Table of Contents

Comment Icon0 This year, China dominates with the largest population of Internet users in the world. On July 2009, China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) released the “24th Statistical Survey Report on the Internet Development in China“, which shared detailed statistics on the country’s virtual community. According to the July 2009 report, the number of Internet users in China had reached 338 million, with 320 million being broadband users. Out of this massively-networked population, 181.8 million (53.8%) of them had blogs.

Comment Icon0 Owning a blog is just one part of the equation, while returning to update it frequently is another. As the blogging population grew, so did activity in the Chinese blogosphere. Around 119.3 million users were updating their blogs on a regular basis (35.3% of Chinese bloggers), and this figure helps legitimize the Chinese blogosphere as a public sphere for mediating everyday culture. In addition, the CNNIC report shared that the introduction of social networking services (SNS) played a role in promoting the growth and influence of bloggers, most popular of which is Tencent’s QQ messaging service.

Comment Icon0 Even as the Chinese blogosphere gains prominence, how much impact do social media, particularly blogs and social networks, have on China’s national agenda? Apparently, Chinese netizens can be rhetorically sophisticated online. In 2006, National Public Radio (NPR) reported on the Chinese blogosphere, and revealed that only a few were politically-oriented. There were unusual ones, such as Mumu, a Communist Party member who had clips of herself doing sexy dances, but the typical Chinese blogger is more like Jasmine Gu where “It’s all about me, myself and my life”. Reports like these reflect the matching diversity of blogs in the aspirations of citizens. Even though not everyone might engage in the sophistication of political discourse, complex rhetoric can also be located, consumed and produced in the relative safety of entertainment media,

Comment Icon0 For instance, most people in the Anglosphere are familiar with the American television series “Sex and the City”. While the show has never appeared on Chinese airwaves, it has certainly been well received among China’s college students and young professionals. They have started to have increasingly sophisticated needs, but are not being met fully domestically by traditional media in their developing society, while being artificially fulfilled through the black-market distribution of pirated DVDs and online copies. As they watch the show to learn English and get a glimpse of life in New York City, the Chinese become more global in outlook and thinking. Their interests may not be directly political, but the accumulation of cross-cultural experiences whether online or offline, will eventually lead to a greater potential for cultural openness and acceptance of international opinion.

Comment Icon0 All this happens while the Chinese government filters the media, particularly the self-publishing Internet. Western nations have typically taken the stance that the Internet would bring about democracy whether authoritarian regimes realize it. This technologically-determinist sentiment was best expressed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton who, in reference to Chinese Internet censorship in the 1990s, remarked that “trying to control the Internet is like trying to nail Jell-o to the wall”. To some extent, censorship can be circumvented. Multiple studies and tools have emerged to prove this, including Rebecca MacKinnon’s demonstration that not all Chinese blog platforms censor consistently, with some more relaxed than others. On the whole though, the Chinese government has been successful in hindering easy publication and access to what it deems as nationally-sensitive information.

Chapter 8.2 – Most Netizens = Most Participants

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