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Chinese media embraces Western social media to present real China to the world

By Curtis Stone (People's Daily Online)    10:57, June 26, 2017

China’s growing influence on Western social media is evidence that more people are hearing the real story of China, and that there is a need to fill in the blanks for people who are fed up with Western media reporting and its portrayal of China and other global events.

China’s media has embraced Western social media as a way to tell China’s story to the world. Handcrafted tweets, and high-quality articles and videos geared toward a foreign audience are not only helping people get to know the real China, but adding balance to the global discussion and debate about China’s growing role in the world.

China’s largest newspaper group the People’s Daily was the first major Chinese media outlet to embrace Western social media. Since the People’s Daily joined Facebook and Twitter in 2011, the country’s flagship newspaper has attracted more than 41 million combined followers on the two popular social media platforms, not including YouTube and other media fans. Today, the People’s Daily is the most influential Chinese media outlet on overseas social media, according to a 2016 study by a Chinese think tank at Beijing Normal University.

Chinese media outlets geared toward a foreign audience have a strong and growing presence on Western social media. For example, the People’s Daily is pouring a lot of resources into news social accounts, with the main focus on its English-language Facebook (@PeoplesDaily) and Twitter (@PDChina) accounts, according to sources within the People’s Daily. Starting last year, for example, the English-language news social accounts started running a 24/7 global social operation with social media editors in Beijing and New York City coordinating their shifts in order to broadcast nonstop coverage of China and global news events.

The effort by China’s media to embrace Western social media in order to amplify China’s voice on the world stage is paying off big time, at least in terms of number of fans. The People’s Daily has more Facebook page likes than The New York Times, Fox News, and the Washington Post combined; with close to 38 million Facebook page likes at time of writing, even beating CNN—a top cable news network in the US—by about 10 million fans.

Though China’s media outlets trail behind some other international media outlets on Twitter in terms of number of followers, their fast growth has been nothing short of phenomenal. This all shows that China is making headway in its effort to tell China’s stories well to the world, despite the fact that China’s media is a relative newcomer to Western social media. The People’s Daily did not join Twitter until about four years after mainstream Western media outlets, but has seen strong growth, especially in the last year, as its number of followers doubled from last year to 3.6 million at time of writing. And all of China’s major media outlets have a presence on Western social media. There is even an official Facebook page for Chinese President Xi Jinping (@xivisit) with about 2.8 million fans at time of writing.

One important reason behind the rise of Chinese media outlets on Western social media is the huge global audience demand for China facts and information as the country grows and plays a much more important role in the global arena, and we should expect to see their online popularity and influence grow by the day.

A Facebook post by the People’s Daily on the successful joining of the world’s longest cross-sea bridge—the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge—helps illustrate why many of China’s media outlets are crushing it on Western social media such as Facebook. One fan commented under the post that China’s amazing achievements are often glossed over in Western media, so the People’s Daily Facebook page provides a much-needed window into China.

Last year, Xi Jinping urged China’s media to embrace new media as a way to crank up its voice on the international stage and tell China stories well to the world, saying China needs to better understand the world better and the world needs to better understand China. The growing popularity of China’s media on Western social media is, therefore, great news for the growing millions of people around the world who choose to tune in to China’s media, because they are more likely to be better informed of China by the Chinese media who are reporting from a Chinese perspective.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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