In early December, amid rising tensions between Australia and China, Prime Minister Scott Morrison posted a statement on the Chinese social media platform WeChat to voice his outrage at an incendiary tweet from a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson. Within a day, WeChat, which routinely polices sensitive content on its platform, had blocked Morrison’s post, ostensibly for violating the company’s policies.
It was not the only instance of a foreign official being censored on a Chinese social media platform. The most prominent offenders are WeChat—the largest social media site in China, with over 1 billion active users—and Weibo, a microblogging platform that is similar to Twitter. Sites like these are the only way for foreign governments and their diplomats to reach Chinese audiences online, as the so-called Great Firewall blocks access to nearly all foreign social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook