Why Threads is suddenly popular in Taiwan

Why Threads is suddenly popular in Taiwan

Still, Threads’ popularity plummeted after its launch in July 2023. In Taiwan—like the rest of the world—many users left the platform after satisfying their initial curiosity. 

But the 2024 Taiwanese presidential election gave it another chance. Wang, who studies social media in Taiwan, traced the platform’s second rise to November of last year, starting with the supporters of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), often associated with the color green. “Many (worried) pan-green supporters noticed that their complaints on politics were promoted to more readers on Threads than any other social media platforms (especially Facebook and Instagram), so more and more pan-green supporters gathered to Threads and used it as a mobilization tool,” he says.

The election concluded in mid-January, with DPP candidate Lai Ching-te elected as Taiwan’s president. Many supporters of his party stayed on the platform. And as it became influential, other political figures also reactivated their Threads accounts and started posting regularly, trying to join the conversation. Everyday users who are less interested in politics came along too.

On almost every day of the past three months, Threads has been the most downloaded social network app in both Apple’s and Android’s app stores in Taiwan, according to Sensor Tower, an app store intelligence firm. It surpassed both Western social platforms and those popular in China. 

What does Taiwan Threads look like?

Wang, who has been actively posting on Threads and accumulated over 3,000 followers, observes that there are two major demographics among Taiwan’s Threads users today: the pro-green voters, and younger students who are still in middle school and high school. “In recent weeks, there is a considerable amount of discussion on how to choose colleges, majors, and even high schools,” he says.

Since Threads doesn’t have an official name in Chinese, Taiwanese users have tried to translate it in creative ways. Some stay close to the meaning and call it 串 or chuan, which means a string of beads or other objects (it could also mean a kebab skewer). Others call it 脆 or cui, which means crispy or fragile. It’s a transliteration attempt that many feel is too far-fetched, but since there’s no sound like “th” in Mandarin, it’s the best alternative, and it has already caught on among the users and surpassed other names. 

What defines the content on Threads is a mix of political and lifestyle posts. On the one hand, some of the most influential accounts are Taiwanese politicians at all levels, including the presidential candidates. On the other, Threads users have embraced a type of content called 廢文—a cross between trash talk and light-stakes monologue. 

As a result, to gain a following on Threads, the best practice is to mix up the serious and the unserious. One local representative candidate became unexpectedly famous when people discovered that his son was physically attractive. Joking about how this son’s virality has eclipsed his own, the politician now calls himself “The father of the son of Phoenix Cheng” on Threads, where he has over 268,000 followers.

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Threads is giving Taiwanese users a safe space to talk about politics

Threads is giving Taiwanese users a safe space to talk about politics

3. The US government is considering cutting the so-called de minimis exemption from import duties, which makes it cheap for Temu and Shein to send packages to the US. But lots of US companies also benefit from the exemption now. (The Information $)

4. The Chinese commerce minister will visit Europe soon to plead his country’s case amid the European Commission’s investigation into Chinese electric vehicles. (Reuters $)

5. After three years of unsuccessful competition with WhatsApp, ByteDance’s messaging app designed for the African market finally shut down last month. (Rest of World)

6. The rapid progress of AI makes it seem less necessary to learn a foreign language. But there are still things AI loses in translation. (The Atlantic $)

7. This is the incredible story of a Chinese man who takes his piano to play outdoors at places of public grief: in front of the covid quarantine barriers in Wuhan, at the epicenter of an earthquake, on a river that submerged villages. And he plays the same song—the only song he knows, composed by the Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. (NPR)

Lost in translation

With Netflix’s March release of The Three Body Problem, a series adapted from the global hit sci-fi novel by Chinese author Liu Cixin, Western audiences are also learning about a movie-like real-life drama behind the adaptation. In 2021, the Chinese publication Caixin first investigated the mysterious death of Lin Qi, a successful businessman who bought the movie rights to the book. In 2017, he hired Xu Yao, a prominent attorney, to work on legal affairs and government relations.

In December 2020, Lin died after he was poisoned by a mysterious mix of toxins. According to Caixin, Xu is a fan of the TV series Breaking Bad and had his own plant in Shanghai where he made poisons. He would order hundreds of different toxins through the dark web, mix them, and use them on pets to experiment. A week before Lin’s death, Xu gave him a bottle of pills that were supposedly prebiotics, but he had replaced them with poison. 

Xu was arrested soon after Lin died, and he was sentenced to death on March 22 this year.

One more thing

Taobao, China’s leading e-commerce platform, announced it’s experimenting with delivering packages by rockets. Yes, rockets. Made by a Chinese startup, Taobao’s pilot rockets will be able to deliver something as big as a car or a truck, and the rockets can be reused for the next delivery. To be honest, I still can’t believe this wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.

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