Digital landscape China-Western and different apps in China and the rest of the world
Figure 1: Digital landscape China-Western

The “online” population in China is around 800 million, which is the largest in the world and is equivalent to the 20% online users in the whole planet. To do a comparison, the user base is even larger, in number, of the total number of users in Europe and the United Estates combined together.

Mainland China´s social media compared with Facebook, comparing revenue and net income and monthly active users
Figure 2: Mainland China´s social media compared with Facebook

In the figure 2, you can observe, on the first quarter of 2018, the quantity of online users, for the main social media in China, which is Tendent: “Wechat”, “QQ” and “Qzone”; versus Facebook, that includes: “Facebook”,“Whatsapp,” “Messenger” and “Instagram”. And also a comparison between Tencent and Facebook Revenue and Net income. Tencent is only 0.3 billion behind Facebook, according to Statista.

But, the main question is: Why do citizens from Mainland China not use the most popular social media apps in the world?

The answer remains in: “The Great Firewall of China”


Like the physical “Great Wall”, the “Great Firewall of China” is a digital wall that limits the online users in Mainland China to Access to the “World Wide Web.”

It limites the Exchange of information from diferent international websites and apps, such us “Google”, “Youtube”, “Twitter”, and, also, diferent websites from outside China.

The Great Firewall of China and websites banned
Figure 3: The Great Firewall of China

“The great Firewall of China” is recognized as the largest and most sophisticated censorship tool, and also, it restricts the information exchage between the online users living inside its borders.


In China, Social Media is more that a tool for communication and entertainment, it is used for e-commerce, news, payments, for lending money to friends and family and much more.

comparison between international apps and its equivalents in China
Figure 4: Chinese apps and its equivalents


WeChat is, suprisingly, opened, on a daily basis, for around 25% of the global population, and counting on it is mainly used in Mainland China. 

WeChat has over 750 million users, and remains popular because it is much more that a regular app. You can buy clothes, play games, book hotels and flights and so forth.

Mini programs are what Wechat uses as a third party tool, included in its app, to get its users conected and have access to different services. 

Facebook and Snapchat, seeing the strong success of WeChat, have started the development of different platforms, for example with games.

But WeChat goes much further than that, it allows the population of Mainland China to conect with the outside “Great Firewall”´s world.

2.-  Sina Weibo

It is the equivalent to Twitter, a micro-blogging platform particularly popular in business

3.- Tencent QQ 

QQ is a popular app in China, manly in 3rd and 4th tier cities, and is basically an instant message app and marketing for businesses.           

4.- Youku 

Youku is the equivalen of “Youtube” in China. 

5.- Baidu Tieba 

The equivalent to Reddit in Mainland China is Baidu Tieba, a discussion board where you can talk about different topics.

6.- Douban 

Douban is used alike IMDB, as a film, series and TV shows rating platform, in which you can rate movies, for example, make a discussion, share it in your Social Media and so forth.

In Meituan-Dianping, you can check, rate, review and leave a comment on restaurants, hotels, saloons, gyms and so forth.




The Chinese social media scene is distintive from the Western Showcase. The estimate of China´s online users, its administrative scene and social background inmplies that its social scene is essentially diverse to what we see within the US and Europe.

While, in Western countries, social media apps focus on solving a limited range of social interactions, in Mainland China, the apps try to be as much broad as they can, in order to try to keep the monopoly of their online users. They do so by avoiding the needs of its customers to use another apps by being able to do it in the same one. 

Social apps in Mainland China are more indispensably to household life than they are somewhere else. And whereas most of the attention is centered on WeChat´s showcase dominance,the development of different platforms in China´s regional show how Chinese companies can effectively reach customers anywhere.



  1. Thank you Pablo for giving us a overview on the development of social media in China and western world. The firewall built by the China government has really create a totally different culture in China comparing to the rest of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment Charlotte. The firewall of China has really created an small and independent different world in Mainland China, and it very interesting to see how is developing.


  2. I would say, many Chinese Social Media are actually intimate from the Western Social Media. However, they can make them becoming powerful by linking up different function such as ordering take-away, buying trains and air tickets to the social media apps. They make e-commerce so popular in China and off course, they make lots of effort to improve and develop new functions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely Lawrence, the fact that you can do many thing from the same social media app makes the difference and it if very difficult for new competitors to became successful in the market


  3. Thank you Pablo, for the very interesting and informative article.

    I have lived in China for several years and honestly, it is sometimes very difficult to open applications such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, etc due to regulations from the Chinese government. It can be said if we look from the development of the country, this is one of the brilliant strategy for developing country products, such as WeChat, Sina Weibo, Tencent QQ, etc.

    It can be seen that China has succeeded in producing “Next Level Technology” where its users can order anything that can simplify their daily lives, such as ordering a chef if you can’t cook, ordering goods, ordering household cleaning, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely Monica, in China you can do almost anything from your phone and it is what Chinese population barely wants to use websites such as Facebook, Instagram or Google, due to you can find what you need from Chinese websites


  4. Thank you Pablo for this fantastic article that you shared with us.

    It’s obvious that China population is leading also in online compared with western countries.

    Great job!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment Adrian, for sure China´s citizens are more than one step further than Western countries, you can see it on the video of the article.


  5. Thanks Pablo for this great article. The actually first thing that shocked me when i first came in China, it’s how the main app like WeChat or Alipay are multi functional. You can basically do everything within one app, pay anything, order taxi, food, invest money etc. whereas all other western’s app are more focused on one core function. This strategy is definitely the best way to bond the users to the app.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your feedback Nicola, it is really amazing how WeChat bring a lot of third party apps included with which you can do many thing, do barely need any other app during your day in China.
      I hope western country apps can do something similar with for example Facebook


  6. This article shows how China differs from the rest of the wall. From the outside it sounds crazy to think that we barely can use any western app within the mainland of china. Thanks to that, China is now able to completely control the information in its country as well as increasing their economy by establishing their own social medias.

    You really have to live here to realise how impressive it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. thank you PABLO for the amazing article.

    I knew how great the china firewall was and I could not belie that Chinese people live without facebook or youtube, the website that is popular all over the world. however, after reading the article, I believe that China can live without these. because of the greatest technologies they have.
    I feel like when I am living in China is living in another world from other countries. because of my Japanese friends never know what is wechat or youku, the app made in china.

    Liked by 1 person

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