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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


This story is still developing.

Read more about articles about Sino-US relations here.

By Manya Koetse

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.

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

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

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Yu Xingwu

    August 1, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    Just found a spelling mistake in para.5: TikTok CEO is Kevin Mayer, not Kevin Mayers.

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China Digital

Key Players, Digital Trends & Deep Dives: China Internet Report 2021

SCMP just launched its latest China Internet Report. (And What’s on Weibo readers can get a 30% discount on the Pro Edition!)

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As China’s tech sector has been facing an ongoing crackdown by Beijing regulations, a lot has been changing in the country’s digital environment over the past year. The new China Internet Report 2021 by SCMP gives an overview of the latest trends and developments.

When it comes to China’s online landscape, nothing ever stays the same. Over the past year, political, economic, and social developments and measures have once again changed the Chinese digital environment.

Giving a comprehensive overview of the key leaders and major trends dominating the Chinese online field, South China Morning Post (SCMP) issued its fourth annual China Internet Report.

China’s internet population has now risen to 989 million – last year’s report indicated an internet population of 904 million. By now, there are 853 million mobile payment users, which indicates that over 86% of the entire mobile internet population uses mobile as a way to pay.

As China’s internet population is still growing, and new online startups are still popping up every day, there have been tightening regulations on multiple fronts.

As laid out in SCMP’s report, regulations mainly focus on the four areas of antitrust, finance, cybersecurity, and data privacy. Regulatory actions targeting the monopolistic behaviours of China’s biggest internet companies are still ongoing, and the new Data Security Law came into effect on September 1st of this year.

While Chinese tech companies are seeing increased scrutiny at home, they have also been facing intensifying geopolitical tensions between China and other countries. Over the past year, the various probes and shutdowns into Chinese companies by countries such as the US and India have meant a serious blow to the market share of Chinese apps.

Meanwhile, the SCMP report highlights the trend of various older and newer Chinese (e-commerce) apps “downplaying” their Chinese origins when entering foreign markets. Shein is a good example of this development, but other players including Zaful, Urbanic, and Cider are also experiencing more success outside of China while not explicitly marketing themselves as Chinese e-commerce apps.

Another noteworthy trend explained in the new report is how China’s shifting demographics are creating new niche segments to compete over. The COVID-19 crisis is partially a reason why China has seen an increase in senior internet users, with an increasing number of online products and content catering to the elderly.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) even issued special guidelines earlier this year for web pages and mobile apps to carry out so-called “elderly friendliness modifications.” Since this user group is still expected to see significant growth, the “silver economy” is an area that will only become more important in the years to come.

To check out all the main trends for 2021, China’s latest internet statistics, its top tech competitors, internet companies, and more, here’s a link to the free report.

The free report is 55 pages long and gives an overview of China’s latest internet numbers and players, covers the top cross-sector trends for 2021, including the tightening regulations and the bumpy road ahead for China’s tech IPOs.

The Pro Edition of China’s Internet Report 2021, also launched by SCMP, is 138 pages long and provides a deep-dive into ten relevant sectors – featuring insightful and useful analysis, data, and case studies relating to China’s e-commerce market, content & media, gaming, blockchain, fintech, online education, healthtech, smart cars, 5G, and Artificial Intelligence.

The China Internet Report Pro Edition is priced at US$400, but the team at SCMP has kindly reached out and made it possible for us to offer a special 30% discount to What’s on Weibo readers.

You’ll get the discount by using the discount code: WHATSONWEIBO30, or by clicking this link that will automatically include your discount code.

By Manya Koetse

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 Digital

How Social Media Is Speeding Up Zhengzhou Flooding Rescue Efforts

Chinese social media are speeding up local rescue efforts after Zhengzhou saw the heaviest rain in 1,000 years.

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Social media is utilized as a tool in the response to the floodings in Henan province. Once again, Weibo facilitates active public participation to provide immediate assistance to the people facing this natural disaster. 

On Tuesday, July 20, heavy rainfall caused major disruptions in the central province of Henan. The amount of rain over the last three days in Zhengzhou is reported to be the same as what it would usually receive in an entire year.

It is reported that Henan Province has initiated the highest-level emergency response to floods, and China’s State Flood Control and Drought Relief Bureau has dispatched a workgroup to Henan, initiating level III emergency response rescue work.

Since the evening of July 20, news and information streams on the heavy rains and floods have been dominating Chinese social media. In the midst of the disastrous events, Weibo has become an online space for people seeking help, those disseminating information on available resources, and for other related activities that help netizens engage in emergency management and accessing information.

The volume of such messages is huge, with thousands of netizens seeking ways to help speed up rescue work and actively contribute to the emergency relief efforts.

The organically improvised response protocol on social media includes the following guidelines:

  • Verify, summarize, highlight, and spread online help requests posted by people from different locations
  • Remind people to delete help-seeking posts once they have been rescued or have found assistance.
  • Disseminate relevant knowledge relating to emergency care and response, and public health information, such as how to deal with different disaster scenarios, warning people about the safety of drinking water during floods, etc.
  • Share information regarding mental health and psychosocial support during the different phases of the disaster.

 

When posts of people trapped by the heavy rain started to be published on Weibo, many online influencers, no matter what subject they usually focus on, participated in spreading help-request posts that were not getting a lot of online attention.

Erdi 耳帝, a music influencer with nearly 15 million fans on Weibo, has been retweeting the online posts of people asking for help since the night of July 20.

The social media influencer Erdi has been kept retweeting asking-for-help posts since the night of July 20.

An example of such an online emergency help request (求助贴) is the following post of July 21st, 17:15 local time:

Our entire neighborhood is cut off from water and electricity, the water level is rising to chest level, and we currently have no drinking water at the moment. Need help urgently.

Status: Verified, pending rescue.
Seeking help: Wu M**, phone 13*****27
Number of people to be rescued: five or six thousand
Location: Zhengzhou City, Henan Province, Zhengdong New District, Shangdu / Xuzhuang Street intersection, east courtyard of Shangdu Jiayuan Muzhuang district (we can’t exit the building, there is no water, no electricity, no supplies, and it’s been 24 hours)

Once people who have been trapped by the water are rescued, the user who published the post will delete the original post to make sure other emergency posts are also noticed and disseminated.

Some Weibo users engage in organizing scattered online information in one single post, e.g. posts regarding local electricity leakage, making this information more accessible and easier to understand.

One post that was among the top-shared ones this week, is a picture that includes contact information of rescue teams of both officials and civilians. When realizing that some people were unable to upload the picture due to poor internet connections caused by the heavy rain, an up-to-date and full-text version was quickly shared by netizens.

Some Weibo users listed various methods to get assistance for hearing-impaired and deaf-mute people affected by the floods, advising people to download various apps to help to communicate and translate.

Besides the more general practical advice and emergency action plans shared by Chinese social media users, there are also those who pay attention to the importance of personal hygiene during these times. Some are sending out information about menstrual hygiene needs during floods, reminding women to frequently change sanitary pads and try to keep the genital area clean and dry due to the risk of infection. A hashtag related to menstruation during the flooding momentarily ranked fifth in the top search lists (#河南暴雨 如果你出在经期<).

Information on mental health support is disseminated all across social media.

People also try to provide mental support in other ways. A student orchestra spontaneously performed at the Zhengzhou station, where dozens of passengers were left stranded in the night. The video clips of the performance went viral, with the young musicians playing two widely-known songs, “My People, My Country” (我和我的祖国) and “Ode to the Motherland” (歌唱祖国). Many social media users shared the clips and expressed how the performance moved them to tears.

Some video clips that show how ordinary people save ordinary people amid such a natural disaster have also been widely shared. One video shows citizens of Zhengzhou standing in a line and use a rope to pull people from an underground floor where they were trapped by the water flooded.

In all the aforementioned ways and many more, Weibo has become a public platform for Chinese people to respond to the Henan disaster, efficiently communicate and keep track of help requests, organize and disseminate related information, and provide access to timely knowledge and relevant advice.

With so many online influencers and ordinary netizens voluntarily joining in, the online information flows are quickly circulating, allowing for necessary public communication channels while other resources and communication methods are still overwhelmed or in the making. The last time Weibo was used as an efficient emergency communication tool was during the early days of the COVID19 outbreak in Wuhan.

“Please stand strong, Zhengzhou” and “Hang on, Henan,” many commenters write: “Help is underway!”

Also see our previous article on the situation in Zhengzhou here.

By Wendy Huang

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

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

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