China’s Beloved Doge Emojis Don’t Mean What They Seem

Doge is serious business.
Doge emoji social media meme
From left to right: Doge emojis on Douyin, WeChat, and Weibo. 

Cartoon dogs derived from the famous doge meme are among the most popular emojis in China. And that’s not because they look cute or express joy.

Major social media platforms including WeChat, Weibo, and TikTok-like Douyin all have their own version of the doge. More often than not, the doge is used for sarcasm, much like how the upside-down smiley face conveys irony.

The emojis have become such a staple in Chinese internet culture that tech giants are rushing to trademark their own doge designs. 


According to business news outlet Caijing, Weibo, Tencent, and ByteDance, owner of TikTok and Douyin, have since February filed trademark applications for their own doge emojis.

“The trademark applications cover services such as telecommunications and advertising,” Caijing reported.

Some internet users speculate that the trademark push, the latest being Douyin’s April 14 applications, was tied to the meteoric rise in the value of the doge’s namesake cryptocurrency.

“This is all Dogecoin’s fault,” said a Weibo user.

Dogecoin’s price has risen more than 150 times over the past year, reaching a market value this month of $41 billion, or about as much as the market capitalization of HP or eBay.

Reports of the trademark applications came hours before Apple announced its new purple iPhone 12, which gave China’s internet users plenty of opportunities to whip out the doge emoji.

“I cannot afford an iPhone. I’ll just buy a purple phone case [doge],” said one of the most liked comments. 

These Chinese doge emojis are sometimes put at the end of a sentence to show the commenter does not actually mean what they are saying. Critics of the Chinese government would put it at the end of a post praising the authorities to show that they actually mean the opposite.

For example, under a Wednesday post on Weibo about how China’s new divorce cooling-off period had stopped couples from separating, commenters used the doge emoji to attack the rule for potentially keeping domestic violence victims in abusive marriages.


“Use a woman to comfort a potential criminal, it’s really worth it [doge],” a user said.

Making explicit attacks against the government could trigger censorship or even land the authors in detention.

Some users also use the doge when they express controversial opinions because it gives them plausible deniability. The strategy is dubbed “doge protects my life” in Chinese.

The doge emojis are all inspired by Kabosu, a female Shiba Inu living in Japan, whose snapshot became a global internet meme in the 2010s and led to the creation of cryptocurrency Dogecoin.

Follow Viola Zhou on Twitter.