Twitter, the place where celebrities start arguments and politicians tell the world what they really think, has been blocked in China since 2009. However, it seems that people in China have somehow managed to find a way around the Great Firewall. An anonymous source from Twitter talked to TechCrunch and revealed that there is an estimated number of 10 million active users from China.
That is around 3.2% of the website’s total monthly users (310 million), which is a lot less than the previously estimated amount. Last September, London firm GlobalWebIndex conducted a study, approximating that there were 35.5 million users from China, leading many news sources to dub China as the country with the “most active Twitter users.”
Although, the 10 million users figure is still contested. Most Chinese users bypass the firewall by using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), causing the data to show users being located in countries where Twitter isn’t blocked, such as American, Singapore, Japan.
While Twitter offers advertisements to Chinese companies interested in a global audience, it is still widely closed off to China’s large market. Sina Weibo, which is essentially China’s own Twitter, has already amassed 236 million monthly users, Tencent reports. Stephen Hawking and Tim Cook have all created their own Weibo accounts to get closer to the Chinese population.
While jogging in Beijing’s air and learning Mandarin may be effective, Twitter appears to be trying a different strategy of getting itself unblocked in China, hiring an individual with ties to the PLA as its managing director for Greater China.
Right after being appointed, Kathy Chen received congratulatory tweets from both CCTV and Xinhua news. Users, on the other hand, were less delighted with Chen’s appointment and work with not only the People Liberation Army’s missile arm, but also with a joint venture between California-based CA Technologies and China’s Ministry of Public Security.
“Twitter has vast amounts of users’ data. Given that US tech firms have in the past kowtowed to China, and given the military background of Kathy Chen, it’s only reasonable for the Chinese users of Twitter to be worried about the future,” argued He Qinglian, a prominent activist.
Either way, the biggest dilemma facing tech companies is whether or not to cave into censorship to access the market or retain their integrity.
If you happen to be one of these 10 million Twitter users, feel free to follow and tweet to us there!
By Sarah Lin