From Blocking Citizens To Blue Ticks: China Becomes Twitter’s Big Market

Reuters overview reveals simply how essential China has grow to be for Twitter.


Even as China bars 1.4 billion residents from Twitter, its native authorities are splurging on international promoting on the location, serving to make the nation the platform’s fastest-growing abroad advert market and one in all its largest non-U.S. income sources.

A Reuters overview of publicly out there authorities tenders, price range paperwork, and promoted tweets from 2020 to 2022 reveals native authorities and Chinese Communist Party propaganda places of work for cities, provinces and even districts throughout the nation have flocked to Twitter to purchase advertisements.

The promotions, typically outsourced by native governments to state media, pitched native sights, in addition to cultural and financial achievements, to a global viewers, and have been permitted underneath an exemption to Twitter’s ban on state-media promoting.

The overview reveals for the primary time simply how essential China has grow to be for Twitter, underneath strain from traders to satisfy progress targets as its U.S. enterprise stalls. It comes with the corporate embroiled in a authorized battle with Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk, who’s making an attempt to again out of his unsolicited $44 billion provide to purchase Twitter.

Four sources instructed Reuters operations in China turned a supply of inner clashes between groups eager to maximise the gross sales alternative and others involved on the optics of doing enterprise with state-affiliated entities at a time of rising rigidity between Beijing and Washington.

Twitter’s dealings in China might come to the fore on Tuesday when the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee holds a listening to to think about a whistleblower criticism filed by Twitter’s former safety chief Peiter Zatko.

Among different claims, the 84-page criticism alleges “Twitter executives knew that accepting Chinese money risked endangering users in China,” and that “Mr Zatko was told that Twitter was too dependent upon the revenue stream at this point to do anything other than attempt to increase it.” Reuters couldn’t independently confirm the claims.

Twitter denies the accusations. Zatko, by means of an lawyer, declined to remark.

Two folks with data of the matter stated Twitter’s China gross sales staff actively courted native governments within the nation as a part of its international technique to compete for advert enterprise with tech rivals like Alphabet’s Google and Meta’s Facebook.

Gaming, e-commerce, and tech companies in China are additionally key Twitter prospects, in keeping with two sources. Twitter’s gross sales of abroad advertisements to Chinese purchasers are estimated to be within the “hundreds of millions of dollars a year”, the folks stated, the bulk coming from these corporations.

The folks with data of the matter declined to be recognized citing confidentiality agreements.

Twitter declined to touch upon inner discussions and its gross sales efficiency in China. A spokesperson stated the corporate has by no means hidden the truth that it does enterprise with Chinese industrial entities.


The firm banned political and state-media promoting in 2019, although an August weblog announcement that yr allowed a carveout for advertisements “from (state-media) accounts solely dedicated to entertainment, sports and travel content”. In March this yr, although, that exemption was rescinded, successfully banning state-media companies from promoting on Twitter altogether.

In a March Twitter weblog put up, the corporate’s vice-president of world public coverage, stated that “a severe information imbalance” is created when governments that block entry to Twitter inside their state proceed to make use of it for their very own communications.

Still, Reuters discovered dozens of advertisements for Chinese native governments, in addition to for state media themselves, printed on Twitter since March. Twitter, like different platforms, additionally derives income when advertisers submit advertisements by way of a self-service on-line platform.

Twitter stated it’s bettering auto-detection expertise aimed toward actions that violate the platform’s insurance policies. “This work is challenging and we know we have more to do,” the corporate stated in a press release.

The Chinese Communist Party’s prime propaganda organ and the central authorities’s ministry of tradition and tourism, each primarily based in Beijing, didn’t reply to a request for remark. 


Twitter’s China area has seen an 800-fold enchancment in income since 2014, the fastest-growing globally, in keeping with the now-deleted LinkedIn bio of Twitter Greater China Managing Director Alan Lan. The bio was reviewed by Reuters late in August earlier than it was taken down.

Twitter declined to touch upon the quantity within the bio nor make Lan, who leads the Singapore-based China gross sales staff, out there for remark.

Chinese native authorities continued shopping for overseas social media advertisements and content material even after the COVID-19 pandemic triggered the closure of the nation’s borders, in keeping with a overview of 36 publicly out there native authorities tenders, price range paperwork from 2020-2022, and social media accounts. It wasn’t instantly clear why such advertisements have been positioned with China successfully closed.

“Life is always unusually brilliant because we are in Wuhan,” one promoted tweet from the @Visit_Wuhan account in July 2021 learn, a part of a 2 million yuan ($289,000) authorities tender.

Another promoted tweet from September 2022, a verified account for the province of Shaanxi, well-known for its Terracotta Warriors, urged customers to “Hurry up and follow me to Shaanxi to feel its charm!”


Some Washington-based senior Twitter executives, fearful the enlargement of its China enterprise may backfire on the corporate, pushed for gross sales to Chinese government-affiliated accounts to be curbed altogether in the course of the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump as tensions with Beijing worsened in 2020, in keeping with two sources.

Twitter declined to touch upon inner discussions.

An try to arrange what would have been the corporate’s first mainland China-based gross sales workplace was shut down in 2019 on information safety considerations, sources stated, as tensions swirled internally over the corporate’s operations in China.

Twitter did not reply to questions on the mainland workplace talks.

Reuters’ overview of greater than 300 accounts representing native governments discovered that as of the time of this story’s publication lower than a dozen have been labelled by Twitter as state-affiliated media. Publicly out there tender paperwork reviewed by Reuters present the overwhelming majority of those accounts are outsourced to state media.

Those included the verified accounts @PDChinaLife and @PDChinaSports activities, run by the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, and which continued to promote on Twitter till as just lately as final month, in addition to @iChongqing, a state-run operation paid by the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing. Both the People’s Daily and that iChongqing didn’t reply to a request for remark.


As the enterprise grew, Chinese native authorities accounts ramped up their calls for on the corporate, asking for blue-tick verifications simply as accounts elsewhere do, or for assist with damaging exercise focusing on their accounts, two sources stated.

“Some of the government accounts would earlier complain to their Twitter sales reps when there’s negative stuff or bots,” stated one particular person acquainted with China’s Twitter gross sales operations, including that Twitter solely acted on complaints about spam accounts commenting on or partaking with Chinese native authorities accounts.

The shopping for of advertisements on Twitter by state-affiliated entities has come as Chinese police have elevated arrests of residents who’ve discovered methods to make use of the platform to criticise authorities, in keeping with Chinese information protection of court docket circumstances.

Chinese courts have sentenced dozens of individuals up to now three years for utilizing Twitter and different overseas platforms to criticise authorities, in keeping with court docket data and media articles.

China not often feedback on such circumstances, however when it does it justifies the punishment by accusing the critics of attempting to subvert the regime.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV workers and is printed from a syndicated feed.)

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