Remembering Weibo in China’s Social Transition
This chapter analyzes emerging trends that led Weibo to a new phase, one of them being state control of social media platforms intensifying and gaining in sophistication, another being the rise of competing platforms. It is now much easier for the authorities to directly participate in discussions and shut down undesirable opinions on Weibo, while competition from other platforms has siphoned off a significant portion of Weibo’s user base. As Weibo’s major competitor WeChat is gaining popularity among Chinese users across age groups and social statuses, Weibo is facing a seemingly decline in popularity and vitality. Under such circumstances, large numbers of posts defended Weibo, and at the same time it started to celebrate its financial success and seek a transition of the platform itself, rejecting the idea of a decline in its public influence. Weibo itself is becoming a part of the collective memory of an era of “surrounding and watching” (Weiguan) at the occurrence of public events, which has produced a unique mode of empowerment and accountability in transitional societies and contentious politics in the global context. Weibo should be understood as a product and witness of a phase of Chinese social transition and Internet culture.