Chinese President Xi Jinping just signed up for Facebook to promote his ongoing visit to the United States.
Keeping in mind that many world leaders such as President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron use the social media site – why is this big news?
Well, it is because none of the 668 million Internet users in China will be able to access the newly created/verified “Xi’s US Visit” page on Facebook because the website has been banned by the communist government for nearly six years.
In November 2003, the country erected its virtual Great Wall of China – or firewall rather – that would control and monitor Internet activities. The program, called the Golden Shield, applied restrictions on websites, foreign and/or local, containing anti-government content among other things.
China turned out the lights on Facebook in 2009 as it’s viewed suspiciously by the government as a platform to freely disseminate ideas. A Twitter-like microblogging website Weibo is hugely popular, but is heavily censored and monitored by Chinese authorities.
In 2014, China's ambassador to the U.K., Liu Xiaoming, defended the blocking of Facebook and Twitter while accusing them of “spreading rumors and bias against China.”
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In a landmark decision passed in September 2013, the Chinese government relaxed its notorious Internet censorship by granting access to three websites, Facebook, Twitter and The New York Times. However, the ban was only lifted in Shanghai’s free-trade zone to attract Western businessmen.
This time around, the Chinese government is once again using Facebook to pursue its own economic interests.
Xi is regularly posting status updates, photos and videos of his first official state visit to the U.S. – which is more or less about strengthening bilateral trade between the two countries. It’s all so ironic since none of his people will be able to read, comment or like any of the posts on the Xi's Facebook page.