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Civil discourse lacking in raucous social media

By Ni Tao (Shanghai Daily)

08:52, June 21, 2013

Since its inception, weibo, or China's answer to Twitter, has been a forum, a battleground for whistleblowers and a window on China's development.

But weibo is vastly confusing for an average outsider.

Its information grows explosively, it is raucous, filled with slang and neologisms often impenetrable to foreign China watchers, who seem to be peering through a kaleidoscope, colorful yet bewildering.

Take Christoph Rehage, a German student who shot to fame recently for his witty observation about China. Rehage studies Chinese in the University of Munich, is fluent in Chinese, and has written a book based his travels in China.

He has reached, by foot, faraway places even most Chinese have never heard of. He knows China better than many Western reporters. Still, China's myriad complexities perplex him.

Weibo is one such complexity. Rehage, whose Chinese name is Lei Ke, runs his own Sina weibo account "Lei Ke the Hooligan," followed closely by tens of thousands of web users.

With such a large following, he is an opinion leader of sorts, but that title means as much sweetness as bitterness for him.

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