As these new platforms for talking and joking became popular—QQ (a descendant of instant messaging system ICQ), Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter), WeChat—biaoqing migrated over and adapted to their new environments. They tend to be bigger than their message board dwelling ancestors now in both physical and file size, but they are still constrained by the limitations of these new platforms: lack of consistent GIF support, small mobile displays, and the desire to minimize data usage.
Creation and ReproductionLike reaction GIFs, biaoqing are spread naturally through the course of online conversation—one person shares one to emphasize their mood, and a recipient or viewer might download it to use themselves in the future. People deeper into online fandoms make it a point to collect newer sets or even make their own variations for their favorite celebrities, TV shows, and movies. At its simplest, this new creation could be nothing more than adding a new caption onto an existing image. More advanced pixelworkers will also create GIFs and screencaps from new video footage, distill new expressions, and create new remixes layered with references.
There's limited platform support for GIFs: for example, you can't post GIFs in WeChat Moments at all, and Weibo doesn't allow comments with GIFs [though it is allowed as an original post]. More importantly, biaoqing have to be easily modifiable. The captions on our biaoqing are constantly being updated with the latest sayings and slang, and the pictures have even more variation. Each fandom, whether it's of a celebrity or a show or movie, creates and uses their own set of biaoqing. When a new popular movie comes out, we might switch all of our biaoqing to a new set overnight.
Flame WarIn January of 2016, fueled by increased anxiety around the upcoming Taiwanese election, a massive flame war erupted between Chinese and Taiwanese internauts over the well-tread issue of Taiwanese sovereignty. The catalyst was a Kpop star's comments and subsequent forced apology; the main stage of conflict, a Chinese actor's Facebook page. Both sides unleashed harsh language and insulting memes en masse. On the Chinese internet, it was dubbed 表情包大战: "The Great Biaoqing-Pack War".As with many conflicts of soft power, both sides declared victory. On the mainland, blog after blog reported that Taiwan's biaoqing packs were outdated and laughably malformed. Meanwhile, Taiwanese social media coverage ignored this completely and focused on the narrow-minded zeal they considered typical of Chinese patriots, and gleefully pointed out the irony in a patriotism that required illegally circumventing the government's own firewall, which prevents access to Facebook.