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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Trump 'will tweet what he wants' inside China's 'Great Firewall'

China monitors people's internet habits and blocks websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google. But a White House official said this would not stop the US president from tweeting during his visit

US president Donald Trump will not curtail his notorious Twitter activity during his visit to China even though the social media platform is blocked by a "Great Firewall", a senior White House official said on Wednesday.

"The president will tweet whatever he wants," the official said aboard Air Force One shortly before Mr Trump landed in Beijing.

"That's his way of communicating directly with the American people. Why not? So long as he can access his Twitter account, because Twitter is banned in China along with Facebook and most of the other social media."

But, the official said: "I'm sure we've got the gear aboard this airplane to make it happen."

China monitors people's internet habits and blocks websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google in the name of "protecting national security".

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Chinese nationals can face fines or even jail time for unfavourable social media posts. Authorities have further tightened internet controls in recent months, shutting down celebrity gossip blogs and probing platforms for "obscenity".

Web users can circumvent the firewall if they download a virtual private network (VPN) — software that allows people to surf the internet as if they were using a server in another country.

Foreign visitors can also access banned websites with their phones if they are in roaming mode — but only because the authorities currently allow it, according to experts.

Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, was ablaze Wednesday with comments about what Mr Trump would do without his most cherished form of communication.

Since Mr Trump's election in 2016, critics among Chinese internet users have mockingly described American governance as "rule by Twitter".

Some commenters feigned ignorance about the banned site.

"Fake news. What's Twitter? This website doesn't exist," one quipped.

Others appeared to be asking for explanations about Twitter in earnest, while still others called on Mr Trump to create a Weibo account.

"In the three days that Trump's off Twitter, someone else will surely seize the throne," commented a user on Zhihu, a question-and-answer platform similar to Quora.