TOMMY SUTJIPTO WRITES – Although heavily censored, social networking sites in China continue to grow, develop, and attract hundreds of new users daily. Indeed, marketing analysts say the country is experiencing a social boom, with users drawn by innovative digital services and slick marketing efforts.
According to Benjamin Duvall at Linkfluence, China is “recognizably the world’s biggest growth engine and source of digital innovation.” Duvall says that by 2018 China will outspend the U.S. in digital R&D two-to-one. Developmental research is the primary phase where technology becomes profit-oriented or commercialized. In other words, Chinese social media will continue to grow and introduce more innovations at speedy rates.
The government is notorious for sophisticated and extensive censorship meant to control every aspect of citizens’ lives.Nowhere is this more evident than on the Web, through the Golden Shield Project, also known as the Great Firewall of China. This system has blocked access to numerous websites, such as YouTube, all other Google services, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Dropbox and Foursquare.
To fill the gaps, China has introduced its own social media platforms, further growing its Internet influence, at least among Chinese.
Even though the platforms grew from censorship, surprisingly, people have gained more freedom of speech than you might expect. The modern Chinese culture is characterized by its openness in sharing personal experiences — more so than commenting on global political and social events. That’s a key reason the government is so keen to block foreign social media platforms. Arguably, Chinese citizens are more concerned with their daily lives, featuring more images and sharing more details about their fun activities.
Popular social media platforms include Sina Weibo, essentially the Facebook of China, and WeChat, an equivalent to SnapChat, FB messenger, or WhatsApp. These applications are considered the top Chinese social media sites of 2017. Between January 2016 and January 2017, the number of active users of social media in the Republic of China increased by twenty percent.
YouTube was replaced by Youku and Baidu took the place of Google. These social media platforms are essentially replicas of their western “older brothers.”
The government’s censorship has not suppressed the growth of social media, but rather caused it to flourish.
What differentiates China’s social media platforms from its western equivalents is how Chinese citizens use these outlets. The modern Chinese users are concerned with sharing their daily lives and experiencing the daily lives of other Chinese netizens far more than with global affairs and politics. Also, Chinese social networking sites are the recognized global leaders of digital innovation and development, far surpassing websites such as Facebook.
As the Chinese authorities continue to monitor the national social media platforms in an attempt to bring them under more control, the networking services continue to flourish and grow at an unprecedented rate– and against all odds.