David Cameron has joined Sina Weibo. The British Prime Minister joined the social network — a popular Chinese microblogging platform similar to Twitter — on November 29th, ahead of a planned diplomatic visit to China. Cameron's first message was used to greet "friends in China" in both English and Mandarin Chinese.
Some Weibo users questioned the authenticity of Cameron's account, but the British Embassy in Beijing confirmed Cameron's participation, saying that "Big boss" had come to Weibo. Shortly afterwards, Cameron landed in the country for a three-day trip, using his new account to post pictures of his plane as it arrived in Beijing and document diplomatic functions, earning 194,000 followers in the process. In contrast, Cameron's Twitter account — opened in October 2012 — has 500,000 followers.
Cameron already has 194,000 Weibo fans
The British Prime Minister was joined on his visit to the country by more than 100 UK business leaders in what has been called "the largest British trade mission to ever go to China." The trip is intended to pave the way for a free trade agreement between China and the European Union. Business between the two countries has been flourishing recently: British exports to China were 20% higher in the first three quarters of this year than they were in all of 2010.
The Prime Minister met the Dalai Lama in 2012
If Cameron already has the wallets of the Chinese people, his joining of Weibo is an attempt to win their hearts and minds. The visit is the Prime Minister's first to China since he met with the Dalai Lama in 2012. The Chinese foreign ministry said the the meeting with the exiled Tibetan leader "hurt the feelings" of the Chinese people, leading to a stiffening in diplomatic relations between the two countries. Earlier this year, Cameron was forced to give up on a planned visit to Beijing after party officials told him the country's leadership was unlikely to be available for meetings.
Beijing appears to have forgiven the perceived slight, but Weibo's users are yet to forget it. BBC News reports one user, "Wuyanliuju," said "Dalai's friend has come to China for our silver." Others, including "West Sea Fisherman," told Cameron to go home unless he brought up China's human rights abuses in high level meetings.