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Chinese Whispers

The power of Weibo


When the tennis star Peng Shuai had a row with her former lover, the retired Party cadre Zhang Gaoli, she took to Weibo, the Chinese social media platform, where she had half a million followers. It was in that statement that she accused Zhang of starting their affair with sexual assault.
The statement was taken down within minutes, demonstrating the power, speed – and, arguably, the manual nature – of China’s online censors. On this podcast, we’ve previously talked about the nature of journalism in China – but what about social media, that inherently decentralised medium? What role does the digital space play in Chinese lives, how reliable is it as a source of Chinese public opinion, and how do people feel about being monitored and, potentially, censored?
On the podcast, I speak to Manya Koetse, the founder of whatsonweibo.com, which collates and translates the latest trends and topics from the platform into English; as well as Shen Lu, a reporter for Protocol who covers China and tech.