April 13, 2021

China’s Approach to Social Media

By Brandon Hargrave

Social Media in China is different from anywhere else in the world. While companies across the board are looking to get into China because it Is such a huge market, their government has shut the door on the social media outlets that we are used to here in the states. The Chinese government has reported that there are 802 million people in China that actively use the internet which is almost 3x times the number of users in the US. More importantly that 802 million people represents less than 60% of the total population. This would be a gold mine for social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. However simple translations of American apps haven’t gone over well in China and they have created their own apps along with blocking the major apps as a well. For companies that can operate in the space they often drop the ball no understanding the market and people of the country. China more so that anywhere else in the world have doubled down on mobile. During my trip to China last year it was incredible to see the number of people that were on their phones. Now it wasn’t the fact that people were on phone its that everyone was on their phone. Some watched videos while others played games. My favorite was seeing someone watching Dave Chapelle’s latest stand up. Not having normal cellular service was a hurdle that the group had to overcome during my time in China. WhatsApp wasn’t an option that we could use because it was banned by the government, so we all downloaded WeChat. We all is a strong statement many people in the group had problems downloading the app and were left to stick with a larger group. WeChat is the app of all apps. It’s like you took all the popular social media apps from the western world and mashed it into one app. As of August 2018 it had an unbelievable 1.06 billion active users.

That number isn’t even something that I can truly wrap my head around. That is more than 3x times the entire population of the US. Yeah..The entire US. Having such a vast array of features along with the ability for 3rd party app integration makes WeChat a one of a kind app that would make it very difficult for the western social media apps to compete. Can’t forget about TIK TOK the latest global craze that has us feeling like its 2014 again (RIP Vine). It’s popularity has even sparked recording artist to dedicate a song to it.

For more on the top apps in China check out the link below


9 thoughts on “China’s Approach to Social Media

  1. Social media in China is such an interesting case study to look at. Like you said, their population makes it a huge market that the big social media companies would love to tap into, but is nearly impossible with the censorship that happens. The whole WeChat thing has also been something I’ve been interested in as well. I think it’s interesting that pretty much every app you could possibly need is all bundled into one, but at the same time, what is the security concern for that? As convenient as it may be to use WeChat to pay bills, send emails, buy transportation tickets, and much much more, I can’t help but think that I’d be a little skeptical of what would happen if someone gained access to my info. I’d also be really interested in learning more about how WeChat was able to grow so much. How did one company grow to be so widely accepted for everything? It’s fascinating to think about.
    I enjoyed reading your article, as it brought up some interesting thoughts (the fact that there are 3x as many WeChat users than there are Americans is a crazy fact to think about!).

  2. Hi Brandon,
    I enjoyed reading your blog post. China really is separated from the western world in terms of social media. This made me think back to stories my dad told me about China when he returned from his business trips. As an American visiting China, he was unable to access Facebook. Is this because the government wants to be able to track individuals’ social media footprint? With the large population of China only using one app, WeChat, it is much easier for the government to follow individuals of interest.

  3. Brandon,
    I found your post very interesting! Something I had never even thought about was the fact that the huge population of China would affect the country’s social media platforms so much. Another thing that I can’t wrap my head around is the extensive media regulation and the banning of certain apps and social media platforms. My roommate lived in China in high school and often tells me about how she could never access Snapchat or other basic platforms because of the government ban. I now feel fortunate that we live in a country without such strong censorship and the freedom use whatever platform and post what you want social media

  4. Social media use in China is a very interesting topic, due to both the size of the country’s population and the fact that the most popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are banned. I think it’s difficult for us to even compare WeChat with anything available here in the United States, as it would be as if we combined 3 or 4 of our most popular platforms into one app. And like you said, the number of active users on the app is three times the population of the entire U.S. This is a large portion of the entire world’s population that is disconnected from the rest of the world simply because they are not allowed to visit certain websites.

  5. Without becoming too political here, I will attempt to comment on the social media situation in China. Having embarked on the same trip that you did, I was privy to the same situations in which you found yourself. Yes, everyone was on their phones, but I fell like that is no different than here in the US. There are just a LOT more people in China.

    In regards to social media and WeChat, I saw this app as more of a social monitoring tool created by the government as opposed to a social media sharing platform. It felt as if the government had created this app so that they could control the narrative, monitor all discussions, locations, and private messages that were taking place. It is no secret that the government in the US and the one in China differ on many many policies. Social media in the US was originally created as a way of connecting with classmates, loved ones, and other acquaintances. While it has since mutated into a marketing, propaganda, and advertising machine, its origins are far less nefarious than the motives for WeChat and Chinese social media.

  6. Brandon,

    Very insightful and unique post. I knew China had strict government regulations, but didn’t realize it was to the point where US apps aren’t allowed. Why do you think that is? It seems like a lucrative business the China could exploit much like the US and other countries have when it comes to online commerce. Social media is a great way to get products out to the public and seems strange that they would want that.

  7. Hi Brandon,

    I was actually unaware of China not being able to use the same platforms as the US. It blows my mind that they triple the size of users in the US when we are also a country known for always being on our phones. I do not believe their social media usage is different then ours in the US but they are definitely a lot more people in China then in the US and there are things out there that it does not seem like they are taking advantage of when it comes to business like people would believe they would do.

  8. This is fascinating. In a lot of ways, it lives up to the stereotype of the Chinese government censoring everything, and yet with 802 million active internet users, perhaps not. I wonder if there just needs to be more education among western companies regarding what works and what doesn’t in China or if there are ways to get around the apps that don’t work there.

  9. This is a very interesting topic to cover and one that is super relevant right now! My roommate worked in China this past summer and also had to deal with the transition over to social media that she could access when abroad. Because she was only able to communicate via WeChat, I also had to download the app and get some experience using it to communicate with her. Where our English apps struggle to translate effectively, China’s social media has allowed for not only their own population to use their platforms, but foreigners as well that need the information translated. I also use apps like and WeVerse and Vlive which need to translate from Korean to Enlgish, and while it is more basic and hasn’t reached the level of WeChat yet, it demonstrates to me the frustration of having your platform fail to meet your needs. When using these apps, I can feel the frustration that those in China must have felt when using our platforms that could not translate correctly.

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