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People's Daily Online>>China Society

The world in 140 characters

(China Daily)

09:00, December 08, 2011

(China Daily/Wang Xiaoying)

China's army of micro-bloggers weave in their responses to events and people, each contributing a thread to the scarf that encompasses modern society. But not all of them might actually exist.

"The more the number of people, the stronger we are." Thus said Chairman Mao Zedong in 1949 when China's population was about 540 million. Now, the slogan also applies to the cyberspace, China's online population being more than 500 million. And micro-blogging, with an impressive growth rate in 2011, has become one of the most important tools for the Chinese to leverage the wisdom of the crowds.

2010 was dubbed as the "inaugural year" of micro blog, or weibo in Chinese, in China. 2011 is marked by its unstoppable growth. The number of micro-bloggers has grown from 63.11 million by the end of 2010 to 300 million in 2011.

For many individual users, spending time on micro blogs has become a daily necessity. It is their way of interacting with friends, following their favorite celebrities, sharing the pictures of cute pets, reading and commenting on news updates.

Just as "tweet" has become a verb in English, "zhi weibo" - literally "weave a scarf" - has entered the lexicon in China. Weibo means micro blog but sounds like scarf in Mandarin.

More importantly, intense participation by a humongous number of people often adds real value to the seemingly-inconsequential 140-character messages, throwing light on different aspects of society.

Traditional media and reporters are facing more challenges as well as opportunities. NGOs are learning to use micro blogs to promote charity and raise social awareness. Businesses and celebrities use it to promote their brands and personal images and interact with their fans and consumers. Government officials are beginning to use new media for a variety of tasks - from accessing public feedback to coming up with fast responses to sudden developments.

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