The most talked about account on Sina Weibo, China’s leading microblogging site, in the past 2 days is probably the mysterious @学习粉丝团, which updates the whereabouts and daily life of China’s president-in-waiting Xi Jinping, sometimes even before Chinese government’s official media.
The Weibo literally means “Study Xi Fan Group.” It started in November, 2012 and as of the time of this post, already accumulated more than 450k followers. Its content look and sound like what an official Xi Jinping Facebook fan page would be, starting with Xi’s early life stories to updates of his recent official trips.
In earlier posts, whoever behind the account called Xi Jingping “Our Ping Ping” as if Xi was a peer. In recent posts, the account starts to call Xi by “Xi Dada,” which is a way to say “uncle Xi” in Shaanxi dialect. For example, On Feb, 3, one post read: “He has been busy touring in recent days and he is tired. He was on the run all day yesterday, rushing from the countryside to the city at night. Even young people will feel tired after a day’s running about, let alone a 60-something [like Xi]. Xi Dada, please take good care of your health.”
The post was accompanied by a picture of Xi dozing on his mini bus during an official trip. In similar fashion, most of the pictures of Xi posted by this account can be said to be “exclusive” – only someone who is touring together with Xi could possibly have the chance to do so many close-ups. Though judging by their quality, most pictures are probably taken with a cell phone.
Much speculation has been going on to guess who is behind this account. Someone from Xi’s team? Or simple a fan? As of now, it’s still an unverified account, meaning that Sina Weibo hasn’t been able to verify who is managing the account. But according to an announcement posted yesterday by the account:
“I’m just an ordinary netizen, an ordinary working class…I’m not a Party member, nor an official. I have absolutely nothing to do with Xi’s team. All information and pictures are from the Internet, some from local fans. Out of security concerns, I delayed some postings. I receive no special treatment. My posts get censored, too. There is no team behind me. As of now, I’m the only person who is managing this account.”
In explanation of why he or she started this Weibo: “I like Xi, and also have high expectations for the new leadership. I’m very sorry if [this Weibo] creates troubles for Xi due to the social environment. If Xi doesn’t want us fans to stay together in one Weibo account, I’m willing to delete the Weibo, and also happy to be silent supporter.”
Not everybody buys what’s said in the announcement. After all, Chinese leaders after Mao aren’t known for having fans among the people – the last time when ordinary Chinese people fanned their leader, it was Bo Xilai. In fact, any official with overwhelming people support in today’s China would probably bring back fears of another Culture Revolution. In China, it’s called “excessive admiration of an individual” and is highly disencouraged. It’s always the “collective” that receives the credits.
Nevertheless, this thought that Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful man, might open a Weibo account fancies a lot of netizens. Reactions vary from warm welcomes to bitter cynicism.
Netizen 俺是一个老人 commented: “[Xi opening a Weibo] is the right way to go, so that he can truly see how his people have been living and truly hear the people’s voices.” Netizen 大力金剛掌本尊 went on and speculated: “[If Xi opens a Weibo account], he will surely have 1.3 billion followers.”
But opening a Weibo is merely the start. Netizen Show_Panda_KDS捌路 asked: “Will Sina Weibo dare to censor and delete his post? Will he allow comments and re-tweets?” Netizen 沧海一大笑_chris had a more serious question: “Will I get arrested if I criticize his Weibo?” But most importantly, as 雪小狐 commented: “If Xi opens a Weibo for real, he’d be overwhelmed by private messages that try to expose the darkness in society.”
To others, however, opening a Weibo doesn’t mean anything. Netizen 贤藏 commented: “Weibo is not recommended for Xi. Even if he opens an account, it won’t be him who will be managing the Weibo. To set up a better political system is better than anything else.” 天蝎座彼岸花 shared similar views: “Even if he can hear the people’s voices on Weibo, so what? He knows very well of how politics work in China’s officialdom.”
No one knows how long will this fan Weibo be allowed to exist, but for now, let’s us all enjoy a diary of “Xi looks at things” and “Xi is on road.”