Great wall of fire: Alternative communications tools in mainland China

24 Jan 2017

As integrated PR professionals, we need to be knowledgeable on the various communications channels and tools in order to determine the best channel to get key messaging engaged with the target audience.

Every country has their own best-performing or preferred communications tool, but no one goes quite to the extent of creating new tools as mainland China. And with a population of 1.3 billion people, and counting, it’s a market full of communications opportunities.

With an office in Shanghai, the team at Sinclair are active across these platforms, both personally and on behalf of our clients.

In mainland China, many of the communication tools commonly used around the world are blocked by the “Great Firewall”, as it’s come to be known colloquially. Although the tools, sites and apps of the Western world can be made available with a Virtual Private Network (VPN), though potentially running at a much slower speed, Chinese netizens have created their own channels that mimic – and sometimes downright copy – those that most of us already know and use.

There are many potential reasons for mainland China having their own communications tools: the western versions are just not performing well enough for daily use due to slow VPN or no VPN; a lack of Chinese language provision within the app; increased government support behind the homegrown national versions; localised tools that work better in China; and just better versions of existing apps that aren’t bound by the same copyright pressures.

Most of these mainland Chinese communications tools perform multiple functions (and are available outside of China), but their primary role is shown with the popular tool it takes the place of in the table below. And this is by no means an exhaustive list.

These are some of the more popular alternative communications tools for the Mainland Chinese audience:

No. Popular tool Mainland China tool Blocked/Not blocked in China
1 WhatsApp WeChat (weixin) Not blocked
2 Facebook Weibo Blocked
3 Amazon Taobao Not blocked
4 NYT or Guardian Sohu News Blocked
5 Google Baidu Blocked
6 Instagram Nice Blocked
7 YouTube Youku Blocked
8 Netflix Letv and iQiyi (Baidu) Blocked
9 Gchat Messenger QQ Blocked
10 Apple Pay Alipay or WeChat pay Not blocked
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