Forbidden in China, but Trump skirts ‘Great Firewall’ to tweet about Beijing trip

US President Donald Trump (L) looks up as he sits beside China’s President Xi Jinping during a tour of the Forbidden City in Beijing on Nov. 8, 2017. US President Donald Trump toured the Forbidden City with Chinese leader Xi Jinping as he began the crucial leg of an Asian tour intended to build a global front against North Korea’s nuclear threats. (AFP/Jim Watson)
Updated 09 November 2017
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Forbidden in China, but Trump skirts ‘Great Firewall’ to tweet about Beijing trip

BEIJING: US President Donald Trump went around and over the “Great Firewall” of China in a late-night tweet in Beijing as he thanked his hosts for a rare tour of the Forbidden City and a private dinner at the sprawling, centuries-old palace complex.
Many Western social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are banned in China. A sophisticated system has been built to deny online users within China access to blocked content.
That was not an issue for Trump, known for tweeting to his 42.3 million followers at any hour of the day, on Wednesday, the day he arrived in Beijing.
“On behalf of @FLOTUS Melania and I, THANK YOU for an unforgettable afternoon and evening at the Forbidden City in Beijing, President Xi and Madame Peng Liyuan. We are looking forward to rejoining you tomorrow morning!“
Trump even changed his Twitter banner, uploading a photograph of himself and Melania with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, during a Chinese opera performance at the Forbidden City.
The Twitter banner upload did not go unnoticed by Chinese state media, with state broadcaster CCTV flashing screenshots of the photograph on Thursday.
Trump’s visit was also the third-most talked-about topic on Chinese social media platform Weibo over the last 24 hours, trailing only the birthday of a singer in a Chinese boy band and a weekly Asian pop song chart.
Many people wondered how Trump managed to evade China’s tough Internet controls.
“I guess he must have done it via wifi on a satellite network,” said a user on Weibo.
Many foreigners log on to virtual private networks (VPNs) to access content hosted outside of China. Another option is to sign up for a data-roaming service before leaving one’s home country.
“The president will tweet whatever he wants. That’s his way of communicating directly with the American people. Why not?” a White House official said ahead of Trump’s arrival in Beijing on Wednesday.
Not all of Trump’s tweets in China were bright and cheerful.
“NoKo has interpreted America’s past restraint as weakness,” he tweeted about reclusive North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. “This would be a fatal miscalculation. Do not underestimate us. AND DO NOT TRY US.”


Rewriting the future: Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas on Arab News’ new leaf

Updated 20 April 2018
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Rewriting the future: Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas on Arab News’ new leaf

  • As a journalist, I don’t think there is any place more interesting in the region than Saudi Arabia: Arab News Editor in Chief
  • Arab News will move away from being seen merely as a 'newspaper' to a whole array of new offerings

On April 1, a tweet went out from the Arab News account: “Arab News — as you know it — will no longer exist! #AprilFoolsDay #WhatChanged.” 

The message was a teaser building up to the  relaunch of the English-language daily following a comprehensive overhaul, described by Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas as “The biggest shake-up the paper has had throughout its 43-year history.”

On April 4, the relaunch issue hit the newsstands, with changes also reflected across the digital editions. While the new look and feel of the paper represent a bold departure, many of the shifts have materialized over the past year. In a wide-ranging interview with Communicate magazine, Abbas described the evolution of Arab News since he took the reins in September 2016. 

“We went back to our roots and took the paper back from being a local news outlet to its original positioning as the English voice of the region,” he told the magazine. 

To achieve this, Arab News, which is owned by the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), has opened bureaus in London, Dubai and Pakistan and has hired some of the best industry talent, made significant changes to its workflow structure and rewritten its editorial policy.

The changes are all part of a future plan entitled Arab News 2020 to coincide with the paper’s 45th anniversary that year. Key to this is a “digital-first” philosophy which is incorporating more video and social media to serve the title’s expanding demographic in the online sphere, though with print revenues at 90 percent, it won’t be killing its print editions any time soon.  

Instead, the focus is on expansion. “We are moving away from being recognized as merely a “newspaper” to a whole array of digital offerings, events and tailored products,” Abbas said. Examples include the Arab News partnership with YouGov, producing material that “quickly became a reference for the region,” on major events, including polls on lifting the ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia and a 2017 survey on British attitudes toward the Arab world — cited in the UK Parliament. 

The paper’s metamorphosis coincides neatly with the transformation taking place in Saudi Arabia as the country embraces an ambitious reform program as part of the Vision 2030 which, among other things, is redefining the local media industry. “As a journalist, I don’t think there is any place more interesting in the region than Saudi Arabia,” Abbas said. “We are very lucky to be at the heart of (the) change.”