Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

How China Divides the Left: Competing Transnational Left-Wing Alternative Media on Twitter

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Abstract:  Twitter has pushed public opinion on foreign policy into partisan bubbles that often value alternative media sources over traditional media or political elites. Public opinion on China is no exception. On the left, some alternative media outlets support China as a socialist ideal, while others criticize it as a key player in global capitalism and neoliberal order. This leads to an important puzzle: How and why do some transnational left media disseminate pro-China messaging while others do not? We focus on two leftist alternative media outlets: the Qiao Collective and Lausan. Both organizations claim to offer a variety of counter-hegemonic-oriented discourses. We first qualitatively analyze the differences in how these two organizations frame key topics in contemporary Chinese politics including Uyghurs in Xinjiang and the Hong Kong protests. We then use quantitative social network analysis to show how their communication efforts lead to different follower audiences. In the last step, we analyze what issues the Qiao Collective is using to achieve its inward- and outward-oriented goals. Our study shows how both outlets focus on the transnational left, but each reaches distinct audiences that do not overlap. We find that the Qiao Collective jumps on traditional left-wing issues in the US to extend its reach while regularly posting positive, often revisionist perspectives about Chinese politics. This specific element conflicts with its claim of supporting anti-imperialist and pro-democracy politics and distinguishes the Qiao Collective from other transnational left outlets.

Keywords:  alternative media; China; counterpublic; public opinion; Twitter; transnational


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© Lev Nachman, Adrian Rauchfleisch, Brian Hioe. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.