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A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Chinese Social Media Landscape

Although a majority of Western social media platforms are inaccessible in China due to the “Great Firewall,” the Middle Kingdom boasts the highest number and activity of internet users worldwide. The Chinese culture has embraced social media, particularly the younger generation, but for ex-pats or newcomers, navigating this realm can be bewildering. This quick guide to Chinese social media platforms aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the essentials.

What are some facts about social media in China?

Over time, a number of Chinese social media platforms have faced significant criticism for their stringent censorship measures targeting political content. In contrast to Western platforms like Twitter and Facebook, which are commonly used for political discourse and organizing protests, users of mainland Chinese social media encounter a range of techniques and approaches designed to restrict and discourage open discussions on political matters.

WeChat, for instance, employs a blend of automated and human censorship methods. These employ filters with blacklisted keywords to automatically restrict the transmission of messages containing “politically sensitive” references that violate government regulations.

What is China’s stance on social media?

Travelers who have visited China can attest to the fact that numerous websites and apps commonly used in the Western world are inaccessible due to blocks imposed in China. Utilizing workarounds becomes necessary to access platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and several others.

China initially implemented restrictions on Western apps by banning Facebook in 2009, followed by Twitter and Google. Subsequently, this led to a series of limitations on foreign websites and applications.

Recent instances of Chinese censorship include the expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters. The reporters were accused of using “racially discriminatory language” in an opinion piece published on February 3rd, 2020. However, there is now a reversal of roles as other governments ban Chinese apps. For instance, India banned 59 Chinese apps due to escalating political tensions at the disputed China-India Himalayan border. India cited concerns over data, security, and privacy issues.

All these restrictions lead to the fact that in order to comfortably stay in China or access Chinese social networks, you will have to make VPN settings for Android. It’s not that hard to figure out how to set up a VPN on Android, even on your own. You need a powerful Android VPN app with multiple servers and strong security. The best app according to user reviews is VeePN. After installation, you need to enter the application to connect to a remote server. So you can unblock previously inaccessible sites.

Which social media is most used in China?

#1 WeChat

WeChat serves as the primary Chinese social network and boasts one of the largest user bases in the world, with over 1.26 billion monthly active users. Originating as a messaging platform, it has evolved over time by introducing numerous innovative and advanced features, elevating it beyond a mere online chat application.

#2 Weibo

Weibo, the second most popular social media platform in China, combines the features of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, positioning itself as a micro-blogging platform. As of 2023, it boasts a user base of 573 million active monthly users, with 94% accessing the platform through their mobile phones.

Known for its openness, Weibo provides an ideal avenue for brands to connect with potential customers, surpassing the reach of WeChat. Consequently, it serves as an excellent platform for viral marketing campaigns and influencer collaborations.

#3 Douyin

Douyin, also known as 抖音, is a popular short video app often hailed as the Chinese equivalent of Tik Tok. It stands out as the only Chinese social platform to successfully penetrate the Western social media landscape. Douyin attracts over 700 million monthly active users, primarily consisting of individuals under 30 years old. Its appeal lies in the playful mini-videos that keep users entertained. International brands looking to tap into the Chinese market find strategic value in leveraging Douyin’s widespread influence among young netizens seeking leisure and entertainment on Chinese social media platforms.

#4 Xiaohongshu

Little Red Book, also known as Xiaohongshu in Chinese, blends the features of a social network and cross-border e-commerce, catering primarily to Beauty, Fashion, Luxury, and Lifestyle Brands. This platform has gained popularity among Chinese users for seeking product recommendations and reviews.

With over 200 million monthly active users, the majority being Chinese women, RED focuses on user-generated content revolving around beauty and fashion topics. Apart from establishing connections and creating content, users have the convenience of directly purchasing the showcased products.

#5 Zhihu

Zhihu, a prominent Chinese question-and-answer platform often compared to Quora, allows its users to generate, respond to, modify, and categorize inquiries. Translated from Classical Chinese, the term “Zhihu” denotes the phrase “Do you know.” As one of the top 10 social media applications in China, this platform boasts immense popularity, attracting a vast user base of over 100 million individuals. Most Zhihu users are highly educated consumers with incomes above the average, rendering it an ideal platform for businesses targeting this specific demographic.


#6 Dianping

Dianping, a relatively new platform, combines elements from Tripadvisor, Yelp, and Groupon. It offers crowd-sourced reviews and rankings of businesses worldwide. Users can not only vote for their preferred restaurants but also engage on a more detailed level, such as voting for their favorite dishes within those establishments. Additionally, Dianping frequently provides substantial discounts through shared deals.


Despite being referred to as the “failed Chinese Facebook,” Renren continues to have a considerable number of users in China. It achieved massive success upon its launch in 2005 after Facebook was blocked by the Chinese government. Renren essentially replicated Facebook’s design, and color scheme, and failed to adapt to industry advancements such as mobile integration. Consequently, numerous Renren users have migrated to alternative Chinese social networking platforms, yet a group of dedicated supporters still remains.


Now you know that social media is not banned in China. It is evident that Chinese social media platforms offer a range of advanced features, allowing businesses to reach out to their target audience. With an ever-growing user base across China’s borders, the importance of these platforms in international marketing cannot be understated. To successfully establish a presence on Chinese social media channels, brands must understand and embrace cultural and digital idiosyncrasies.

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