As the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-led state extends its reach into other nations, it’s actively limiting the ability of other countries to do the same in the People’s Republic of China. Seeing itself in an ideological confrontation with ‘the West’, the CCP under Xi Jinping is determined to ensure ideological conformity in its own information space. A key battleground is Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging service most closely analogous to Twitter. Since Weibo’s inception, embassies have maintained a presence on it—a rare foothold for foreign governments in China’s tightly controlled information space.
While some governments, particularly those of Western countries, have occasionally spoken outside the CCP’s frame of acceptable public discourse, most do not. As Weibo continues to introduce new and subtle methods of direct censorship, foreign embassies are both self-censoring their messaging and failing to speak up when their content is being censored. In Australia’s case, this lack of transparency and cycle of self-censorship sits oddly with the description of Australia as ‘a determined advocate of liberal institutions, universal values and human rights’ in the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper.