Weibo – it ain’t black and white

Reading thread is a new series offering personal journeys through the Marco Polo Project catalogue. This piece on Chinese social media and online expression is the second in a series by Francis Beechinor, from the London University School of Oriental and African Studies. 


Originally, I had generic, and ultimately conflicted views of Weibo.

I thought: censorship – it’s a tumble-weed-filled space, empty of opinion. But then I also thought about ease of access and expressive possibilities – and weibo became a fertile land for public debate and discussion.

After spending some time reading and talking about Weibo, I realised how ridiculous my original thinking was.

Yes, there’s people voicing their opinions but this only goes so far, since censorship will occasionally block words like ‘tank’ and ‘one night stand’.  Equally, posts aren’t all philosophising; there’re videos of cats and masses of advertising also.

To celebrate the Marco Polo Festival of Digital Literature, we’ve gathered some fantastic articles on Weibo and Chinese writing online.

Feel free to comment and give us your opinions on China’s biggest social media website.


Weibo is a good thing – 微博是一个好东西

by Muran, 22nd July 2013


Despite critics of micro-blogging, Muran argues that Weibo contributes to freedom of expression in China, and its format suits the Chinese way of thinking. In particular, it offers people the opportunity to vent their frustration.

This article may help explain why Weibo is seen as a platform for debate.

Where public lose out on citizen participation in other areas, social media offers a place to share and discuss their opinions, at least on certain topics. Do you agree?



What do we talk about when we talk about social media – 当我们讨论自媒体的时候,我们在讨论什么?

by Liu Xinzheng, April-May 2014


In this series of articles, Liu Xinzheng puts Weibo and other forms of ‘self-media’ into context. They highlight the various developments of social media in China, discussing the social and economic impact.

Weibo provides an immediacy which Chinese netizens have never experienced before. It is now possible to talk on a public platform, and receive an instant response.



The death of online literature – 网络文学之死

by Wang Xinyu, 7th December 2012


This article isn’t about Weibo but it shows how Weibo impacted online literature and readers.

The internet is a medium, not a substitute for printed texts. Yet part of adapting to this medium is using a new form of writing more suited to the internet.

Everything needs to be short and snappy. Remind you of anything? *cough – see this article – cough*

Long paragraphs are seen as walls of text on a computer screen and so internet novels have to adjust to suit this – but how much complexity can you express in just a few short sentences?


The death and birth of online literature – 网络文学的死与生

by Jianhan Qiushui, 26th November 2013


Controversy: this is a reaction to Wang Xinyu’s piece above – with which Jianhan Qiushui largely disagrees. Internet literature isn’t just dying!

Writing online does require forms to adapt yet the internet is an overlapping mass of information. New styles of literature will be produced where others aren’t suited.

Simply distinguishing between print and online isn’t enough as there is so much written material there.



Is Weibo a populist paradise? – 微博是民粹主义的天堂吗?

by Muran, 6th August 2014


Muran comes back again, posing the lovely little question ‘Is Weibo a populist paradise?’ However, this hasn’t been translated yet.

I want to hear what Muran has to say, can you help?





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