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With the pervasiveness of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in our internet driven lives, it’s hard to imagine a country where half a billion internet users don’t have access to these and other websites we take for granted–but it’s true. China has the largest internet population in the world but thing work a bit differently there, not least because of the 2 million people employed by the state to monitor web activity

This can be especially challenging for expats and people staying connected with family on the other side of the border.  Even before social media took off, my experience spending a year in China 10 years included the sense of being cut-off from what was going back home because my regular websites were routinely blocked: I even missed a launch of a Radiohead album until I heard it playing in a Starbucks in Hong Kong.  Moving forward a few years, I’ve gotten used to getting sporadic comments on my older Facebook activities whenever my Shanghai based sister is travelling outside of China.

Lack of access to social media sites popular outside of China doesn’t mean that Chinese web surfers don’t micro-blog, upload and watch cat videos or keep up with friends online: there are just local versions of these services. To build an online audience in China and connect with users there, you’ll have to leverage the local social media sites available.  Here’s list of approximate social media equivalents in and outside of China for major categories.

Category Outside of China China
Micro-blogging Twitter

Sina Weibo

Tencent Weibo

Social Networking Service Facebook

Renren

Douban

QZone

Video Sharing

YouTube

Vimeo

YouKu

Tudou

Ku6.com

Search

Google

Bing

Yahoo!

Baidu

Qihoo 360

Professional Social Networking Service LinkedIn

Renhe

Ushi

This should provide some food for thought, something along the lines of a steamed bao dumpling you get off the street in Beijing.

ℹ For a list of websites blocked in Chinase, visit List of websites blocked in China

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3 Comments

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  1. R. Beeren

    Just for my information, are all of these sites monitored by the Chinese government? I assume so as stated in the first part of your blog. Is there also ways the Chinese can upload content that isn’t monitored? Is there a big underground scene?

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    1. Jason Lax Post author

      We know that the sites and services must have a working relationship with the government in order to operate so that the censors can maintain the goal of civil harmony.

      I don’t know of any ways around the firewall: I generally just call my sister directly or thru Skype and send photos by e-mail.

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  2. Jason Lax Post author

    I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague at SAP China today.  The growth in mobile is so strong that app driven WeChat and LINE are now some of the most (if not the most) popular forms of social media in China. 

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