In many liberal and democratic countries, social media has proven to be a powerful tool in many aspects. Not only can you post and share whatever it is that’s on your mind, many use it as a source of relaying information as well. In a country like China where news information has been carefully crafted to suit the needs of the government, social media is a breath of fresh air. While their citizens are restricted in the content that they choose to share, this avenue for conversation is freedom of speech like they have never tasted before.
Some of the top players in the game are Tencent Weibo, Sina Weibo, RenRen, and Qzone. These sites range from 172 million to 712 million overall active users that have been continuously rising ever since their launches within the last ten years. In these platforms, users can write blogs, share photos, share music, microblog, chat, and so much more. In fact, you can even pay for your bills through their Wechat app. These sites are more than just replicas of our everyday media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These have been specifically designed to cater to the Chinese market to serve their needs.
Sina Weibo is a good example, known as the Chinese hybrid of Twitter and Facebook. Each post is limited to 140 characters that may seem short in Romanized language but is perfect for the Chinese language. Posts have the leeway to voice out longer streams of thought, no matter what the topic. Microblogging has become quite popular since the site’s debut in 2009. This not only pertains to China’s youth, but to many professionals as well. People in government, professors, filmmakers, and even Western celebrities have flocked onto the site. It has become a place for proper discussion and conversation that gives you a peek into the minds that encompass China.
These media sites explore a wide range of topics, like celebrity gossip, news, and popular subjects to name a few. Information that is written on here is spread incredibly quickly, which can be a good thing or bad thing depending on the situation at hand. Businesses and people in high positions are most at risk, as one mistake can cause either to plummet in a short amount of time.
In one instance, an aspiring actress named Guo Meimei posted many pictures that showcased her amassed wealth. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal, except for a verified account that stated she was working together with Red Cross had netizens speculating that she had been using charity funds for personal gain. This began an opening for many to criticize the government, wherein they had to intervene the wild rumors of their inefficiency with handling donated funds. The government prompted the directors to include a disclaimer sign when sensitive information is being shared.
As for the good, this platform is useful in emergencies and receiving news even outside of the country. This can be noted when two vloggers posted a video on Weibo regarding a hotel chain in Japan’s refusal to acknowledge the events that occurred during the Rape of Nanking. Clearly, Chinese citizens weren’t having any of it and raged on Sina Weibo. Another instance was when a bullet train in Zhejiang province crashed and injured around 200 people, excluding the 40 that passed away. Netizens that posted about the incident allowed the action to be executed quickly and properly.
Because of these social media sites where Chinese netizens are able to express their thoughts and opinions properly, China is carving themselves a path in new territory. While so much more can be done to improve the system, for now, they’re headed in the right direction.