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English>>China Politics

China leadership pays more attention to virtual soapboxes


17:49, November 07, 2012

BEIJING, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- Many of China's 538 million web users are taking to social networking platforms to voice their opinions on public affairs, and the country's ruling party is taking notice.

A column in the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China (CPC), advised the Party to increase its responsiveness to people's demands at a time when "everyone has a microphone."

The column was published ahead of the 18th National Congress of the CPC, a twice-a-decade event set to convene on Thursday, as ubiquitous social networking websites have emerged as grassroots soapboxes.

The column picked up on a piece of popular cyber slang: "Yuanfang, what do you think of it?" The question comes from a classic detective series in which China's version of Sherlock Holmes asks his Watson-like aide Li Yuanfang for advice.

Chinese microbloggers are using the phrase as a hashtag on their proposals to the government. Though the hashtag is being used to lend a humorous element to their words, these netizens are scoring numerous re-tweets.

The newspaper column deemed the jocular phrase a reflection of "growing public awareness about participation and expression."

In some recent cases, information that went viral on social networking services fanned public discontent after local governments were slow to respond or offered awkward responses to public events.

A well-known case involved a former spokesman for the Ministry of Railways who bluntly said, "I believe it whether you do or not," to journalists who were skeptical of the stated cause of a deadly high-speed train collision that occurred on July 23, 2011.

Web users are currently generating loads of comments related to the upcoming Party congress, a major political event that will chart the country's path in the coming decade.

"Officials should have a conscience, sense of duty and always keep sober-minded," one web user wrote in the People's Daily online forum.

Another comment reads, "Public declaration of officials' individual wealth is a key to transparent governance."

Corruption ranks among the top concerns for Chinese Internet users, and they are urging the CPC's intensified efforts to curb corruption.

By September, the number of government microblog accounts registered on Sina Weibo, China's most popular Twitter-like platform, totaled 50,947. Those accounts release information related to public concerns, with some even exchanging views with the public.

"The government's immediate web responses are required, not optional," the column argued. "Interactions are crucial to better governance."

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