Saturday, March 10, 2012

China in Weibo/Episode 1: The Iconoclast of Lei Feng (Watch Video)

A famous reporter in China once told me: China is a country where truth is in short supply. Well, until weibo came along.

Weibo is the Chinese name for mircoblog. The most popular microblog service in China right now is the one provided by, or Sina Weibo. Weibo is a concept borrowed from Twitter, which is not accessible in China. Adopting Twitter’s standard, posts on weibo cannot exceed 140 Chinese characters, which actually account for more words than do English letters of the same amount. With 140 Chinese characters, roughly 70 words, a weibo post can express a lot.

The China unveiled on weibo is very different from the one presented in any traditional media outlet in the country. Weibo carries facts and opinions one can never see in traditional media, because weibo, which is open to everybody who can get online, is not so tightly controlled by China’s propaganda authorities. Despite rumors that the authorities may shut it down completely someday, so far, weibo is alive and well.

Weibo thus has become the platform for whistleblowers to reveal official corruption, for people to criticize the government or simply express opinions that might otherwise be silenced. As such, weibo also has become a window through which one can see China from a very different perspective.

Starting this week, I will choose on a rather regular basis interesting stories, debates and phenomena that I spot on Sina Weibo and present the information through multimedia.

This first episode is about Lei Feng, a national icon died 50 years ago, and how people use weibo to articulate different meanings of this icon than those presented in state media.

The New York Times published an article on March 5 on the same topic.

Related articles:
More on Lei Feng (Xinhua resource; in Chinese)