Going Viral on Chinese Social Media

An episode of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation show Foreign Correspondent recently went viral on weibo, with 7.5 million clicks on a program about the “fu er dai” or rich second-generation. China correspondent Stephen McDonell talks to Jeremy Goldkorn of Danwei about social media in China and why McDonell’s show spread so far so fast, especially considering it is not broadcast in China:

JEREMY GOLDKORN: Social media has, perhaps for the first time in Chinese history, given every citizen a space where they can express themselves that really never used to exist in any institutionalised format. China’s never had a very uncensored letters to the editors pages in its newspapers etc. and social media has given people a place to express themselves that is just unprecedented.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: And on Weibo can you just talk about anything, or are there certain subjects completely off limits, or where are the lines?

JEREMY GOLDKORN: People do try to talk about absolutely anything on Weibo but there are lots of subjects that you can’t talk about. And most of the subjects that you can’t talk about if you do start talking about them your postings get deleted and if you continue to talk about them your account may possibly be deleted. And this censorship is done by Sina, the company that controls Weibo, because they have to because their business licence is dependent on government approval of them, and the government expects them to make sure that the content is clean.

But it is nonetheless remarkable, despite the censorship what a wide and vibrant range of discussion there is on Weibo about every issue imaginable of concern to the Chinese people.