But for Chinese diplomats, that doesn’t mean Twitter can’t be a tool to spread their message in the West. And perhaps there’s no need to stay diplomatic on it either.
Just a few days later, it has already made an impact. Although most of the tweets simply share video footage of spokeswoman Hua Chunying’s news conferences, the English text on the tweets often takes a combative, even Trumpian tone.
“Big guy NOT NECESSARILY threat. Unilateralism & hegemony IS,” the account wrote on Thursday, criticizing comments at a NATO summit in London about China.
Another tweet Thursday warned sardonically with an emoji that if the West thinks Chinese tech companies could be a threat, it should worry about clothes and shoes, too.
In earlier tweets, the ministry had written “LOL!” when talking about U.S. investment in China, called the United States a “moral loner” and shared an image of a ballet dancer’s battered foot in apparent criticism of the Canadian detention of Meng Wanzhou of Huawei.
A tweet on Wednesday had suggested that the United States should not criticize China’s harsh treatment of the Uighur minority because of “native Indians’ tears & blood.”
“China’s ethnic policy is more successful!” the tweet said.
Forget native Indians’ tears&blood? US politicians like @SpeakerPelosi so ignorant&hypocritical to talk about “conscience”. Ethnic minorities in China enjoy equal rights and freedom in religion and culture. China’s ethnic policy is more successful! pic.twitter.com/JyYD0pS8Mr
— Spokesperson发言人办公室 (@MFA_China) December 4, 2019
This is far from China’s first foray into English-language social media — Chinese-state-linked entities such as the Global Times and Xinhua have long used Western companies to spread messages that needled Western governments.
But there appears to have been a shift in how Chinese diplomats approach Twitter recently.
Notably, Zhao Lijian, a Chinese diplomat who pioneered combative English-language messages earlier this year, has been promoted to deputy director general of the ministry’s information department.
In July, as China faced international criticism for its crackdown on Uighurs and other minorities in the Xinjiang region, Zhao tweeted a variety of criticism of the United States — highlighting alleged religious intolerance, gun violence, Internet surveillance, income inequality and more.
Zhao, who was at that moment deputy chief of mission at the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, took specific aim at the U.S. capital, arguing that white residents of Washington would never go to Southwest Washington because of racial segregation.
The tweet prompted an argument with Susan E. Rice, who was national security adviser in the Obama administration. Rice dubbed Zhao a “racist disgrace.” The Chinese diplomat responded with his own insult, saying that it was Rice who is a “disgrace” and that the “truth hurts.”
Zhao later said he meant Southeast Washington, deleted both tweets and shortly afterward returned to Beijing, but he was not demoted — he was promoted. He has continued to tweet frequently upon his return to China, using his 220,000 followers to promote pro-China messages and troll the United States.
In interviews, Zhao has said that China needed to take to Twitter to combat U.S. influence on the platform.
But whereas Trump and other U.S. officials tweet in English to a largely domestic audience, China’s Foreign Ministry appears to be targeting international audiences with a sometimes crude message. Here it may be emulating not the U.S. president, but Russian diplomats who have used embassy Twitter accounts to mock and belittle Western democracies.
However, changing international attitudes via tweet may be an uphill battle for China. A Pew Research Center survey of 34 countries released on Thursday found considerable negative sentiment toward China worldwide, with unfavorable views of the country increasing sharply in the United States and Canada in 2019.
Health Ministry Teams Up With Twitter to Respond to Queries Around COVID-19
The Union Health Ministry has teamed up with Twitter to launch a dedicated account to respond to Indian Twitter users’ queries related to COVID-19. The new account COVID India Seve using Twitter’s Twitter Seva platform, “a customised live query redressal service.” People can put their queries forward by tweeting to @CovidIndiaSeva to get a response from the authorities. The account describes itself as “Official @MoHFW_INDIA Handle for COVID-19 Response” and it was created in March. Twitter said that the service will enable the government to interact effectively with the public during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
People in India can tweet to the @CovidIndiaSeva to seek guidance regarding steps to take if COVID-19 symptoms occur, know more about access to healthcare services, measures implemented by the government, among many other topics. According to Twitter, people will get answers to only broader questions, meaning personal queries won’t be dealt with through the new service.
Tweeting about the launch, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan wrote, “Experts will share authoritative public health information reg #COVIDー19 swiftly at scale, helping to build a direct channel for communication with citizens. Post your queries!”
@CovidIndiaSeva has been responding to the questions from Twitter users. NDTV journalist Akhilesh Sharma asked, ”Crucial question in everyone’s mind is that whether we are testing enough? What about rapid antibody based blood tests esp for COVID inflicted areas?”
Answering the question, @CovidIndiaSeva replied, “At present, 204 government labs and 86 NABL accredited private laboratory chains are involved in testing. The no. of collection centers have also been enhanced to 16,000 centers across India. We have already tested 4,05,320 people.” It went on to add, “Government of India has issued advisory to start rapid antibody based blood test for COVID-19 for areas reporting clusters (containment zone) and in large migration gatherings/evacuees centers.”
Twitter India has also been working with various state governments in the country to make the COVID-19 response management better. “It has also supported and enabled the Govt of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh to set-up dedicated COVID-Response accounts. Govt. of Karnataka, Maharashtra,” it said in a statement.
Twitter Is Down for Some Users – You Are Not Alone
Twitter is down for many users across the globe. Reports are pouring from India, parts of Europe, Japan, as well as parts of the United States. We at Gadgets 360 are also facing issues when trying to access the micro-blogging platform, with some team members unable to the load the homepage, while others are unable to see their timelines or tweet. Twitter’s own support handle has yet to highlight the issue, though reports continue to flood in.
As seen on Down Detector, there have been hundreds of reports from across the globe, with most reports coming on for the Twitter website, with users of the Android app also reporting issues.
The Twitter status page says all systems are operational, as of a few seconds ago. As we mentioned, users are facing different problems, with some Gadgets 360 team members not affected at all, and others unable to tweet or load their timelines. The issue may be transient. To recall, the social network experienced a major outage earlier this month.
Are you facing issues with Twitter? Let us know in the comments below.
Twitter Said to Be Planning Bitcoin Payments as Tips on Its Platform
Twitter is considering a feature that would allow users to tip one another – in Bitcoins though.
The Information reports that the micro-blogging platform is working on implementing a new payment feature to let people send money to each other.
It is not yet clear whether the Twitter tipping feature would integrate with Jack Dorsey’s other company, Square, which is a financial services, merchant services aggregator, and mobile payment company based in San Francisco.
Dorsey has made absolutely no secret of his love of Bitcoin over the years.
NewsBTC has reported on the Twitter CEO opining that Bitcoin will one day be the currency of the internet and his company Square integrating cryptocurrency payments.
“Dorsey has been a major investor in the Bitcoin micropayments solution Lightning Network,” said the report.
Dorsey will move to Africa for three-six months this year to “define the future”.
“Sad to be leaving the continent for now. Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!). Not sure where yet, but I’ll be living here for 3-6 months mid-2020. Grateful I was able to experience a small part,” said the Twitter CEO.
Dorsey has also hired Bitcoin developers for his payments company.
He is an advocate of digital currency bitcoin but he also says it is “not functional as a currency”.