Nike and Adidas stores were scolded on a live stream, with netizens calling on people to stay rational and not let the boycott turn into personal attacks on people. But another popular video showed a man in Chongqing calling customers out in an H&M store for buying their “trash.”

Another hashtag gaining many views, 520 million in total, was that of two ‘girls from Xinjiang dancing outside H&M’ (#新疆小姐姐在HM门店外跳新疆舞#) – it was linked to a video that showed two women performing outside of a H&M store in Chongqing.

Meanwhile, some brands, including Chinese company Anta Sports and the Japanese Asics, reportedly announced they would leave the Better Cotton Initiative in order to continue sourcing cotton from Xinjiang.

The discussions on Xinjiang as Weibo saw this week are unprecedented, as ‘Xinjiang’ was previously a sensitive topic on Chinese social media and was barely discussed in political contexts. The last time Xinjiang became a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media was in 2018, when CCTV aired a program on the region’s “vocational education programs” in Xinjiang. That media moment triggered mixed reactions on Weibo, with some commenters wondering what the difference between a ‘re-education center’ and a ‘prison’ is.

 

Chinese State Media and the ‘Xinjiang Cotton Ban’

 

While Chinese netizens and celebrities play a major role in the storm that erupted over BCI, H&M, and Xinjiang cotton, the role of Chinese state media is pivotal.

Over the past week, various state media outlets posted strong messages regarding the ban in various ways, the most noteworthy one being People’s Daily‘s “I Support Xinjiang Cotton” (#我支持新疆棉花#) hashtag, which had garnered six billion views by the weekend. “The H&M Group released a statement that sparked outrage among netizens. Let’s pass it on together: Support Xinjiang Cotton,” the tagline of the hashtag page said.

The message came with an image saying “Xinjiang Mianhua” (Xinjiang cotton) in a similar font to the H&M logo, the “H” and “M” within ‘mianhua‘ being identical to the H&M letters.

The image and post by People’s Daily was shared over 36 million times.

A message by People’s Daily: those who slander China are not welcome.

Another image by People’s Daily published on March 25 said that the Chinese market does not welcome those who slander China.

The Communist Youth League also contributed to the online storm by posting about H&M, writing: “On the one hand they are starting rumors and boycotting Xinjiang cotton, on the other hand they want to make money in China. Dream on, H&M!” That post received around 430,000 likes.

Various official media, including Global Times and China Daily, posted about cotton production in Xinjiang. Besides refuting the forced labor accusations and accusing Western players of hypocrisy and ulterior motives, a recurring issue stressed is how 42 percent of Xinjiang’s cotton is harvested by machines. Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng was quoted as saying that “the so-called forced labor in Xinjiang is nonexistent and entirely imaginary. The spotless white Xinjiang cotton brooks no slander.”

This image was posted by China Daily USA.

On March 27, People’s Daily posted a rap video by ‘Xinjiang Youth’ (新疆青年) on its official Weibo channel (video below) that included some tough lines attacking Western powers, companies, and media.

Also noteworthy in this propaganda campaign is how the Canadian YouTuber Daniel Dumbrill got caught up, as what he said in one of his videos was quoted by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying (华春莹) on March 27 during a press conference, with his video being screened before the conference.

In this video, that was part of a larger panel on Xinjiang, Dumbrill responded to the decision-making process on how China’s treatment of Uyghurs is called a “genocide.”

Recently, a number of countries and parliaments including the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands have declared that China’s crackdown on the Muslim minorities amounts to “genocide” in violation of the U.N. Genocide Convention. Dumbrill talks about why the Xinjiang narratives matter to both the foreign and domestic politics of the US and other Western countries, with Dumbril claiming it “isn’t really about human rights and a care for overseas Muslims” but about other political goals. Dumbrill’s video was praised by authorities, state media, and by Chinese netizens.

“We have to push for the truth to come out,” some netizens commented. Others wrote: “But we’re only allowed to discuss it from within [the country].”

Meanwhile, while many companies are seeing sales falling, there are also many who are benefiting from the current developments. Some sellers on Taobao have found another way to attract customers, promoting their products as being made with “100% Xinjiang Cotton!”

As this is an ongoing topic, we will report more later. Meanwhile, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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

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

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China Media

About Yang Jiechi’s Instant Noodle Lunch at the US-China Talks in Alaska

Chinese state media want to make sure that you know that top diplomat Yang Jiechi had instant noodles for lunch during the top-level US-China talks in Alaska.

Manya Koetse

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A 12-second video in which top diplomat Yang Jiechi said he had an instant noodle lunch became a topic of discussion in China, where one hashtag on the issue attracted over 270 million views. It’s about more than noodles alone.

The high-level talks between U.S. and Chinese officials in Alaska concluded on Friday. While international media describe the talks as “tough” and exposing the “depth of tensions” between the United States and China, many netizens also focus on the smaller events that occurred during the talks.

Besides the cool and collected way in which Chinese interpreter Zhang Jing (张京) went about her job, the fact that Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪) had remarked he had instant noodles for lunch also triggered discussions on Weibo.

Chinese state media outlet CGTN published a short video showing how Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) and Yang walk to enter a session of the high-level talks, with Wang asking Yang “Have you had lunch?” Yang then answers: “Yes, instant noodles.”

The topic was discussed on Weibo in multiple threads and under the hashtags “Yang Jiechi Had Instant Noodles for Lunch” (#杨洁篪午饭吃泡面#) and “The Instant Noodles Yang Jiechi Had for Lunch” (#杨洁篪午饭吃的泡面#). The latter received had 270 million views on Weibo by Sunday evening.

Noteworthy enough, the hashtag page “Yang Jiechi Had Instant Noodles for Lunch” was initiated by Party newspaper People’s Daily. Together with the video published by CGTN, this shows that state media are purposely bringing ‘noodle gate’ to the attention of readers – both inside and outside of China.

Some Chinese news outlets reported that no formal dinner was arranged for the Chinese diplomats at the strategic dialogue due to COVID19, and that their lunch apparently consisted of simple noodles.

On Twitter, Christian Goebbels (@Chri5tianGoebel), Professor of Modern China Studies at the University of Vienna, commented: “My first thought when seeing this was: this is a complaint that the hosts didn’t even serve their guests a proper lunch, which Chinese viewers (and the guests!) would consider incredibly rude. If they wanted to create a good atmosphere, they should’ve served up a banquet.”

Jonathan Sullivan, Associate Professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies at University of Nottingham, called the noodle incident a “meaningful detail” on Twitter (@jonlsullivan), writing: “It fits the narrative that the US is inhospitable & disrespectful, incapable of treating China as a power of equal standing.”

Many netizens on Weibo take a similar stance, writing: “The American etiquette is unsatisfactory,” and: “Let’s not pay attention to food, they completely lack etiquette.”

“Jeez, these Americans don’t even care about food,” others wrote.

“It’s extremely insulting,” one blogger wrote: “This is a superpower, their strategy is despicable, to send our diplomatic staff off with a bucket of noodles!”

On Twitter, George Washington University Law Professor Donald Clarke called ‘noodle-gate’ a “non-story,” saying: “A reliable source tells me that China agreed on no joint meals for Covid reasons. Thus, no big banquet. If someone wants to order noodles instead of a proper meal from room service, they can do that, but it’s their choice, not something forced on them.”

But meanwhile, on Weibo, commenters are adding that plenty of restaurants in Alaska are still operating, suggesting that there would have been options to socialize safely.

In Chinese culture, it is a custom to hold a banquet for business, diplomatic, or even trivial events, with meal gatherings being used as a social lubricant; a way to build and maintain relations.

With food and meal gatherings being such an important part of communicative practices in relationship-building in China, Yang Jiechi having instant noodles by himself for lunch is much more than just that. From the perspective of many Chinese, it shows little consideration for the Chinese cultural background and not a lot of hospitality from the Americans towards their Chinese guests.

The fact that the US-China talks were icy does not help. State media outlet Global Times said that American National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken “unjustifiably attacked and accused China’s domestic and foreign policies” and “seriously prolonged its opening remarks.”

The Chinese delegation blamed the Americans, who invited the Chinese to Anchorage to have the strategic dialogue, for lacking “hospitable [and] good diplomatic etiquette.”

The noodle incident already led to one Guancha blogger coining the term ‘noodle diplomacy’ (“泡面外交”).

“The decline of the US starts with a bowl of instant noodles,” some said on Weibo.

“Let’s at least hope it was a ‘unifying’ beef noodle that he had,” some on Weibo jokingly commented.

Although many see the noodle lunch as a symbol of American inhospitality, there are also many commenters who see it as a practical and safe way to have lunch: “It’s good this way – at least nobody can poison him.”

“I want to know which brand [of instant noodles] he’s having, I want it too!”

By Manya Koetse

Featured image by Miguel Andrade.

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

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

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