Surprise! China Has The Largest Number Of Active Twitter Users
It even surprised the Chinese themselves when the GlobalWebIndex in its 2012 report showed that China now has 35.5 million active Twitter users, outpacing India and the United States on the global chart.
Although the Chinese government started to ban Twitter since 2009, the Chinese Internet users managed to find ways, such as using proxy, to access the website as well as other blocked social network sites include Facebook and Flickr.
Facing the somehow ironic result from GlobalWebIndex, some Chinese users responded in humorous ways. Indeed, many of them now realized that these websites are blocked because the government finds them threatening to the authority's regulation of the society.
"The Great Fire Wall of China must feel so uneasy now. Chinese Internet users are hilarious!" wrote a popular Webo-er "Lulu." The Great Fire Wall is also known as China's Golden Shield Project which basically is the government's surveillance project of the Internet.
"Climb the 'wall' is so cool!" wrote another Weibo user named "fijisakihiyi." In China, the phrase indicating using proxy is called "climb the 'wall'" for obvious reasons.
In fact, in addition to Twitter, GlobalWebIndex also revealed that China has 63.52 million Facebook users, which would also surprise a lot of people given that it is also blocked in China.
However, besides joking about the news, many Chinese also wondered how is it possible that Chinese users can exceed other countries that have free access to Twitter and Facebook.
On September 27, GlobalWebIndex's official blog posted an article "China: The Home to Facebook and Twitter?" in which the company's representative Tom confessed that: "The official story is that nobody [in China] uses them [foreign social networking sites]; even Facebook's IPO document declared that the company had no users in China. Considering China is by all measures the most active social media market on the planet and not isolated from the rest of the world, this is somewhat of a surprise."
He went on to introduce GlobalWebIndex's methodology in conducting the survey, acknowledging that it was done in Chinese Mandarin language through an online panel run by an internationally accredited panel company. The question they asked was "On which of the following services have you created an account?"
The article also revealed another graph showing the complete result of Chinese people's favorite social networking sites.
This graph seems much more credible as a Chinese myself. The most popular services, QZone and Sina Weibo definitely have drawn the majority of the Chinese Internet users to open an account. Comparing the 286 million users at QZone and 264 million at Weibo, and considering the total population of China--which is more than 1 billion--the number of Twitter and Facebook users are by no means significant. But media outlets who reported the survey result usually omitted the enormous population of China, and also its growing Internet users.
Nevertheless, doubts still exist on the Internet about the survey's validity. Techinasia reporter Rick Martin wrote an article saying, "They [GlobalWebIndex] tell me their results are survey-based from a sample of 8,000 total respondents, with surveys conducted in Chinese." And he continued to question whether the circumvention tools' capability could support that many Chinese users to "climb the wall."