Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is visiting China this week, and it is tempting to view the trip as the first step in a campaign to get his company inside the world’s most populous nation. After all, Twitter is struggling to add users, so it could stand to access a market of 600 million people connected to the internet.
Chinese internet company Sina plans to spin off its Twitter-like microblog service, Weibo, in a US initial public offering to raise US$500 million, a person with knowledge of the deal said on Tuesday. The person, who wasn’t authorised to speak publicly about the deal, said investment banks Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse had been hired to manage the IPO in New York.
China's largest official news agency, Xinhua, is experiencing some growing pains on Twitter. It started tweeting in March 2012, but has amassed only 22,942 followers since, small potatoes set against its 9.2 million fans on Weibo (Chinese Twitter). Snafus like this might help explain why Xinhua's not getting more English-language social media love.
China’s online community brimmed with disappointment - if not despair - on Tuesday after online media reported that Iran had granted its citizens access to Facebook and Twitter. Both sites had been walled off from Iranian users since 2009. This leaves China, along with its neighbour North Korea, among the very few countries which still block Facebook and Twitter. “Iranians are now returning to Facebook, yet we Chinese haven't even met Facebook,” one microblogger commented on Weibo.
China's 591 million web users are encouraged to think twice about information they share through social media in order to avoid serious punishment. Anyone caught using social media to spread "slanderous rumors" or "false information" about the government or politics can face up to 10 years in jail, according to a new legal interpretation of Internet restrictions.
In the last few weeks of July, the story of a young transgender couple who transitioned together, which had previously gone viral in the Western media, trended on Sina Weibo, China's popular microblogging platform. Although some Chinese people were puzzled by the story, many praised the couple for their bravery and the quality of their relationship. Chinese reactions to the story on Weibo were generally positive. Wrote queer news organization @淡蓝同志新闻: "Everyone has the right to love. Be yourself! Good luck! Others can learn from your experience as a #genderswapcouple."
One of the ways to think about China's Internet is as a Bizarro version of the World Wide Web. Facebook and Twitter are banned, but social networking sites like Sina Weibo and Kaixinwang operate freely. Instead of YouTube, there is Youku Tudou. And while Google does operate in China -- albeit intermittently -- the Chinese company Baidu dominates the search engine market. A foreign observer of the Chinese internet might conclude, to paraphrase Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction: "They've got the same stuff there that we do here, it's just ... a little bit different."
The last time they were in Hong Kong, two filmmakers from Wong Fu Productions got “pop-star style” hair cuts and ate McCurry burgers at McDonald’s. The two Chinese American YouTube stars embraced the local culture for what it was – a mixture of flash and culture. Wesley Chan and Philip Wang, who founded their film company in California with a third member, Ted Fu, said their roots were here in Asia. That’s part of the reason they keep coming back.