Australian use of WeChat
Global Times (环球时报)
04 March 2019

The following is a translation of an article published in the Global Times (环球时报).

Australian Prime Minister wins Chinese support by opening a WeChat account, praises Chinese-Australians’ important in Australia-China relations

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened a public account on Chinese social media WeChat on 1 February. It is thought it is intended to attract Chinese voters, in the context of the general election to be held in Australia in 2019. In fact, more and more politicians have been setting their sights on WeChat to win Chinese support.

 

Morrison published his first WeChat post on 1 February, highly valuing what Chinese have contributed to Australia. “More than 500,000 Chinese have settled in Australia. Chinese migrants have worked hard and contributed new ideas for two hundred years, helping mould Australia’s status and economy”. He also praised Chinese-Australians’ important role in close relations between the two countries, and expressed pride in close economic, cultural and political links.

 

His second post on 2 February described his participation in the Year of the Pig Chinese New Year celebrations, with pictures and text. He said he especially liked the lion dance, and hoped he could spend Chinese New Year with everybody every year.

 

Concerning Morrison’s move to join Chinese social media, Australian media commented that his more important aim is focussed on the upcoming 2019 election. On the one hand, the enthusiasm of Chinese-Australians for political participation is growing, and Chinese voters play a decisive role in certain constituencies.

 

He hoped to attract more attention by opening his WeChat account before Chinese New Year. On the other hand, his competitors the Labor Party started connecting with Chinese voters by Chinese language social media before his own Liberal Party. Labor leader Kevin Rudd was the first Australian Prime Minister to open a WeChat account in 2013. Current Labor leader Bill Shorten opened an account in May 2017, and regularly posts content. Labor Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen also carried on an hour of live chat on WeChat with a group of Chinese-Australians in 2017, becoming the first Australian politician to do it. So Morrison and his Liberal Party have clearly fallen behind in this.

 

Social media is playing a more important role in Australian election campaigns. Election debate platforms were already crossing over from traditional newspaper media to social media at the last election. In this context social media from the People’s Republic of China is also taken seriously. There are 1,500,000 WeChat users in Australia. The major political parties are enthusiastically embracing this new channel of communication with voters. However some organisations are warning to investigate whether there is any foreign interference behind WeChat.

 

Translation by: Graeme Ford, NAATI Certified Professional Translator (Chinese-English), NAATI Practitioner no. 5046

Date of Translation: 1 March 2019

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