The Politics of China's Emerging Micro-Blogs: Something New or More of the Same?
25 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2012 Last revised: 13 Jul 2014
Date Written: 2012
China’s Twitter-like micro-blogs, or weibo, have exploded in popularity since their launch in late 2009, and already have over 300 million users. From sparking investigations of a contentious train crash to uncovering official malfeasance, many Western and Chinese observers have credited China’s weibo with hastening the arrival of mass participation in Chinese governance. The end result, they argue, is that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s tight grip on China’s media landscape will inevitably loosen, foretelling major political and social changes.
Using a mixed-methods combination of mini-case studies, fieldwork, interviews and a series of large-scale computer-assisted content analysis, I argue that weibo’s likely political impact has been overblown. Not only have older media like newspapers been more politically aggressive than many scholars realize, but also weibo themselves are likely to follow the pattern set by previous emerging electronic media. In the long run, the CCP will likely tame China’s micro-blogs in a way that may even help foster the Party’s continuing rule. The revolution, in short, may not be Twittered.
Keywords: Chinese politics, internet, weibo, Chinese media
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