The impact of Weibo on the local economy and power transfer in China

Image: ChinaCLife, all rights reserved


Social media sites Weibo brings many innovative market areas and opportunities that have an impact on the world. Weibo may not be as well-known in the world as Twitter, Facebook and other global social platforms, but in China, Weibo is. The article will use critical thinking to analyze the transformative impact of Weibo on the social media field and social culture. The first part will introduce Weibo and its mission statement, the second part will introduce the operation development and supervision of Weibo, the third part will mainly explain the business model of Weibo, the fourth part will further analyze the microblog based on the content of the third part The role of blogs in the Internet ecology, the fifth part will discuss the Internet revolution brought by Weibo and its impact on social culture.



What is Weibo?

In this essay, Weibo refers to what Chinese people usually think of as Sine Weibo, which is often referred to as China’s Twitter or Facebook. In fact, its mechanism is similar to those of these social media platforms (Stephen, 2020). The most common shared content on Weibo is jokes, images, and videos, and users can retweet, comment and like the content (Kiss, 2011). Jiang (2017) mentioned that 30% of Internet users worldwide are currently using it, which is roughly equivalent to Twitter’s market penetration in the United States. In 2017, the total number of Weibo users accounted for 40.9% of the total Internet users (CNNIC, 2018). Weibo provides an open social media website for Chinese netizens. Weibo provides an open social media website for Chinese netizens. Due to its large number of users, it has had a huge impact on the structure of China’s Internet environment.

Local and international versions of Weibo, Image: ChinaClife, All right Reserved


Weibo’s history and supervision

According to Wu (2019)‘s book Chinese New Media Cultures in Transition Weibo and the Carnivalesque, Weibo started its closed beta in 2009, and was officially launched in 2010 for use by the masses. This year is called the “First Year of Weibo”, and its development is very Quickly, it attracted more than 500 million users in less than five years. The Annual Report 2019 released by Weibo Corporation (2020) shows that as of December 2019, Weibo has 516 million monthly active users and 222 million average daily active users. Today, Weibo has become a giant that cannot be ignored in China’s Internet industry. The take-off rise of Weibo has brought tremendous economic and visibility returns to Sina.

Like many social media problems, Weibo has also caused regulatory concerns due to misconduct such as false information published by platform users. Due to the opportunities provided by social media platforms to witness events and the increase in users who can conduct real-time discussions, as well as the rich meanings covered by Chinese characters and the ability to exchange subversive information, Weibo is considered to have the ability to threaten the current Chinese government (Guo, 2018). When Weibo did not establish good self-regulatory rules, and the government did not legislate based on a series of events triggered by the development of the Internet, much false information or panic content appeared on Weibo. Mainstream state-run media, such as CCTV 13 TV and People’s Daily, questioned Weibo’s moral foundation, criticized Weibo’s lack of content supervision, and called on users to use the Internet honestly (Wu, 2019).

Rumor propagation, Image:Larissa Pham, all rights reserved

Due to the rapid spread and harmfulness of online rumors, the Chinese government officially enacted legislation in 2013. If online rumors released by users are reposted more than 500 times, it can constitute a crime of defamation (Beijing times, 2013). Official media and official website agencies have registered official Weibo accounts and communicated with people through social platforms to achieve the purpose of timely monitoring of information (Wu, 2019). In addition, Weibo has also implemented a comprehensive self-censorship system by learning from the early surprises of other Internet platforms (Sullivan, 2013). The development of Weibo has promoted the establishment of China’s Internet-related bills. It also reminds users that to ensure our good network environment, user self-censorship is very important, and people should be obliged to remind themselves to publish honest and ethical information.



Weibo’s business model


The success of the Weibo business model is not only due to the profit model of the online platform we are familiar with, but also inseparable from China’s national conditions. (Mainstream media claims) Social media platforms such as Twitter were banned by the Chinese government in 2009 due to inappropriate information released (Wu, 2019). This move cut off the development of social media platforms such as Twitter in mainland China. This almost eliminated competitor with similar functions as Weibo in mainland China within a certain period of time, giving Weibo enough time and space for development. If Internet users in mainland China want to use this social media platform, their choice is Weibo. This monopoly in the industry is the key to the early development of Weibo.

Image: digital crew, all rights reserved


However, Weibo’s success cannot be seen only as a grasp of timing and support for government decision-making. Although Weibo was initially seen as a clone of Twitter, it actually has more functions (Sullivan, 2013). Weibo supports users to send messages, and can retweet, comment, and like. The “group” function is also available later. User referrals can be regarded as social media content and user interest feedback (Luo, 2015). Weibo collects and processes these data to recommend information for users. Users can view the high popularity through “hot” or “recommendation” Or the information Weibo thinks they want to see, of course, will contain advertisements. Cubes (2019) pointed out that Weibo used celebrity effects to attract users in the early stage. They invited celebrities to use Weibo, thus attracting their fans to use Weibo. After attracting certain users, Weibo’s main source of income is advertising fees. Kiss (2011) pointed out that Weibo’s 60,000 accounts are verified accounts of celebrities, sports stars, and major brands, and mentioned that Marketing professor Ye Feng stated that Weibo’s advertising revenue will grow by 50% every year. Brands use Weibo to place advertisements to increase the visibility of their products. Weibo also provides services to individual users, such as promoting personal blogs, or obtaining members through recharge, and setting the layout of personal homepages (Cubes, 2019). Bloggers can use Weibo to promote their personal brand and attract more fans to follow. For example, the cosmetics trend triggered by Weibo before, people want to know the information of cosmetics and fashion trends, and bloggers with certain knowledge and experience in this area turn into influencers to produce content for people. It can be said that the core competitiveness of Weibo lies in providing users with the information they want to see or the brand wants users to see and serve as a platform for online information exchange.


Weibo’s Internet Ecology

The relationship and interaction between people and the online environment are called internet ecology (Mcfedries, 2003, p68). This paragraph will mainly explain the internet ecology surrounding Weibo. As mentioned above, due to the policies of the Chinese government, similar products such as Facebook and Twitter cannot be used in mainland China. Weibo’s main competitors are social media and e-commerce platforms like Xiaohongshu, They can all be used as platforms for sharing information and generating business activities.

Weibo and its competitors, Image: AsiaPac, all rights reserved

Each individual or organization may play a different role on Weibo. Netizens and brands can be regarded as users of Weibo. The former sends and obtains information through Weibo, and the latter uses Weibo to place advertisements and obtain potential customers. Mcfedries (2003) pointed out that people should be seen as owners and consumers of information, not just users. Information is created and sent by all participants, so netizens are also providers of Weibo content. In addition, the government is not only the supervisory agency, Weibo’s own supervision and related systems are also content supervisors. On Weibo, a novel platform, people communicate with each other to form a community, and individuals can “build their autonomy and confront the institutions of society on their own terms and around their own projects” (Castells, 2007, p. 249). Rules will also be established in the ordinary netizen community. At the same time, if social platforms and users have improper or illegal activities, netizens also act as supervisors and report these illegal activities to relevant government departments.

    The Internet ecology of Weibo




Talking about Weibo’s Innovation from the power Transfer of the Internet


Users participate in activities in the online world through comments and retweets, and everyone on the Internet can be regarded as a witness of the state and its agents’ actions (Hu, 2011). When using Weibo, most of the information we release is free, at least until it causes a lot of social repercussions, the supervisory agency will not have a strong concern about it. When some people discover illegal behavior or suffer unfair treatment, but they cannot be exposed through the mainstream media, they can use Weibo to release information to attract attention. Today, more and more corrupt incidents or privileged individuals are exposed to Weibo. They have been protected by the media because of their high social status or strong economic strength. Zhang (2011) put forward an example where Liao, the vice president of Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics, was driving while drunk, causing two student casualties and multiple injuries. Angry netizens prompted the Nanchang Municipal Government to intervene more fairly in this case. After such incidents have attracted the attention of a large number of people, they will also attract the attention of the supervisory department and investigate the facts. Guo (2018) pointed out that Weibo has been successful as a public place for information exchange. Major events will first be exposed to Weibo and arouse intense discussions. This change has changed the course of events to some extent. The emergence of Weibo has made the people’s right to know more secure and made the rulings of some incidents fairer.

People use tag#LhamoAct on Weibo

Weibo has become a key social media in China and has changed the way people communicate with each other. Social media can break through the government’s control of information flow. Social media is changing the power relationship between citizens, businesses, and the state (Wu, 2019). In recent years, Weibo is the birthplace of the feminist movement. Like many countries in the world, women in China are not treated the same as men, and there may be an existential threat. The New York Times (2020) reported that Lhamo, a Tibetan woman, was repeatedly burned to death by her ex-husband because she was not protected by law for domestic violence. People were very angry when they learned of this incident, and more and more people began to notice the threats faced by women and the loopholes in Chinese laws restricting domestic violence. People use the tag #LhamoAct to call for strengthening the enforcement of the domestic violence law (New York Times, 2020). It can be said that the application of mass media such as Weibo has subverted the power of the original official media, allowing the public to obtain more information and thus to discuss and think more actively.




In short, due to pioneers like Twitter, the emergence of Weibo cannot be regarded as having a huge impact on the world’s Internet structure, but it has brought huge innovation to China’s local Internet environment. Internet users have gradually mastered the power to supervise the implementation of laws, have more rights to know and discuss equality, which can also push China into a fairer environment.





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Bachelor of ART Digital culture+Marketing The champion of cold feet