How microblogging power shakes reality in China

15:28, July 01, 2011      

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As more and more people are turning to microblogging as a means to participate in public affairs and to express their personal opinions, it has become particularly important for government officials to improve their media literacy.

Microblogging was introduced in China in 2009 and has quickly developed into a major channel of public opinions within less than three years. Many hot incidents were first exposed through microblog posts, including the accidentally exposed affair between a bureau director in Liyang, Jiangsu province and a local married woman, the Guo Meimei incident and a badly photo-shopped picture of Huili County government officials. There are more than 640,000 microblog posts concerning the Guo Meimei incident alone.

This has shown the great power of microblogging and made government officials realize that the Internet and reality are becoming increasingly intertwined, and so are public opinion platforms and social administration. Apparently unaware that his microblog posts could be seen by other users, the bureau director paid a heavy price for detailing his affair with a married woman via microblogging. After the badly photo-shopped picture was exposed, the Huili County government issued a quick apology using a newly registered Sina microblog account, successfully preventing the incident from escalating as the "fake South China tiger photos" incident did.

Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging site operated by Sina Corporation, has attracted more than 1.4 million users alone. Objectively speaking, the fast rise of microblogging has enhanced the ability of local governments and leading cadres to communicate with the public and to respond appropriately to unexpected incidents.

Local governments, which were formerly unfamiliar and resistant, have now begun to actively utilize microblogs. Seeking advice from netizens via microblogs has become a popular practice among many local governments. Certain government officials in Guangdong, Zhejiang and other provinces recently attended special seminars on microblogging, and the Nanjing municipal government issued a directive requiring any emergency event in the city to be posted on microblogs within one hour. It is gratifying to see government officials using microblogs to improve governance.

However, according to the "Research Report on Microblogs for Chinese Political Affairs," only 1,700 government agencies and 720 government officials have verified microblog accounts as of March this year, which reflects that most officials are unfamiliar with microblogging, the new battlefield of public opinion.

Although some officials and cadres still cannot adapt to the new public opinion pattern of the microblogging era, it has already become an inevitable phenomenon that the people will participate in public affairs and express their opinions by microblogging. Topics regarding government policies, public administration, and cadres' words and deeds usually turn into hot topics very quickly.

In fact, most microbloggers' behaviors of "surrounding to watch" and "participating in" are ultimately out of their goodwill of caring about the work of local governments and their sincere desire to help local governments overcome shortcomings. The thing that makes microblogging a perfect platform for responding to concerns is goodwill and sincerity.

If governments can correctly and properly guide public opinions, use microblogging as a good platform to learn about public opinions and the wisdom of the people, and find and solve problems as soon as possible, forming a widely-participated, orderly and interactive microblogging public opinion environment is completely possible. Microblogging will also become a "release valve" of social emotions and the "lubricant" of government-public relations.

From the forum to microblogging, the people's enthusiasm and ability to participate in public affairs has greatly risen along with the Internet, which is developing at an unbelievable speed. After rumors frequently appeared on microblogs, some special anti-rumor plates, such as Rumor Grinder and Rumor-Refuting League, have also appeared. It reflects that microblogging is maturating and people's participation on the Internet has increased. However, some negative problems, such as privacy violations, radical emotions and rumor starting and spreading, still exist to some extent.

Under this condition, social administrators should especially adhere to the principle of "treating, using and managing properly" to improve the attainment of the media, pay attention to the public opinion platform of microblogging, respond to social concerns and guide the people's participation.

The innovation of social administration cannot go without the innovation of "virtual community" administration. If the governments realize it earlier, their work will become easy earlier.

By Shan Xuegang from People's Daily Online and the article is translated by People's Daily Online.

 
 
     
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
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