China’s president in waiting, Xi Jinping, has begun to get comfortable as the leader of the nation’s 1.3 billion people since he was appointed to take over from Hu Jintao last November. Since then, a profile loosely translated to “Learning From Xi Fan Club” on Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging platform -- comparable to Twitter -- has garnered a lot of attention from other bloggers and the media.
During all of Xi’s official visits, the anonymous Weibo user fawned over Xi’s every move, documenting and updating constantly his daily agenda and doings, sometimes scooping official media.
The social media account reads like an official Facebook page of a celebrity or a verified Twitter account, with personal posts about Xi’s early life, as well as daily updates. The scoops seem to indicate that the person behind the account is inside Xi’s inner circle. However, as Weibo attempted to verify the account as official, the avid Xi fan posted this announcement:
“I’m just an ordinary netizen, an ordinary working class. ... I’m not a party member, nor an official. I have absolutely nothing to do with Xi’s team. All information and pictures are from the Internet, some from local fans. Out of security concerns, I delayed some postings. I receive no special treatment. My posts get censored, too. There is no team behind me. As of now, I’m the only person who is managing this account.”
That post has since received a lot of criticism as people are not buying into the fact that this user is merely a superfan of Xi’s. After Mao Zedong, no Chinese leader has ever received this kind of enthusiastic support from the people, and that is the way the government likes to keep it.
“In China, it’s called ‘excessive admiration of an individual’ and is highly discouraged. It’s always the ‘collective’ that receives the credits,” a post by Offbeat China, a Chinese Internet-trends blog, explained.
But China’s media and blogosphere think the nation’s most powerful man shouldn't let fans with questionable sources be his only Internet presence. They say he should be personally a part of what is arguably one of the nation’s most powerful tools of communication.
Weibo has been known as the collective voice of the people, highlighting the concerns of the population on varying issues from politics, social justice and international news.
“[Xi opening a Weibo account] is the right way to go so that he can truly see how his people have been living and truly hear the people’s voices,” one netizen said.
However, because Weibo’s presence is still heavily regulated by China’s notorious censors, many wonder if Xi would be exempt from such things. Would people be allowed to communicate with the account, or would it be a one-way communication channel?
“Will I get arrested if I criticize his Weibo?” one blogger inquired.
One of China’s most liberal voices, the Guangdong-based newspaper Southern Weekly, believes that it is important for leaders to embrace the Internet as a government tool after years of rejecting it.
“The party and the government have gained back the Internet microphone to a large degree,” said the newspaper, which is sometimes referred to as Southern Weekend. “And they’ve gained the ... right of speech on breaking news and on sensitive topics.”