People around the world are used to logging in to their social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter daily. Chinese are no different. However, due to some strict policies of the Chinese government, many Western social media providers have been banned from entering the country.
So, what social platforms do Chinese people use? The answer is Chinese social platforms that have been developed by Chinese companies and censored by the government. I bet many of you have never heard of these before.
This article will give a brief introduction of the 4 popular social media platforms in China. These networks are the most basic ones that can help you make friends with Chinese people, learn the culture and even improve your Chinese learning.
1. WeChat | 微信 (Wēixìn) – Chinese Facebook
WeChat was launched by Tencent in 2011. Currently, it’s the social media platform with the largest number of users, 1.2 billion active users per month. WeChat started as a messaging app similar to WhatsApp, but WeChat is now the largest Chinese social media platform.
Like other social media platforms, WeChat allows users to send messages and make calls. But there’s something that only WeChat offers their users while other sites don’t. WeChat is the only platform that integrates social networking, shopping, payment, games, reading, entertainment, sports, financial management, etc. Need to pay your bills, whether it’s a phone bill or an electric bill, WeChat can help you do it! Want to book a restaurant reservation, ask WeChat to do it! Even finding and applying for a job through WeChat is getting more popular than ever. WeChat, therefore, has become a “super-app” that can do the job of a social media platform, a payment processor, and even a job search site!
Since its main function is communicating, you can easily make new friends. You can add someone you know by adding their ID, phone numbers, or even QR codes. If you’re looking for a new friend, find one by “add people nearby.” This function allows you to find people in your vicinity. Remember, this function goes two ways, which means people living around can add you too. If you’re a foreigner who just came to China and don’t have a lot of acquaintances, WeChat can help you widen your circle. And with WeChat, finding a language buddy is a piece of cake. Add some, start a conversation with them, and ask them if they would like to become your language buddies.
2. Sina Weibo | 新浪微博 (Xīnlàng Wēibó) – Chinese Twitter
Weibo, launched in 2009, as a platform for microblogging. Though it launched three years later than Twitter, Weibo, with 500 million users per month, has outnumbered Twitter’s users.
People use Weibo to network with friends, keep up to date with the news, connect with celebrities and influencers, research brands and products, and so on. Weibo users can share text, images, videos, and live streams. As a microblogging platform, there’s a limit to the character count of each post. Weibo approves only texts with less than 140 characters.
There’s one thing that makes Weibo different from WeChat and encourages people to use the app along with the “super-app.” Weibo is an open environment where everyone’s posts and comments are visible. There are open conversations when every passerby can leave a comment and react to others’ opinions. Weibo users especially value the product reviews they can find from other users this way.
If you’re learning Chinese and interested in the difference between formal Chinese and informal Chinese, visit Weibo. Weibo is a playground for the younger generations of Chinese, and so is its language. It can expose you to more acronyms, slang, and jargon than anywhere else.
3. DouYin | 抖音 (Dǒuyīn) – Chinese TikTok
Douyin is a platform for short videos that has had about 600 million daily active users as of 2021. Douyin is much like Youtube, a video online sharing platform, except that the length of videos on Douyin is much shorter, less than a minute.
Some people call this platform “Douyin,” while others insist “TikTok” is the name of the site. So, which one is the official name? For those who are out of the loop, “Douyin” and “TikTok” are two completely separate entities though they are owned and developed by the same company. “Douyin” is the product designed exclusively for the Chinese market, and only people who use the Chinese app store can download the app. “TikTok,” on the other hand, is the international version of Douyin. The overseas Apple Store or Google Play users will only find TikTok available for download, not Douyin.
Douyin and TikTok users can create, edit, and share videos and live streams. Just spruce up your videos with some music and filters, and your video is ready for sharing with your friends.
Douyin and TikTok are entertaining apps. However, thanks to its unique feature of short videos, people use it to teach digestible lessons, from languages to soft skills, and even coaching lessons. If you’re a beginner in Chinese and want to find bite-sized lessons, look for some on Douyin and TikTok.
4. Bilibili | 哔哩哔哩 (bīlībīlī) – Chinese YouTube
Bilibili, nicknamed B Site (B站) in China, is a Chinese video-sharing website based in Shanghai, themed around animation, comics, and games. Bilibili requires its users to pass an ‘entrance exam’ to gain full access to all the videos on the platform.
Not long after its launch, in the mid-2010s, Bilibili began to expand to a broader audience from its original niche market that focused on animation and games. Since then, it has become one of the major Chinese streaming platforms that share documentaries, variety shows, and other original programming.
One of Bilibli’s distinctive features is danmu (弹幕) or “bullet screen” commenting system. Users can post live, time-stamped bullet screen comments on videos. When you play a video, you can see a dense stream of reactions and comments as you watch. These comments can be distracting for some people as it makes them space out and miss the video content. But don’t worry, you can disable this feature to engage with the video better.
Looking for a reason to join Bilibili? The good news is Bilibili has evolved to attract users outside of anime, comics, and games (ACG) culture. For example, the exam’s test for every user who wishes to gain full access to all the videos on Bilibili has since been broadened to many subjects outside of ACG, like Chinese history, language and culture.
The platform can be helpful for those practicing their Chinese learning as it offers plenty of educational content and video lessons.
The bottom line
Integrating theory and practice will enhance learning. To get the most out of your Chinese learning effort, integrate your learning with practice sessions on social media platforms such as WeChat, Weibo, Douyin, or Bilibili.
You can certainly learn many Chinese characters and basic conversations with these platforms, but build up a foundational knowledge of Chinese? I beg to differ. A solid foundation of vocabulary needs to be built up before you can make the most of such immersion. This requires comprehensive lessons in reading, writing, speaking, listening, grammar and vocabulary, with vocabulary often cited as the single most daunting task. Many Chinese learners find Chinese characters too difficult to memorize. But it may be because they are using traditional methods such as rote memorization techniques.
It’s time for more efficient methods such as the spaced repetition system and mnemonics. They’re the techniques that many Chinese learners students have applied in their study and showed great improvement. Want to test it out for yourself? Check out Pandanese. Pandanese is a new online Chinese learning platform that employs both the spaced repetition system and a mnemonic device to help users learn 6000 Chinese characters a year.