Official Microblogging and Social Management by Local Governments in China
Schlaeger, J. & Jiang, M. (2014). Official microblogging and social management by local governments in China. China Information, 28(2), 189-213. DOI: 10.1177/0920203X14533901
26 Pages Posted: 1 May 2013 Last revised: 15 Aug 2014
Date Written: May 30, 2014
How does the Chinese government’s adoption of microblogs affect local governance and social contention it is tasked to manage? This case study explores the extent to which government microblogging could serve as: 1) a battering ram to spearhead reforms; 2) a virus bringing unexpected consequences; and 3) a reinforcer of authorities’ existing power, i.e. politics as usual. After studying a Chinese municipal government weibo in depth from the perspective of local governance, we find that official microblogs do not in the short run lead to organizational change. Instead, Chinese local government microblogs function largely as ‘beta-institutions’ experimenting with ways to interact and negotiate with their microblog publics and microblog service providers aimed at improving social management and political legitimacy. Local governments are also evolving gradually from service providers to ‘service predictors’ with enhanced capabilities to deliver individualized services and institute state surveillance via commercial service providers. These developments warrant further studies of the long-term implications of microblogs as part of the government information ecology.
Keywords: Microblogging, China, governance, e-government, politics, negotiation
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