How is Chinese internet reacting to the Biden-Xi meeting? | Following the yuan
Translation of today's trending lists from six Chinese social media platforms incl. Weibo, Baidu, Douyin, Kuaishou, Bilibili and Xiaohongshu
After many years of turbulent relations heightened by the trade war, chip war and military tension, Xi Jinping met with the Biden Administration today in San Francisco to straighten things out.
I initially intended to analyze comments generated from various social platforms, like what I’ve done with the ‘spy balloon’ piece. But I soon realized the high-level involvement would not allow any room for alternative views.
So this time, I’m turning my focus to the ‘trending’ 热搜 lists, a feature that was first populated by Weibo since 2010, and then adopted by basically every social media platforms and online news platforms. The trending lists are a big part of Chinese people’s media recipe, and they also define what gets to be called news.
In a 2020 paper sponsored by Ministry of Education, a lecturer of Zhengzhou University wrote that “instantaneousness, popularity, user engagement, and correct orientation are embedded in the code writing and design” of Weibo. The last factor ‘correct orientation 导向正确’ is particularly interesting — it does not suggest condemnation of misinformation and disinformation — instead, it indicates that Weibo’s list should be in line with the party views.
The added political filter influences the lists we are seeing today. Almost all the snippets are from Xi’s speech, and it is hard to say whether those are requested by officials, or embedded by platforms to kiss ass, or are driven purely by traffic. That is…with the exception of Xiaohongshu and Bilibili, whose algorithms may be more organic and user-driven.
It’s tough to put Chinese social platform on a political spectrum because there is only one option, and apolitical does not equate to left-leaning. So I made this to commemorate the event:
[Author: the lists below are collected on Nov. 15 at different hours. Every platform has different rules and updates the trending items at various frequencies (i.e. Weibo does it every 10 mins). More updates of user comments will be made on Friday.]
Weibo, Twitter-like social media platform with 584M MAU:
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Following the yuan to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.