China blocked the audio application Flag Monday after a few remarkable days in which he brought people together from both sides of the Great Firewall. Quickly, some Chinese turned to virtual private networks to continue using the app and participate in discussions on controversial topics, including Taiwan independence, Tiananmen Square, and the treatment of Uyghur Muslims.
In a discussion on Monday evening UST, a speaker who claimed to access the app from mainland China using a VPN said the government is likely now monitoring the talks, but said that it was important to be heard. Others have offered a parallel with the US government’s crackdown on disinformation on social media.
Grace Tien, postdoctoral researcher in sociology and visiting scholar at Princeton University Center on Contemporary China, hosted a room in which participants discussed the ban. In an interview, she says a few tech-savvy friends in Shanghai were able to join the Clubhouse even after the apparent ban.
Clubhouse is an invitation-only iPhone application that allows users to create rooms in which up to 5,000 people can take turns listening and speaking. He proved a surprise blow among Silicon Valley influencers and their followers last year. Elon Musk recently used the app to facilitate a discussion.
More recently, prominent Chinese technologists and entrepreneurs were drawn to the app, which sparked renewed interest last week, before the government stepped in. apparent government ban.
Tien says she found it fascinating to hear discussions during the weekend between mainland Chinese and foreigners on topics that are normally politically charged and uninvolved in Chinese and Western media. She says she joined the discussion to add perspective from her research on religious and entrepreneurial communities in the United States and China.
“I wanted to know how the original Chinese would respond to these Uyghur storiesTien adds, referring to accounts of internment and repression of Muslims in Xinjiang province, in the far west of China, that some American politicians have called genocide.
Tien says the Clubhouse format – a sort of rowdy digital debate club – looks good for bringing people together. “It gives you the opportunity, in a way, to hang out and have candid conversations with people you would never normally get to meet,” she says.
Graham webster, a Stanford researcher who has studied the Chinese internet ecosystem for years, was amazed by the open discussion he heard over the weekend. “Suddenly people might be chatting about things that basically cannot be discussed on Chinese social media,” he says. “The barrier was taken down and it was exhilarating for a lot of people.”
Another reason for the Clubhouse’s recent popularity in China, Webster says, could be the pandemic as well as the upcoming Chinese New Year. He speculates that those who live abroad and cannot see their families in China may have looked for connections through the app.
Roger huang, a Forbes contributor and first user of the Clubhouse, says many people still seem to access mainland Chinese Clubhouse rooms using VPNs. Huang co-founded Tianxia, a group on Clubhouse dedicated to US-China relations with more than 20,000 members.
Huang says the app quickly became a hub for the Chinese diaspora, hosting heated discussions between those on the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the West. But he says the ban can create “social stigma” that dissuades some mainlanders from participating and leaves more pro and anti-Chinese voices.
The rise and fall of Clubhouse in China reflects how closely related the American and Chinese tech industries are, even as political differences become more apparent and speak of a fierce technological rivalry between the two countries is intensifying.