Social Media in China: A Double-Edged Sword

Social Media in China: A Double-Edged Sword

James Robert Masterson (Morehead State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6292-6.ch013
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Abstract

Widespread use of social media in China is a double-edged sword: social media offers opportunities for the government to connect with society, gauge the opinion of citizens in the public domain, and allow citizens to voice their anger when necessary by blowing off steam online rather than in the streets (Magistad, 2012). However, social media also allows citizens to access information outside of China much more rapidly and efficiently and to link up and communicate with other citizens much more quickly. Social media allows users to share texts, photos, and files, making it much more difficult for the government to control information and to thwart organizing for political purposes. In some instances, the use of social media has forced the Chinese government to take actions that it otherwise would not have done or to reverse actions or policies already set in place. The goal of this chapter is to illustrate the double-edged sword that social media poses to government officials in China, particularly high-level party officials in Beijing.
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The Argument

The argument in this chapter is that the wide spread use of social media in China is a double-edged sword: social media offers opportunities for the government to connect with society, gauge the opinion of citizens in the public domain, and allow citizens to voice their anger when necessary by blowing off steam online rather than in the streets (Magistad, 2012); however, social media also allows citizens to access information outside of China much more rapidly and efficiently and to communicate with other citizens much more quickly. Through social media, people share texts, photos, and files. The speed at which messages are posted after being sent, the ease of duplication of these messages, and the difficulty with censoring messages embedded in photos combine to make it much more difficult for the government to control information and to pre-empt organizing for political purposes.

On one edge of the sword, growth in technologies, particularly as it relates to social media, aids the government in its surveillance efforts. This growth provides opportunities for government officials to participate via these social media to interact with citizens and foster economic development via new social media economic market places.

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