Images of Foreign Countries on Chinese Social Media: A comparative study of state accounts and private accounts on the WeChat Official Account Platform

WeChat offices

A WeChat logo is displayed inside TIT Creativity Industry Zone where Tencent office is located in Guangzhou, China May 9, 2017. Picture taken May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

In this Journalist Fellow paper, Zijuan Zhong explores the role of Chinese social media as a source of news on international affairs. Over the last decade, independent citizen journalists using social media, particularly through WeChat, have replaced traditional media as a principal news source. The paper looks at whether the 'self-media', with their lack of resources, access and training, are able to cover their subjects with the necessary professionalism, and whether they can challenge foreign news coverage from traditional outlets. Zijuan analyses the output of both state-owned and private WeChat accounts, the subjects and countries they cover, and the tone of this coverage. The paper finds that private WeChat accounts:

  • pay less attention than state accounts to international stories where China is involved
  • cover fewer countries in their international affairs stories than state accounts
  • are more critical of foreign countries and praising of Chinese achievements