The Awkward Twitter Adolescence of China’s Largest State News Agency

With these awesome tweets, how can @TigerWoods and @JustinBieber not be following Xinhua?

(Screenshot via Twitter)
(Screenshot via Twitter)
(Screenshot via Twitter)

China's largest official news agency, Xinhua, is experiencing some growing pains on Twitter. It started tweeting in March 2012, but has amassed only 22,942 followers since, small potatoes set against its 9.2 million fans on Weibo (Chinese Twitter). Snafus like this might help explain why Xinhua's not getting more English-language social media love:

More than 180,000 Chinese officials were disciliponed in 2013 http://t.co/Rx3tVs2vEw pic.twitter.com/UcN2GGnTS0

— Xinhua News Agency (@XHNews) January 10, 2014

China’s largest official news agency, Xinhua, is experiencing some growing pains on Twitter. It started tweeting in March 2012, but has amassed only 22,942 followers since, small potatoes set against its 9.2 million fans on Weibo (Chinese Twitter). Snafus like this might help explain why Xinhua’s not getting more English-language social media love:

Ok, maybe that’s a cheap shot. Misspellings happen to the best of us.

But then there are these off-key celebrity mentions:

Justin Bieber, who was last seen in China being carried by bodyguards up the Great Wall, probably doesn’t take Beijing mass transit.

This tweet bears reading until the bitter end: 

Tiger Woods is not an actual tiger.

Xinhua’s still-meager fan base shouldn’t start to despair quite yet. It appears China’s official news agency is figuring out what it takes to "win" social media:

Given that China has spent an estimated billions of dollars pushing state media abroad, that’s still a sorry return on its soft-power investment.

Liz Carter is assistant editor at Foreign Policy's Tea Leaf Nation. She lived for several years in Beijing, China, where she wrote and translated three Chinese-English textbooks and studied contemporary Chinese literature at Peking University. Since returning to the United States, she has co-authored a book on subversive linguistic trends on the Chinese Internet and been interviewed about developments in China by the Christian Science Monitor, Forbes, the Washington Post's WorldViews, and PRI's The World. Twitter: @withoutdoing

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