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2021-12-27 08:47:18

A Chinese military forum favored by the country’s nationalists will shut down in the coming months, two decades after its founding. The move provides a glimpse into the decline of online bulletin boards, or BBS, and growing supervision over online platforms.

Known as tiexue.net, which translates as “Iron Blood” in English, the forum disabled its posting and replying feature on Dec. 20, saying it would cease operations on March 1, 2022, as it was “unable to keep up with the times,” according to an announcement last week. In a separate statement, the website’s operator, Beijing Tiexue Technology, added the shutdown was driven by “transformation in business strategy.”

Since going online in 2001, Tiexue has attracted more than 10 million users who are largely patriotic military enthusiasts. Known as junmi, or military fans, they are known for their provocative comments and commentaries on topics ranging from Sino-U.S. relationships, military equipment, and even entertainment that touches upon nationalist issues.

Many Tiexue users lamented that their beloved forum was going offline, with some reminiscing about the old days. However, they weren’t entirely surprised by the closure.

“The demise of online forums and communities is related to how people now access the internet through mobile phones and the emergence of different social media apps like WeChat,” a former Tiexue user surnamed Xia told Sixth Tone.

According to Beijing Tiexue Technology, the platform accrued losses for three consecutive years from 2018 to 2020. Though the website has sought to transform itself over the years, even pivoting to e-commerce as early as 2007 by making and selling army-style apparel, it didn’t take off as hoped.

Tiexue joins several other notable BBS platforms to have fallen due to the changing digital landscape and consumer habits. MOP.com, established in 1997 and one of the best-known Chinese entertainment online forums, also barred users from posting content in April, as the platform had become near obsolete.

“The official release of Weibo in 2012 ended the epoch of BBS. It allowed information to spread much faster and in a way completely unmatched by BBS, making them pale in comparison,” Leilei, pen name of a former MOP.com operations director, then wrote, referring to the explosive growth of the microblogging platform. “Communities will never die out, but a new product form will always replace an old one in the internet era.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A view of the Tiexue.net booth at a fair in Beijing, 2012. Wu Changqing/People Visual)