‘Walled Off. Now What?’: Clubhouse’s Window Into China Closes

‘Walled Off. Now What?’: Clubhouse’s Window Into China Closes
The icon for the social media app Clubhouse is seen on a smartphone screen in Beijing, Feb. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Rachel Cheung and Assistant Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curate the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive China Note by email every week.

As China moved to block Clubhouse last Monday evening, a sense of impending doom spread among Chinese users on the audio-chat application that caught fire in the country this month. Moderators in group chats scrambled to let mainland Chinese speakers take to the podium, giving them a last chance to comment before they lose access to the app.

The ban hardly came as a surprise. One user called Clubhouse’s brief run “a period of hysteria before the Lunar New Year,” suggesting that the curtain was bound to fall. Though the app had been available since the spring of 2020, it recently saw such a huge explosion in popularity that invite codes were sold on the Chinese second-hand marketplace Xianyu for up to $40.

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