Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Singaporeans hooked on Chinese microblogging site Weibo [Straits Times]


From Singapore’s Straits Times – Singaporeans catching on to the 250 million strong Chinese version of Twitter.

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Singaporeans hooked on Chinese microblogging site Weibo
by Aw Cheng Wei
Source – Straits Times Breaking News, published March 2, 2012 

NTU undergraduate Cassandra Eng. Source - Straits Times

BEIJING – When housewife Ivy Koh joined Sina Weibo about two years ago, she was one of the few Singaporeans on the popular Chinese microblogging site.

She did it to follow sharp-tongued Taiwanese host Dee Hsu.

These days though, more Singaporeans are joining the Weibo party, drawn by stars from the Chinese pop scene and the service’s user-friendly features, which are a mix of what’s available on Twitter as well as Facebook.

‘There are a lot more Singaporeans replying to celebrities (on Weibo) these days. You can tell because they use Singlish terms such as lah, meh and lor when they retweet or reply to actors from Scarlet Heart,’ said the 43-year-old, referring to the Chinese drama that is a hit in China and Singapore.While there are no official figures, there are at least a thousand Singapore-based users on Sina Weibo, the most popular such service in China.

With both Twitter and Facebook blocked in China, Weibo has drawn a 250-million-strong crowd. Microblogs are also a favoured way for netizens to search for information as they are not as heavily censored as the mainstream media.

Thanks to the growing world of Chinese pop culture, Weibo is now spreading its reach overseas.

Beijing-based Singaporean art director Tay Shumei, 32, who started an account about a year ago for work purposes, has also noticed more friends from home adding her on Weibo. They use it to follow stars or keep in touch with friends from China, Hong Kong or Taiwan, she added.

Indeed, Weibo has become so influential in Singapore that local entertainment magazine 8 Days has a page dedicated to celebrity news from these microblogs.

For fans, this is a treasure trove of pictures and information on the who’s who of Chinese showbiz.

On it, one can find the latest cryptic musings of Mandopop diva Faye Wong, photos of Taiwan pop princess Jolin Tsai sans make-up, and even marriage announcements, like when Ella Chen from Taiwan girl group SHE revealed plans to marry her Malaysian beau.

And with the drama Scarlet Heart, called Bu Bu Jin Xin in Chinese, creating a buzz in Singapore, more are using Weibo to get news of the show and its actors.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) undergraduate Cassandra Eng first signed up two years ago to keep in touch with her friends. But her microblog activity picked up with the airing of Scarlet Heart.

‘I am on Weibo all the time when Scarlet Heart is showing,’ the 24-year-old communications student said. ‘I cannot let it go unchecked for more than an hour if I am not engaged in a meeting. If I’m at home, the tab is always open.’

Even non-Chinese Singaporeans are getting a piece of the Weibo action. Mr Imran Yusof found microblogging a good way to make friends in China and learn more about Chinese youth culture. The 25-year-old first started using Weibo to pick up Mandarin.

‘When I tried to sign up for an account last year, I had such a difficult time trying to read the words I had to ask a friend to help me. Now I’ve become better and made friends online,’ said the NTU undergraduate. ‘I even understand some of the Internet lingo the locals use.’

Besides offering users a peek into celebrities’ lives, Weibo has a few tricks up its microblogging sleeves to retain users.

‘There are more emoticons on Weibo than there are on Twitter. The variety makes a message more animated and lively. They decorate the message, so you can better interpret the mood of the person who posted the message,’ said Ms Samantha Foo, an English major from NTU.

For Ms Eng, she likes that she can attach different media such as videos, pictures and songs on the microblog message itself.

Also, Weibo allows for threaded comments like Facebook replies. This is an easier way to keep track of what other microblog users discuss.

Some in Singapore are so happy with Weibo that they have ditched other social media. Ms Yvonne Fang, 35, an administrator at a tech firm, was a Twitter user too but is now solely on Weibo.

‘Weibo feels like a more vibrant community,’ she said.

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Filed under: ASEAN, Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Culture, Influence, Internet, Media, People, Singapore, Social, Straits Times, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

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