China's 'Xi Dada' relies more on microblog for publicity



Beijing: News coverage of China's leaders has long been the exclusive domain of official media but the country's incoming president Xi Jinping is changing all that relying more on the popular microblog to strike rapport with people leaving state media flustered.

The state media, which enjoyed absolute monopoly since Communist Party came to power in 1949 appeared peeved as a new account called "Xuexifensituan" (Learning From Xi Fan Club) in Sina Weibo, akin to Chinese Twitter, is getting all first-hand information and pictures of Xi's tours in the country.

Though the anonymous female blogger claimed she was only an admirer of Xi, the candid coverage raised "eye brows" with people wondering whether Xi himself made a proxy debut to take advantage of the new microblog media whose numbers have crossed 300 million, overtaking official media in substance and content and in credibility.

The blog post has "raised eyebrows with its candid coverage", state-run Xinhua news agency said in a report today.

"What's going on? Why is it quicker and closer than we are?" read a post written by national broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) on Sina Weibo.

The posts are exclusive and always come ahead of reports from official media, the report said, an apparent attempt to popularise the blog.

The microblogger refers to Xi as 'Xi Dada', a term that translates as 'Uncle Xi' in some parts of China. 'Pingping', a dual-syllable nickname often used by intimate friends or relatives, is also used to describe China's top leader.

The blog has attracted nearly five lakh followers since going online in November 2012. Although the information contained in the blog has interested the public, netizens are also curious about the real identity of the blog's owner.

"The blog does not feature a 'V' emblem, a mark which indicates that the blog owner's identity has been verified by Sina Weibo. The only clues are profile details stating that the blog's owner is a female from northwest China's Shaanxi province," the report said.

It is suspected to be maintained by someone very close to Xi, as the information it contains is supposed to be unavailable to the public and some of its photos were shot from vantages close to Xi, it said.

"Who on earth is the blogger? Is it a bodyguard of Xi, or is it Xi himself?" asked Weibo user. The blog's owner has denied claims that he or she is close to Xi.

"I am just an ordinary office worker, not a CPC member, nor an official," an entry on the blog said. The entry claimed the information and pictures featured on the blog were collected online or contributed by local residents.

"I think I have the right to choose and follow my own idol. I like Xi and also look forward to the movements of the new CPC leadership," the post said.

Some netizens have noticed that some of the photos posted on the blog were taken from posts written by other people.

Under the current political system and news reporting practices in China, the existence of such a blog seems "unusual," said Zhang Zhi'an, an expert on new media analysis at Sun Yat-sen University.

However, Zhang said the posts have helped to make Xi look more accessible.

Venezuela's ailing President Hugo Chavez has nearly 4 million followers on his Twitter account while 26 million follow US President Barack Obama's account run by his staff.

PTI