Community-Building Activities on China's Internet


Focusing on the messaging app, We Chat, research considers how small user groups are affecting the course of Chinese social, political, and economic development. WeChat, a mobile application that has grown to include more than 400 million active Chinese users, presents an opportunity for common citizens as well as disadvantaged groups to form small virtual communities, ones that can often evade government observation and censorship. It allows closed group formation of up to 100 people and can link these small digital groups with other like-minded users. Research on the effects of this phenomenon is based on archival and fieldwork study.

Recent publications

Harwit, Eric (2018). Is 5G wireless technology the next field for Chinese dominance? China-US Focus, 4 April.

Harwit, Eric (2017). WeChat: Social and political development of China's dominant messaging app. Chinese Journal of Communication. 10(3): 312-27.

Harwit, Eric (2017). Tesla's China venture—will the company set a precedent in Shanghai? China-US Focus, 9 November.

Harwit, Eric (2017). Ford and Tesla's challenge to Trump in China. China-US Focus, 19 July.

Harwit, Eric (2017). ZTE's penalty: Repercussions of an American-imposed fine. China-US Focus, 24 May.

Harwit, Eric (2016). The Internet in China: Economic growth and bridging the digital divide. The World Financial Review, January-February.

Harwit, Eric (2014). Telecommunications in China. In Berkshire Essentials: The Internet in China: Cultural, political and social dimensions (1980s-2000s). Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Harwit, Eric (2014). The rise and influence of Weibo (Microblogs) in China. Asian Survey. November-December: 1059-87.

Harwit, Eric (2013). Chinese and Japanese investment in Southeast and South Asia: Case studies of the automobile and electronics industries. Pacific Review, September: 361-83.

Harwit, Eric (2012). Comparative development of the mobile Internet in China and Japan. In Rodney Wai-chi Chu, Leopoldina Fortunati, Pui-Lam Law, and Shanhua Yang, eds., Mobile communication and greater China (pp. 80-95). London: Routledge.

Recent conference presentations

Harwit, Eric (2018). The internationalization of China’s leading social media mobile app: Overseas expansion of China’s WeChat. Association of Asian Studies annual conference, 23 March, Washington, D.C.

Harwit, Eric (2016). New social media technologies and community mobilization in China: The growth and potential of WeChat. Association of Asian Studies annual conference, 2 April 2016, Seattle, Washington.

Harwit, Eric (2014). The growth and development of China’s smart phone services: A case study of WeChat. Association of Asian Studies annual conference, 29 March, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Harwit, Eric (2013). Issues in China’s economic relations with Japan. Keynote speech at Aichi University Conference on Contemporary China-Japan Relations, 9 November, Nagoya, Japan.

Harwit, Eric (2013). The rise and influence of microblogs in China. International Convention of Asian Scholars, 25 June, Macau, China.

Related to staff: 

See all current East-West Center Research Projects.