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Social Media in Mainland China – “bei hexie le”

What? Bei hexie le??? For your information, that is not a typo. In Mandarin Chinese, “bei hexie le” means “(something) has been harmonized.”

According to the Wall Street Journal report by Xiao Qiang and Perry Link, people in mainland China have to be very “creative” when communicating on the internet because the government is actively and heavily monitoring people’s conversation in the cyberspace. So, instead of posting “my wallet has been stolen” on the internet, one must use “wo bei hexie le” as a “synonymic but good” expression (translated into “I have been harmonized” for the bad accident happened to me). Otherwise, this kind of messages will be screened, and their voices will never be heard.

For a long time, I have known and accepted the fact that I cannot communicate with my family and friends in mainland China via social media. They have no access to Facebook, Twitter, or my blogs --- you can be the judge here and decide whether my blog is strictly business focus or promoting anti-China thoughts/activities.

Regardless, I have to admit that I am very impressed with the power of the Chinese government. How can it manage to literally cease the social media movement in a country of over 1.3 billion people? Can China continue to do so by stopping the social media movement in the history of human development? Very likely, China has the power to do that, but I wonder if such scrutiny on censorship will actually do more harm than good to the country and the Chinese citizens.

I am not a politician by any means, but I see social media as a very powerful communication tool for business. Business must actively engage with their customers and business partners on social media to stay competitive. Yes, there are times when people say negative things about the business, but social media is not about “controlling” or preventing what people talk about on the internet. Rather, business needs to take every feedback seriously and respond to the negative reviews in a professional way. Think positively, customers are providing the business an opportunity by providing negative feedback so that the business can address the issue before it becomes too big or too late.

Under the scrutiny on censorship in mainland China, my friends can occasionally jump over the firewalls and access their Facebook and Twitter accounts. There are two popular and so-called social media tools available in China --- Weibo, which is the only microblogging tool that is certified by the Chinese government, as well as WeChat, which is a mobile app for photo sharing, text messaging, and microblogging. I tried to sign up a Weibo account about a year ago. I was denied because I was using an e-mail address at Yahoo.com. I am now using WeChat to connect with my friends and family in China, but it does not seem like a real social-media tool to me because my friends cannot see any activities between my other connections and me. For example, they do not know if we have any shared connections or what I “like” or comment on WeChat; they cannot even join the conversation between my other friends and me on my wall (except the time when I initiate a group chat). Then, in what way can WeChat and Weibo help promote an international business?

There are advocates promoting a life-style with no texting, tweeting, or Facebooking. Maybe this group is exactly what the Chinese government is after.  

What do you think? Is the censor’s scrutiny helping the country and the people living there? Why or why not?

Other relevant discussions:

References:
Qiang, Xiao and Link Perry (2013, January 5-6). In China’s cyberspace, Dissent speaks code – What to escape the censor’s scrutiny? Call the regime a ‘heavenly dynasty.’ Just don’t get ‘happieness-ified.’ The Wall Street Journal, C3. Also available online on http://on.wsj.com/SqXeU0
The picture was downloaded from Geek.com.

Comments

  1. I had no idea that China's government had such control over social media. I agree with you, that social media can be a huge asset in business communication and the growth of companies everywhere. Facebook and Twitter allow so many people to put themselves out there and be recognized. It also allows people to share ideas and encourages creativity, in my opinion. On the flip side, I think there are certain aspects of social media that are hurting our world today, both in business and in our social lives. The use of texting, Facebook, and tweeting has eliminated so many necessary life skills in communication. I wonder if people in mainland China have social skills at levels much higher than ours here in the US. Interesting story. Kayleigh Newell

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  2. Very interesting post! It's unfortunate that the lack of social media in China has somewhat isolated communication and interaction between itself and the outside world. The major problem with this is the disconnection from family and friends lives. Social media is definitely a powerful tool for business, news and communication as a whole but, in my opinion, it's value is unfortunately rather diluted state-side; instead of being a medium for sharing knowledge and truly relating with others over distance, social media has mostly become more of a medium for propagating shallow pop-media trends, obnoxious amounts of advertisements and venting one's personal life in a way other than working it out the natural way. We are a society obsessed with entertaining and stimulating ourselves, access to social media can exacerbate this problem as we trade doing meaningful tasks and interacting face-to-face for wandering through Internet media and interacting with a keyboard and screen from the luxury of our homes. The Chinese government, possibly weary of degrading morality, work ethic and lifestyles of many Americans, and other "open" cultures who live lavishly, may actually be doing their people a sort of favor by "keeping it old school" and not changing like the rest of the world changes. Bill Visconte

    ReplyDelete
  3. This was a really interesting article to read, I knew China had a lot of control over the social networking sites, but no idea it was to that degree. I think the use of social media is important for businesses. It gives them a way to interact with customers or clients all over the world, not just the clients in a certain area. This helps for businesses to understand what is working and what would add more to its business, varying of course by the response from certain areas. This is great for improving communication and interactions between business owners and customers or clients. I do think China has too much control over social media, but I do feel people in the states rely too heavily on social media. I agree with Kayleigh that a lot of people in the states lack many communication skills that are necessary for life. I also feel that cutting of China's use of social networking to that extent hinders there involvement with other countries and other developments around them. Amanda Vecchi

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  4. I am from China and I know exactly how inconvenient if you cannot go on some of the US websites, like facebook and wikipedia. However, one thing we should know is that china has so many people and we all know media has great impact on things, especially on politics. If all Chinese people are affected by negative opinions from activisms, the country must be in a big trouble, which may affect the whole world.
    Besides, I use Wechat too and I like it, since its pretty convenient.

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  5. This is very intresting article. China have control the social media marketing, Its become very successful, amazing

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Yes, Social media is indeed a powerful communication tool nowadays for those companies which want to strengthen their existence all over the world. Thanks for sharing I have a great read.

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