TED Conversations

Arseny Knaifel

Student - B.A. Chinese Studies, FU Berlin

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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?


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  • Feb 15 2012: Hey, as im chinese here i would comment on the question. currently in china microbolg is most popular internet tool for netizen interreacting to each other. but, it is not only tool of speech freedomly. bolg, space, message, chatroom, all those are not prohibit. people talks about govement and policy all the time but actually no much time to talks about it. As the video shows chinese in china people are struggle to make money and to creat their life in a better way. people not really have much concern about what govement allow us to say or not but we say something within our own benifits. pls do not misunderstand Ms yanglan's topic, this topic was talked about how is the young generatuion being lived in their own way. It is not something about speech freedomly or not. In matter of fact people in china speech in the inerenet are virous topics would believe goverment able to manage what they say and stop them all the time, actually there no blog at all ! on other hand would you say very bad thing when you income from 30-50RMB increasing to 2000-3000RMB? althrought there is bad saying it is because we wish goverment to updating and achiving more. so, not the goverment control our speech but speech badthing become less. There is no boundries and limitation. Some of midea has worngly reported and mislead people to wrong way to understand chinese goverment and policy~ trust me democaracy maynot only put up in one way, It is going to suitble for china situation in chinese democaracy way and just as communism only change to chinese communism or chinese socialism only has provened that we are on the right track~

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