An exciting part of traveling abroad is getting your passport stamped. After a 20 hour journey to get to Kunming, I feel like I really earned that stamp. If only my Mandarin were better, I would have asked for two stamps.
The super long haul included your typical O'Hare delay, the movies “Water For Elephants”, ¿Rio¿ and ¿Jane Eyre¿ and a number of TV shows. I also read an entire novel and learned all about United’s ¿10 Million Mile Man¿, the airline's ultimate frequent flier.
Upon landing in China, I overheard some Americans lamenting about being cut off from Facebook. Yes, Facebook is still banned in China, along with Twitter and Google+. I can still access my profiles through my iPhone apps, though.
My initial conversations with my counterparts at Yunnan TV have made me realize they are also addicted to social media. At all times, millions of Chinese are posting updates on microblogging sites and also at their equivalent to Facebook.
To me, China's social media scene is like a rockin' party where the hosts are keeping some of the most popular international guests (Facebook, Twitter and Google) in a locked room. Meantime, the rest of the guests are pretty unsupervised. The two most popular microblogging sites here, Sina Weibo (pictured) and Tencent, already have over 340 million users combined.
According to the New York Times, recent Sina Weibo posts after a high-speed train crash in China may be part of a new revolution here. A Weibo post for help from the crash scene in Zheijiang Province led to 100,000 reposts within 9 minutes! Then came criticism of the emergency response. Computer-savvy Chinese soon knew the situation on the ground was far different than what was being reported through traditional channels. While some sites and profiles have been snuffed out, it is just impossible for Chinese censors to keep all social media posts and blogs in check.
So despite the absence of the sites Americans use to express our freedom of speech, the Chinese knockoffs of those sites are thriving with hundreds of millions of people sounding off on all kinds of things. But locals tell me most are afraid to be too opinionated since they risk getting thrown out of the social media party by the Communist Party.