Chinese “Occupy” Obama’s Google+ Page

President Barack Obama reaching out a hand to Chinese President Hu Jintao<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/4140424101/">The White House</a>/Flickr

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


A crack appeared recently in the Great Firewall of Chinawhere the government blocks Facebook and Twitter and censors search terms like “democracy”, “human rights”, and “dictatorship”. Google noticed early last week that Chinese netizens started accessing its social network Google+ and almost immediately began inundating President Obama’s page, Reuters reported yesterday. In what seemed like a mad scramble, commenters posted as early as 5:00 a.m. in China to be one of the 500 comments Google allows on each post. Google says it had not implemented any changes that would have allowed for access, which suggests that Chinese web users may have found a censorship loophole by surfing the internet on their cell phones rather than personal computers.

Some of the Google+ commenters joke that they are “? (zhan)”—occupying—Obama’s page. Others offer tongue-in-cheek commentary, complimenting the president’s physical appearance or asking him for travel recommendations. But the ones that captured the interest of news outlets—from the Washington Post to the BBC—are fearlessly political:

Even more surprising is the unusual absence of jingoistic China defenders who commonly rebut pro-democracy, pro-America comments in Chinese internet forums. For example, here are some comments to an article on popular web portal Netease about Beijing’s spate of sky-blackening pollution last December. 

“It’s just fog, the air quality is still very good.”

“It’s five times better than the weather in the U.S.”

Chinese netizens refer to these posters as the Wumaodangthe “Fifty-Cent Party”—because it’s widely rumored that these commenters are paid by the government (fifty-cents per post) to populate web forums with pro-Communist Party verbiage. The absence of these comments on Obama’s Google+ page gives us a rare glimpse of Chinese public debate without the noise of paid shills.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest