The Weibo effect
These incidents highlight how Weibo has become a key online-patriot outlet. The platform, which was founded in 2009, had expanded to 252 million daily active users by 2022. This makes it the most powerful nationalistic social media platform in China, especially when it comes to calling for a boycott of a company, person or country.
The number of active users by the end of each year (in millions)
Weibo is attracting an increasing number of younger users. About 80% of its users were born in the 1990s or later, according to the company’s 2021 annual report. Women are well represented, especially in more youthful age groups: 60% of users born after 2000 are female.
Many Weibo fans come from outside China’s largest urban areas. As of Dec. 31, 2018, more than 30% of users were from so-called fourth-tier cities or counties, defined in terms of their political status and economic development. Just 16% were from first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, according to Weibo.
Most Weibo users live outside China’s biggest urban centers.
The younger generation of Chinese nationalists are already sufficiently prominent to have earned their own nickname: “little pinks.” That is a reference to the Red Guards, a paramilitary youth organization that destroyed people’s homes at the start of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s to show allegiance to Chinese leader Mao Zedong.
Weibo’s output is further shaped by censorship that has tightened over the past decade. In a high-profile case in 2017, He Weifang, a prominent law professor at Peking University, decided to remain silent on Weibo after the platform repeatedly blocked his posts. Weibo even barred him from posting for 108 days for promoting universal values and the rule of law. When his Weibo account was shut down in 2017, he had about 1.9 million followers.
Censorship tightened further the next year. Beijing imposed new rules known as the Law on the Protection of Heroes and Martyrs. The party said it was needed because some people had “twisted history” and questioned communist heroes in the name of “academic freedom.”
Official pressure is manifested in fines imposed on social media platforms. Last year, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) imposed 45 penalties on Weibo totaling 17.3million yuan for repeatedly publishing “illegal” information.
When the Ukraine war broke out, the CAC ordered social media platforms not to allow internet polling or new discussions on the topic, according to a leaked document published by China Digital Times. The CAC also banned platforms from livestreaming footage from the battlefield.
From December 15, 2022, all news-related comments on Chinese online platforms would be reviewed by censors before publication, according to a new regulation introduced by the CAC. The agency didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Leave a Reply