The Chinese government has been tightening its controls on internet access the past few months, with domestic VPNs vanishing from stories and some individuals even criminally charged with providing software to access blocked websites.
Meanwhile news recently broke that China’s Communist Youth League (CYL) had started a Twitter account, @ccylchina, in order to “deliver information about the league and speak on issues of interest to young people.”
While many Chinese wondered how the CYL was able to circumvent the Great Firewall, the Global Times reported that the CYL had “slammed” the rumor, saying that “currently it has no Twitter account at all.” It’s hardly the first time a Twitter account claiming to be an official Chinese government department has caused confusion—last year, an account claiming to be China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO) seemingly went rogue one day, embroiling itself in disputes with other accounts with such classic lines as “Have u ever been to Tibet bro?” and “truth ain’t lie dude, know yourself” (sic).
Despite media queries to the SCIO, the account’s genuineness has never been confirmed or officially denied. In 2014, China’s official People’s Daily newspaper took umbrage with a popular parody account, @RelevantOrgans, accusing it of “misleading” readers, and demanding that Twitter “rectify” the situation.
But China’s state media outlets do have a genuine presence on foreign social media, despite readers often mocking the hypocrisy of having official outlets on forms of media that are verboten within China. There are also many Twitter accounts that seem to occupy a gray area of legitimacy. Here’s some of the more notable ones.
Now it’s official: WeChat is watching you https://t.co/nBn6bhwrxy by @technodechina pic.twitter.com/tBxOgexjtP
— CHINA (@china) September 19, 2017
Bio 1.4 billion people, 700 million internet users, 600 million smartphone users, $500 billion in e-commerce transactions. Shouldn’t you be paying attention?
Legitimacy： The account itself is not verified by Twitter, and the bio makes no claims of being official. The tweets are generally about China news, with a focus on tech, aggregating stories from both foreign and state media. On the other hand, the account holders may just be biding their time until someone is willing to pay top-dollar for the handle.
Funniest follow Hax, a company that specializes in accelerating hardware startups.
China (Official) @TheChineseGovt
China is doing its part to be a good global citizen. https://t.co/fz0ync6WWI
— China (Official) (@TheChineseGovt) June 1, 2017
Bio Officially the People’s Republic of China), we are a unitary sovereign state in East Asia. Population 1.381 billion. !
Legitimacy Despite the account’s best efforts, it is still unverified. Don’t be fooled by the profile picture with the fake “verified” tick, the account name, or the quantity of US-related tweets.
Funniest follow Multiple “Ladies for Trump” and “Latinos for Trump” accounts.
Communist Party of China @CPofCN
China aims to build 30 nuclear power units in countries involved with the Belt and Road… https://t.co/sKpCZZ3W0j
— 中国共产党 (@CPofCN) March 1, 2016
Bio Chinese Communist Party(CCP) or Communist Party of China(CPofCN).中国共产党是中国工人阶级的先锋队，同时是中国人民和中华民族的先锋队，是中国特色社会主义事业的领导核心，代表中国先进生产力的发展要求，代表中国先进文化的前进方向，代表中国最广大人民的根本利益。
Legitimacy Unverified, though the link in the profile goes to the Communist Party news section of the Chinese edition of People’s Daily. Tweets in both English and Chinese, but the updates stopped in March 2016.
Funniest follow With only four to choose from, it is unsurprising that none are particularly funny.
China SCIO @chinascio
The Big Picture: See a different #China.https://t.co/TbgkmeTaX6
— China SCIO (@chinascio) September 21, 2017
Bio For more visit http://www.scio.gov.cn , official website of the State Council Information Office. Search China SCIO on Facebook & Youtube. 请多转发、常点赞，谢谢关注！
Legitimacy It remains a mystery.
Funniest follow Sweary snooker legend (and occasional China visitor) Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Communist Youth League @ComYouthLeague
Hello Twitter! #myfirstTweet
— 共青团中央 (@ComYouthLeague) September 12, 2017
Legitimacy Just like its comrade above, the account lacks verification.
Funniest follow The Communist Youth League likes to keep one eye on the US by following Donald Trump, and the other on neighboring North Korea by following DPRK News Service—an infamous parody account.
Long-nosed monkeys introduced to China for the first time pic.twitter.com/CWamoYYCeQ
— CCTV (@CCTV) September 20, 2017
Bio The official Twitter account of China Central Television (CCTV). 中国中央电视台官方账号。
Legitimacy It’s official!
Funniest follow China’s main TV broadcaster maintains tweet vigilance over a mobile massage therapist in the UK.
Women in NE China broke the #GuinnessWorldRecords for most people wearing the qipao — a traditional Chinese dress: https://t.co/2EE1elkaB0 pic.twitter.com/1fopGIRp2I
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) September 22, 2017
Bio China Global Television Network, or CGTN, is a multi-language, multi-platform media grouping.
Legitimacy Yes, this account has the coveted blue tick.
Funniest follow Unfortunately, unlike China Daily, CGTN only follows news outlets, reporters, and official Twitter accounts, none of which seem out of place.
People’s Daily, China @PDChina
3 panda cubs in NW China’s Shaanxi turned 100 days old on Sept. 20, province asks public to help name them https://t.co/SJ3B4rbdbj pic.twitter.com/VNyj0LKfJo
— People’s Daily,China (@PDChina) September 22, 2017
Bio The largest newspaper group in China; Timely updates https://www.youtube.com/c/peoplesdaily https://fb.me/PeoplesDaily
Legitimacy It’s real, despite the often-weird tweets.
Funniest follow The Party’s mouthpiece must have a soft spot for cute beats, with its follow of the account for animal people, The Dodo.
Global Times @globaltimesnews
Researchers identify Gobi Desert as source of North China sandstorms (Photo: IC) https://t.co/vI2RVzUFxZ pic.twitter.com/f5lNn3KcTH
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) September 22, 2017
Bio China’s national English language newspaper, under the People’s Daily. Apps: http://bit.ly/1UEg2hp
Legitimacy Again, real.
Funniest follow Zach King, the man famous for making funny videos for Instagram that utilize editing tricks.
Women of China @womenofchina
12th Urban #ChineseWomen‘s Quality of Life Report https://t.co/kZWOaSLsFc #lifequality@WeWorkingWomen pic.twitter.com/TNooe4Pr6d
— Women of China (@womenofchina) July 25, 2017
Bio the All-China Women’s Federation
Legitimacy Although the account lacks Twitter’s approval, their profile and content point towards the fact it’s real
Funniest follow Hidden amongst the news, equality, and humor accounts are a few less-mainstream musicians with a shared passion in anime.
Jiangsu China @loveJiangsu
Photos show a pet market in Huai’an of #Jiangsu province. With more and more people tend to have pets, business here goes on quite well pic.twitter.com/vNLHs8dZMO
— Jiangsu China (@loveJiangsu) September 19, 2017
Bio Official Twitter account of Jiangsu province, located near Shanghai. Follow the latest from Jiangsu province on this page.
Legitimacy No doubt.
Funniest follow Maybe it has something to do with the access to water that the province has, but the account follows a user that provides knowledge on tips and strategies for fishing in western Australia.
Tsinghua University @Tsinghua_Uni
Tsinghua freshmen undergrads practice Taichi, keeping fit while learning about Chinese culture. #newsemester pic.twitter.com/4e7vDrWMOa
— Tsinghua University (@Tsinghua_Uni) September 11, 2017
Bio Tsinghua University is a research university located in Beijing, China, established in 1911.
Legitimacy Seems so, but lacks the official approval of Twitter.
Funniest follow The ghosts and ghouls on campus stand no chance against paranormal investigator Robb Demarest.