Has China's version of Twitter finally arrived?
Tom Cruise and Bill Gates have accounts. So do Radiohead and Harry Potter star Emma Watson. But when the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has an official page, has China’s Twitter finally arrived?
“Hello Sina weibo,” the 55-year-old Lagarde wrote in her first post, which, like all comments on Weibo, cannot be individually linked to, regrettably. “Looking forward to sharing updates here. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, IMF.”
Indeed, that fact hardly escaped the throngs of Chinese commenting on her digital arrival to China.
“hello,” Weibo user Mao Xuewang wrote in English, “chinese have no obligation to save Europe with our hard-earned money.”
By late Wednesday, Lagarde, the former French finance minister, had already amassed more than 40,000 followers and 1,000 comments in English, French, and Chinese.
For many, the IMF head’s arrival was a sure sign of Weibo’s growing influence. With about 200 million users (roughly the same size as Twitter), the massive social network is increasingly hard to ignore for any foreign leader who takes China seriously
“Weibo is getting more and more international” Weibo user arimeyoki wrote. “”Sina Weibo really has face. Even Lagarde is here,” added Xie Jia Pan Pan.
Many admonished Lagardeto for not speaking in Chinese (her four posts so far are all in English), while others worried about censorship. “I hope your posts won’t be censored!” wrote one user. “Do you understand keywords? Do you understand the Great Firewall of China?”
If the comments on Weibo are any indication, however, China’s censors are either unconcerned about what people are saying on Lagarde’s page or slow to press the delete key.
“Welcome!!!” GuoBoPrestroika wrote. “China is on the brink of Revolution. I hope the West will help us destroy the Iron Curtain, to liberate Chinese people from Communist Party.”