India announced a ban on TikTok in late June, leaving 200 million users at a loose end, but some accounts have since started appearing on Douyin, the Chinese domestic version of TikTok, and the Global Times found that the holders of some of these accounts claim to be Indian.
These accounts on the Chinese platform attracted some public attention recently as they indicated which caste they belong to in the screen names, causing discussion over the Indian social system on Chinese social media.
“Simply to bring a real India to you,” a Douyin user named Jams Boshi said in the account introduction.
The account revealed little personal information about the blogger, who appears to be a 29-year-old Indian student at Zhejiang Ocean University. It released its first post on July 28 and had miraculously attracted more than 27,000 followers as of Monday.
The Global Times tried to contact the blogger, but was only warned by an automatic message from Douyin that the account had been suspended. Its latest post was released on August 2.
During the six days Jams’ account was alive, it released 29 edited short videos – all with loud background music and simple Chinese captions – that show Indian hotels, trains and food.
Some videos refuted some widespread stereotypes about India. For example, the first video the blogger posted showed some pictures including one with a man standing in a river and drinking a bottle of water. The caption for the video is “our water is clean” with the hashtag reading the Ganges River.
But people in the videos don’t speak, and the blogger does not appear, the Global Times found.
Similar content can also been seen on other accounts such as one named Joy Kshatriya with 6,928 followers.
TikTok is a hot topic currently, following the US and Indian ban. It is possible that some marketing companies want to take advantage of it to attract followers, He Hui, a professor with the School of International Journalism and Communication at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Monday.
He noted that it is difficult to judge the authenticity of these accounts if they have not conducted real-name verification with the platform.
Accounts with real-name verification on Douyin will have a small yellow icon with a tick on the profile. None of the accounts claiming to be Indian bloggers the Global Times found has the yellow icon.
As for indicating the caste in the screen name, He said that this aims to label these bloggers, strengthening their features and making them stand out from competitors.
It is unclear whether they intended to cause discussion on the caste system from the beginning, but it is safe to say that they make use of Chinese people’s curiosity about the system to attract followers, He noted.
A blogger named Jack claimed that he came from a slum in Mumbai and used to be oppressed by people from an upper caste. He came to China by chance. “I love China, but love India more,” he wrote in the introduction.
Jack posted six videos from July 26 to 30 showing food made by Dalit people and had attracted 1,562 followers as of Monday.
The three accounts, Jams, Joy and Jack, follow each other on Douyin, the Global Times found. Some Douyin users questioned how people from different castes follow each other given the strict hierarchy.
Despite doubts, some other Douyin users applauded videos these accounts released, commenting that their videos help Chinese people learn more about the real India.