- Arseny Knaifel
Student - B.A. Chinese Studies, FU Berlin
To what extent and in what way do microblogs impact public opinion in China? Can they be seen as a precursor of free speech?
With over 500 million internet users, China has the world's largest netizen population. According to Sina, China's largest microblogging service Weibo has over 250 million users.
Vast reactions after the Wenzhou Train Crash in 2011 are seen to be a major contributing factor to the layoff of China's Minister of Railway spokes Wang Yongping. Pictures of Taiwan's recently reelected President Ma Ying-jeou proclaiming victory in the rain had Weibo users gazing across the straits with envy at a one man one vote democracy. Messages often reach millions of people before being censored.
In times where media and internet censorship in China is at it's peak, with a leadership change on its way in late 2012, what is the role of microblogs in China? Are they pushing the boundaries of what is accepted in public discussion or are they being instrumentalized as a release valve to decrease social tension? What good examples of their impact have there been in the past? What developments can be expected in 2012 and the following years?