China’s ultra-powerful State Council has joined the social media age by registering an account on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. In less than 24 hours, the account had already gained more than 150,000 followers, and its first post was retweeted over 30,000 times:
“Hello everyone, the State Council’s Public Announcements Weibo account will officially go online tomorrow, and will carry out its mission of conveying government decrees, promoting policies, guiding work, and serving society. It will report in a timely manner the important policies of the state, and welcomes you to follow!” [大家好，国务院公报微博明天将正式上线，将秉承"传达政令、宣传政策、指导工作、服务社会"的办刊宗旨，及时准确地公布国家的重大方针政策，欢迎关注！]
Commenting on the account’s post is disabled. The measure is intended to restrict Weibo users’ ability to make their evaluations of the original post visible to other readers. Reposting is not disabled, however, so users can still make their voices heard by reposting, then adding their own comments.
Lamented one netizen who reposted the message: “Yet another account that doesn’t let you comment.” [又一个不让点评的。] Another wrote heatedly, “It’s been reposted like crazy! Ever since I logged on it’s been crowding up my timeline! The State Council Weibo account is so awesome! But you can’t comment! So terrible! If you can’t comment, it means there’s no way to communicate or express yourself, so it’s no different from traditional media, you can only sit there watching like an idiot! We’ve been forced to accept it! We’ve been harmonized! We’ve been ‘don’t speak’ed [a pun on the pen name of recent Nobel winner Mo Yan]! Argh! It’s just a game! Better just to go to sleep!” [都快转疯了！一上来就被这刷屏！国务院微博太NB了！可就是不能评论！太坑爹了！不能评就意味者还是不能交流不能表达，就和传统媒体没什么区别只能SB样看着！被接受！被和谐！我莫言啊！唉！一场游戏！还是努力睡吧！]
Having just signed up, the State Council follows only six other users: Weibo Customer Service, Top News Headlines, the People’s Daily, Government Weibo Assistance, the Diplomacy Channel, and the personal account of Laser Liu, Sina’s Political Affairs and Media Weibo Cooperation Customer Service Representative.
Some netizens poked fun at the account for its seemingly limited interest in following others. One commenter asked, “Does this venerable account secretly follow [Japanese adult film actress] Sora Aoi?” [ 贵博有在偷偷关注苍井空么？] (On Weibo, users have the option to anonymously follow a limited number of users). User @flex2007 chided, “Can’t you even photoshop your picture? Can you not even afford a graphic designer?”
To be fair, it has been only one day. The account will likely undergo many changes after it goes live. For now, one can at least say that even the highest levels of Chinese authority appear to recognize the importance of the country’s social media.