It is quite interesting to read UK Prime Minister’s Weibo posts about his trip to China.
‘Hello my friends in China. I’m pleased to have joined Weibo and look forward to visiting China very soon.’ He said on Weibo, ‘I enjoyed visiting the ‘Masterpieces of Chinese Paintings’ exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London yesterday before my trip to China.’
I once did a research on information flow on Weibo at my master’s. At that time there were rumours of Chinese former Chairman Hu Jintao was on social media. But it was a bluff, the account of the former chairman of China was registered when he attended an online ‘dialogue’ with Chinese citizens back in 2008. It was already something big. People in China made a big fuzz about the leader of the country engaging with social media.
I also found out about the leader of Taiwan Ma Yingjiu also wanted to register an account on Chinese social media. Yet due to political dispute between mainland China and Taiwan, his microblog may also been deleted.
But then my research about social media audiences in China was based on a fan blog for the current Chairman of China, Xi Jinping. It was a Weibo account that posted photos of the Chairman of China visiting various places even faster than the Chinese official media. Then people raised the suspicion that it was the Chairman himself who was behind that ‘Xi’s Fan Club’ account.
But look at PM of the UK, he registered a Weibo account, or at least his PR for Chinese affairs did, and it’s just there, telling people that ‘I am PM of the UK, hello to people in China.’ It is straightforward, no disguise, no pretending (oh well, maybe), and willing to communicate with whoever care about the UK.
I think it’s also a matter of Chinese people always feeling prestigious about themselves. During my work with China International Film Festival London, I did meet some prestige people such as British chancellor or successful film producer. But they don’t have a problem with telling me who they are and what they do.
On the contrary, I was at another event where ‘obviously’ some famous Chinese was there, but not bother to tell me who she is as we talked. Well, I really don’t know who you are, so maybe you are not who you think you are. (my dear readers, you don’t really have to make sense of the sentence above)
My argument is, why Chinese leaders or well-established people are afraid of facing the public or why they have to make themselves so ‘not a common person’ than others? Why there are so many angry voices every time I read news and posts on Weibo? Because the leaders are disengaging with common people in China. If they were to lead the country, but ignore the most basic way of listening to their thoughts via the Internet, I am really not sure how this is going to work.
But not all the things are in a bad shape. Some Chinese local authorities do have social media accounts to publish news and update Weibo users with their governmental activities. But by comparing UK and China political system, you will see that political individuals in the UK take up more representations on social media, while in China, the government is represented just by accordant department. So if the price of public transportation in London is still raising, we blame Boris Johnson, and he would tell people that he is actually working on it. And we did have a lot of fun when asking PM David Cameron on Weibo about BBC TV series Sherlock Holmes.
Now I just googled news for sever air pollution in China, and all the news came from environmental department of China or administrative government press release. So this is a very interesting structure of public sphere for politics and media between China and the UK.
But I believe in Chinese efficiency on dealing with problems, so I look forward to Environment Protection Department of PRC doing something quickly so that it doesn’t become another Great Smog of China after the UK first had it 60 years ago.