Is Reddit Chinese?

Reddit is the most popular Internet forum for people who wish to participate in discussions, debates, give and get advice, and generally exchange information with other users worldwide. After a controversy with Tencent in 2019, people who want to join the site wonder is Reddit Chinese and how that affects the users.

Reddit is not Chinese, but the Chinese company Tencent invested $150 million in it in 2019. That caused some controversy among the existing users because China frequently bans Reddit through the Great Firewall of China. Reddit’s current value is $3 billion, which was significantly boosted by Tencent’s investment.

A close up of a phone screen and the Reddit app icon
How did the investment by Tencent affect Reddit and its users?

Many people were curious to learn more about the Chinese Reddit controversy in 2019, and it seems like there’s still a lot of interest in the situation. It’s no secret that Chinese companies censor media, but how does that reflect on Reddit and its users?

Is Reddit Chinese and What Percentage of It Does China Own?

Reddit was founded by American businessmen Steve Huffman, Alexis Ohanian, and Aaron Schwartz in 2005. It’s a forum used as a discussion platform, social news outlet, and web content rating platform.

The first major investor in Reddit became Conde Nast Publications by purchasing it in October of 2006. Reddit became independent in 2011 as a subsidiary of Advance Publications, Conde Nast’s parent company.

Throughout the years, Reddit’s organized funding rounds to gather financial endorsements, and in February 2019, the Chinese company Tencent invested $150 million. This raised Reddit’s company value to $3 billion and caused significant controversy.

Tencent is now holding around 5% of Reddit’s shares, while Conde Nast remains the majority shareholder.

What Is Tencent, the Leading Company In the People’s Republic of China?

Tencent is a Chinese tech giant and conglomerate holding company. It was founded in 1998 and since then has gathered subsidiaries globally, all of which market Internet-related services and products in some form or another.

Knowing the nature and history of Tencent, people may wonder why its investment in Reddit is controversial. But Tencent is, more than being a conglomerate and tech giant, known for censoring Internet users in China and taking control over most of China’s online space.Their censorship was dubbed “The Great Firewall of China,” and the apps it owns in mainland China, such as WeChat, regularly ban posts that are somehow unfavorable in the country. US users have experienced getting banned from WeChat despite not being in mainland China.

Many famous app icons put together in one image
Tencent owns shares in many Internet-related companies and products

How Has the Community Reacted to the Chinese Purchase In the Subreddits?

As soon as the word came out that Tencent invested $150 million in Reddit’s shares, the users left comments complaining about the possibility of getting censored

Since Reddit is known and loved precisely for its non-censoring agenda, Tencent’s involvement seemed like a prediction of things to come.

The Redditors’ concerns became so high and out of control that they went on a spree of posting comments, photos, and memes that somehow mock and provoke the Great Firewall of China.

What Would Censoring Reddit’s Users Signify for Reddit?

Reddit’s users would likely leave the website if any signs of censorship occurred. For a site with around 400 million users and about 140,000 active communities, censorship would mean taking away essential freedom of expression and privacy.

Generally, communities and subreddits have rules of conduct. Those who truly spread negativity get banned and censored, but the censorship that Tencent typically does isn’t solely banning hate-spreading users; it also prohibits anti-establishment posts.

A woman off-screen holding a smartphone
Tencent is known for censoring media and user posts, so Redditors worried they’d get the same treatment

The Most Active Subreddit Was R/Pics with Over 20 Million Subscribers

The subreddit called r/pics was the most active when the news of Tencent investing in Reddit came out. They began to share images of Winnie the Pooh and the famous image of a man standing in front of a tank from the Tiananmen Square protest.

Why are these images so controversial? Well, it’s a little more evident for the Tiananmen Square image. Chinese media outlets regularly ban any news and information on the massacre that happened in 1989 at the Beijing square. When the image of the man in front of the tank was posted, it was upvoted over 200,000 times that same week.

Winnie the Pooh, however, is a more recent controversial figure in China. Since 2017, many Chinese people have gone to social media platforms and started to share images that show similarities between the cartoon character Winnie the Pooh and their president Xi Jinping.

This was offensive to the president, and any image of Winnie the Pooh was outlawed entirely in China that year. Reddit users doubled down on this news and shared numerous pictures of Winnie the Pooh compared to the Chinese president on the subreddit.

A man sitting in a chair and holding his phone
Redditors expressed their dissatisfaction and fears of censorship by sharing banned content on the r/pics subreddit

China Might Create More Websites With Similar Contents to Reddit

While Reddit is currently available to use in China, its media and government have worked hard on creating domestic alternatives that attract more local users. Considering how Tik Tok started as a Chinese company, and now they have an alternative for it, it won’t be surprising if every platform gets its Chinese version.Currently, the most used Reddit-type platform in China is called Baidu Tieba. It’s older than WeChat but equally influential. There’s the possibility that Tencent and other similar tech conglomerates will invest in more forums and websites where people gather to discuss and therefore leave Reddit out of their censoring habits.