China is known around the world for many superlatives – “the biggest…, the highest…the most…”. It is a vast place with huge distances to cover, yet at the same time develops into an urbanized society with densely populated megacities like few other countries. With a population of more than 1.3 billion people, voices are everywhere. Its distinctive internet- and online-focused lifestyle is the newest trend around China – in fact, Chinese lifestyles have become so online, a new term to describe people glued to their phones and chatting with each other even in social situations has been coined as “di tou zu 低头族”, or “group of people bowing their heads”. By the end of 2014, nearly 650 million Chinese people were regular internet users, including an increase of more than 30 million people during 2014.
Some of the top examples of Social Networking Sites (SNS) in China are WeChat, Sina Weibo, Tencent/QQ-zone, Renren and Youku – but what does that really tell us? On a topical level, many people online may already be familiar with the names of these platforms, but scratch just a bit below the surface, and a very unique, sometimes complicated, and always compelling story comes to play – behind the fast rise of social networking in China.