Safety Valve or Pressure Cooker? Blogs in Chinese Political Life
Journal of Communication, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Apr. 2012), 212-230
26 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 16 Nov 2013
Date Written: 2012
Despite censorship, Chinese bloggers routinely uncover corruption, help solve social problems, and even pressure state officials to change foreign policy. The power of online opinion is undisputed in individual cases, but the overall effect of blog discourse on the Chinese polity is unclear. Do blogs act as a social “safety valve” forestalling systemic change by allowing troublemakers to vent their frustrations, or do they resemble a “pressure cooker,” inspiring action offline by groups of like-minded activists? Using a large-scale content analysis and small-scale case studies, I argue that blogs can serve as a “safety valve” on issues where newspapers and the mainstream media set the agenda, and a “pressure cooker” on issues where bloggers get ahead of journalists.
Keywords: Chinese politics, blogs, agenda setting, Chinese media, social change
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