Social networking apps in China

So you’re in China now and you don’t have Facebook, or Twitter, or YouTube. How are you going to keep in touch with all of the people around you? With China’s own social networking apps, of course! And there certainly are a lot of them in this country. You might even find a few bear uncanny similarities to certain Western apps. Here are some of the most popular.


QQ – Best for keeping in touch

QQ International interface (souce: 

Compatibility: Android, iPad, iPhone, Windows phone.

Price: Free.

QQ is an online messaging service with a huge user base, and offers chat, photo, audio and video call services, plus file-sending and more. The smartphone app also allows English-speaking users to write their own blog articles on the Qzone blog site, making it one of the few China-based blogging services to have an English interface. Search for QQ International in your app store for a non-Chinese version that supports 19 languages. 

Outside of its chat software, QQ’s product range also includes email, micro-blogging, online shopping, video games and more – all of which are accessible once you open a QQ account (although some may require additional payments to activate). The QQ messenger service is also available on PC.


WeChat (aka 微信, Weixin) – Best for making friends easily

WeChat interface (source:

Compatibility: Android, iPad, iPhone, Windows phone.

Price: Free.

WeChat known as Weixin in Chinese, claims to be the most popular app in China, with over  300 million registered users. All you have to know really is that if you’re meeting new people in China, it’s only a matter of time before you hear the question “Do you have WeChat?” 

The app supports messaging between individual users or among user groups via text, pictures (from the user’s camera or their phone’s memory), video/audio clips, and real-time video/audio calls. It also has the ‘Moments’ function, which acts like a mini Facebook feed, allowing you to share images, text and sound, as well as links to webpages. You can register for WeChat using a QQ account number or your phone number. 


Momo (陌陌) – Best for meeting strangers 

Momo interface (source:

Compatibility: Android, iPad, iPhone, Windows phone.

Price: Free.

Momo is a location-based mobile app that aims to connect strangers so they can make friends quickly and easily – handy if you’re new in town and want to meet some new folks. 

Functionally, it’s similar to the Western Tinder app, though it’s considerably less judgmental, and less focused on rating and picking up strangers. Still, it has built up a reputation as an app for “one-night stands”, something that Momo’s owners have spent a fortune trying to reverse, emphasizing that it’s about building all types of relationships among its users. An English-language version is coming soon, according to the official Momo site.  


Sina Weibo (微博) – Best for hot gossip 

Weibo interface

Compatibility: Android, iPad, iPhone, Windows phone.

Price: Free.

“Weibo” is the Chinese equivalent of Twitter – short messages comprising 140 characters or less, featuring photos, video, audio or just plain text – but it is not a brand; there are a number of separate and competing weibo websites.

Of them all, Sina Weibo is undoubtedly the most popular, claiming to attract 57 percent of all weibo users in China. By the end of 2012, it says, its population of registered users had reached more than 500 million, of which 46.2 million were active and posted over 100 million messages a day. 

As with Twitter, it has a strong following among celebrities, influential figures and organizations, who use it as a way to promote themselves and communicate directly with fans and followers. Some government offices even post official notices thorough their Sina Weibo accounts. 

The Sina Weibo app does have an English option in the settings, but this only translates the operating interface, not the messages. That said, many international figures also have Weibo accounts and post in English. 


Baidu BBS (百度贴吧) – Best for in-depth discussion

Baidu BBS app interface

Compatibility: Android, iPad, iPhone, Windows phone.

Price: Free.

Baidu BBS is an interactive platform that allows people who share the same interests to discuss the topics that mean the most to them. It has 60 million registered users and 8 million posts. You will almost certainly find any topic you can think of in from this app – however, most of the contents are in Chinese. 


Zhihu (知乎) – Best for learning new things 

Zhihu app interface

Compatibility: Android, iPad, iPhone, Windows phone.

Price: Free.

Zhihu is a Chinese-only question-and-answer community similar to the English-language website Quora. Users raise or answer questions on a variety of topics – some fun, some informative and some instructive. Users search for questions they want to know, or follow someone and see what he/she will answer or ask. They can also recommend someone to answer a question if they want to know what he or she thinks. 


Douban Xiaozu (豆瓣小组) – Best for finding like-minded folks

Douban Xiaozu app

Compatibility: Android, iPad, iPhone, Windows phone.

Price: Free.

Like Baidu BBS, Douban Xiaozu is a forum; one in which users can join in groups fitting their interests and create or discuss topics important to them. This Chinese-only app only shows the posts and threads that suit your personal interests, so you’ll mostly be talking to people like you and on topics that you’re really interested in. 


Weishi (微视) – Best for sharing video

Weishi app

Compatibility: Android, iPad, iPhone.

Price: Free.

Weishi is uncannily similar to the US app Vine, being a video app with social networking features that allows you to share eight-second videos with friends and strangers, and watch their videos in turn. After following another user, you can see his/her video feeds and click like button if you like it. It is only in Chinese, but the interface is simple to operate. 


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