IMF's Lagarde joins China-style Twittersphere

SHANGHAI Tue Nov 8, 2011 12:43am EST

SHANGHAI Nov 8 (Reuters) - International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has joined a growing panoply of Western luminaries and celebrities such as Bill Gates and actress Emma Watson on China's most popular microblogging platform, Weibo -- and received a warm response.

"Hello Sina weibo, looking forward to sharing updates here. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, IMF," Lagarde said in her first message, written in English, on> on Monday. It was subsquently reposted nearly 1,400 times.

Sina's Corp's Weibo is similar to Twitter, allowing users to post short messages of up to 140 characters and gain followers, and users gave Lagarde a warm welcome.

China blocks popular foreign sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and uses filters and monitoring to block unwelcome comment on domestic Internet sites.

"Thrilled. WB (Weibo) shortens the distance and bridges the people around world," said one, writing in English.

Lagarde has garnered over 28,000 fans already. Gates, who made his Weibo debut in September 2010, now has 2.1 million followers while Harry Potter star Watson has attracted 510,000 fans since first her message in July 2011.

Weibo said it had verified these accounts as genuine.

China said last month it will intensify controls of online social media and instant messaging tools that have become popular channels for spreading news and opinion that can unsettle the government.

Lagarde was in Moscow on Monday to urge the euro zone to redouble efforts to overcome its sovereign debt crisis.