The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China

The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China

The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China

The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China

Synopsis

The Internet and social media are pervasive and transformative forces in contemporary China. Nearly half of China's 1.3 billion citizens use the Internet, and tens of millions use Sina Weibo, a platform similar to Twitter or Facebook. Recently, Weixin/Wechat has become another major form of social media. While these services have allowed regular people to share information and opinions as never before, they also have changed the ways in which the Chinese authorities communicate with the people they rule. China's party-state now invests heavily in speaking to Chinese citizens through the Internet and social media, as well as controlling the speech that occurs in that space. At the same time, those authorities are wary of the Internet's ability to undermine the ruling party's power, organize dissent, or foment disorder. Nevertheless, policy debates and public discourse in China now regularly occur online, to an extent unimaginable a decade or two ago, profoundly altering the fabric of China's civil society, legal affairs, internal politics, and foreign relations.

The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China explores the changing relationship between China's cyberspace and its society, politics, legal system, and foreign relations. The chapters focus on three major policy areas--civil society, the roles of law, and the nationalist turn in Chinese foreign policy--and cover topics such as the Internet and authoritarianism, "uncivil society" online, empowerment through new media, civic engagement and digital activism, regulating speech in the age of the Internet, how the Internet affects public opinion, legal cases, and foreign policy, and how new media affects the relationship between Beijing and Chinese people abroad.

Contributors: Anne S. Y. Cheung, Rogier Creemers, Jacques de Lisle, Avery Goldstein, Peter Gries, Min Jiang, Dalei Jie, Ya-Wen Lei, James Reilly, Zengzhi Shi, Derek Steiger, Marina Svensson, Wang Tao, Guobin Yang, Chuanjie Zhang, Daniel Xiaodan Zhou.

Excerpt

Jacques deLisle, Avery Goldstein, and Guobin Yang

New media—the Internet and especially social media—have become pervasive and transformative forces in contemporary China. Their reach is vast: nearly half of China’s 1.3 billion citizens use the Internet. Tens of millions are active users of Sina Weibo, China’s principal Twitter-like service, and tens of millions more have weibo accounts. Although much attention to these media has focused on their importance as a way for ordinary citizens to express and share opinions and information, new media also have changed the way the Chinese authorities communicate with the people they rule. China’s partystate now invests heavily in speaking to Chinese citizens through the Internet and social media, as well as controlling the speech that occurs in that space.

New media have altered the fabric of China’s civil society, legal affairs, politics, and foreign relations. Policy debates and public discourse regularly occur through—and sometimes focus on—the Internet and social media to an extent unimaginable a decade or two ago. Almost no area of public concern remains beyond the reach of discussion in cyberspace. This rise of new media reflects technological, economic, and political change in China. Use of the Internet initially grew with the advent of Internet cafés, as well as home and office-based computers. With the widespread adoption of smartphones, access expanded sharply. SMS (simple texting) and MMS (multimedia messages) were followed by weibo (microblogging similar to Twitter), and more recently the mobile text and voice messaging service weixin (known in English as WeChat).

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