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Foreign Campai gning on Weibo


  Text by Liu Haile

  “Today is Father’s Day in Australia,and I wonder whether it is thesame in China. I received giftsfrom my wife and children, includinga book, a tie, and a recent photo of my belovedgranddaughter. Seeing her photo on my desk,I hardly believe she’s already three months old. Timeflies! Even our kitten joined our family’s reunion forFather’s Day... ? Lao Lu”

  Posted on September 2, 2012, on Sina Weibo,China’s largest microblogging platform, these wordsread like those of a familiar Chinese family man. Infact, the author, who calls himself “Lao Lu”, is Kevin Rudd, Australian Member of Parliament and formerPrime Minister. Online, he comes off extremely amiable.Instead of discussing serious political topics, mosthis posts are related to everyday life. For instance, heonce posted the wedding photos of his son and daughter-in-law, as well as photos of four generations of hisfamily. So far, his Sina Weibo account has attractedmore than 280,000 followers.

  Foreign Politicians Flock to Weibo

  Perhaps Kevin Rudd’s fluent Chinese helps makehim one of the most popular foreign politicians on Sina Weibo. Since April 18, when he registered a Weibo accountafter recommendation from CCTV anchormanRui Chenggang, Rudd has persistently published postsin Chinese himself, evidenced by occasional mistakes.Rudd’s use of Weibo stirred concern amongstAustralian media outlets. The Sydney Morning Heraldwrote, “Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has rekindledhis love affair with China by embracing thepopular Chinese social media site, Weibo.”

  Rudd isn’t the first and only foreign politician tojoin Weibo. Christine Lagarde, managing director ofthe International Monetary Fund (IMF), interactedwith followers through Weibo on Chinese New Year’sDay. Former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarinrevealed through Tencent Weibo that he wasreading poems of Meng Haoran, a noted Tang Dynasty(618-907) poet, on his flight to Paris. LondonMayor Boris Johnson even used Sina Weibo to campaignfor votes. Statistics released by the Public RelationsDepartment of Sina Weibo show that more than300 politicians from countries including the UnitedStates, Britain, Japan, and Australia, as well as internationalorganizations such as the United Nations andthe IMF, have registered accounts on the site.

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