Tweeting in Beijing


Veteran event organisers would probably advise that holding a conference in Beijing for a banned American social media platform would not be ideally timed if you did so in the same week Washington blacklisted Huawei. Twitter’s decision to hold the event at all was surprising – given Chinese users cannot access the platform in China. But to do so amid an escalating Sino-US trade and tech war made the effort look all the more doomed.

And yet an increasingly angry mood in the press and among netizens did not seem to dull interest in attending Twitter’s Beijing conference. The auditorium at the Minsheng Art Museum had anticipated a turnout of 400, but so many turned up that that around 100 attendees were forced to sit on the stairs in the aisles. Attendees tended to be young and curious about Twitter’s overseas popularity. Tweeter-in-chief Donald Trump was off the agenda, but speakers included a South Korean ad agency on how it had used Twitter to promote K-Pop, and the filmmaker Zack King.

Twitter said its goal in holding the conference was to show how Chinese brands could use its platform to reach consumers overseas.

Somewhat backfiring in this respect were some of the Chinese brands listed in Twitter’s earlier printed marketing materials – such as Huawei (just hit with a US ban) and the dronemaker DJI (reportedly next in line to receive the same treatment).

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