Twitter is banned in China, as is Facebook. I could access it through my 3G at extortionate cost but not through wifi. Instead they have their own version, Weibo, which has 300 million registered users, making it bigger than Twitter (although there’s some duplication of accounts and it’s estimated that of China’s 457 million Internet users, only 63 million are micro-bloggers). There are ten Chinese celebrities with more than 10 million followers apiece.
As with the UK and Twitter, Weibo seems to be at the centre of all the news stories, and features in all the end of year reviews. One I read in an English language daily said “Weibo posters waded in on all the major news events and at times became part of the story. Weibo is now the fastest way news is spread in the country. The unprecedented free-wheeling discussions generated millions of posts a day. Weibo postings appear dominated by progressive, even radical advocates whose no holds barred criticism sometimes created a cat and mouse game in which news was spread as fast as possible before it disappeared.”
Weibo was given credit for helping to produce more independent candidates in elections to county and district level people’s congresses (which are the only direct elections in China) and for a campaign to organise free lunches for school pupils. There was also a backlash when born-again Christian celebrities, Lu Liping and Sun Haiying, used Weibo to promote their homophobic views. And trollling appears to be a worldwide phenomenon, prompting a change in rules requiring new users to register with real names, which as you can imagine is proving controversial.