The new media, different from television, magazines, books or paper-based publications, is a new form of mass communication, which contains technologies that enable digital interactivity. For example, websites, video games, Internet all belong to the new media. Currently, the new media is becoming increasingly popular and sharply changing people’s life. The advent of Weibo in China is one of the most prominent examples, which is also the topic I am going to analyze in this passage. Chinese Weibo, similar to twitter used worldwide, is a micro blog, by which people can post words, pictures and videos on the Internet.
The general public or the organization can create their own account easily and share things with their followers so they can communicate freely with each other. Some celebrities and government officials also own weibo accounts and in this way, weibo helps to create a two-way communication between famous people and Chinese Internet users. Research showed that people spend at least one hour per day checking Weibo messages on their cellphones or on their laptops, while spend only fifteen minutes on reading newspapers. It is very common in current Chinese society to see people using weibo every day to check the latest news, share daily life, or chat with friends, etc.
1 Nearly fifty percent of the Internet users in China have Weibo accounts and use it regularly. Among these people, most of them are from the younger generation who are more open-minded to the new technology. This paper consists of two parts. The first part aims to understand the effects weibo has made ten years from now on Chinese society. The second part talks about Chinese government policy and the progress China has made reflected by the proliferation of weibo. Speaking of the impact of this new media, weibo has impressively changed the traditional mass media.
Prior to the turn of the century, only journalists with an official degree can be reporters and public news, which they thought were newsworthy. However, in nowadays, with the advent of weibo, the general public can be the first one to reveal something important happened around them by posting weibo using only forty Chinese characters. Sometimes these posts can be the sources of the news on next day’s newspaper. For example, on March 2013 a man robbed a store and fell down on his way running. This accident was firstly recorded by a citizen who happened to pass by in that neighborhood.
Then he quickly posted this on weibo and called the police. Immediately, this post was reposted thousand times and known to many people in this city. Later on, the newspaper bought the pictures taken by the weibo user and published as the next day’s headline news. In this way, the general public is helping professional journalists find newsworthy things happened around them and change the traditional humdrum way of publishing. 2 In addition, the extensive use of weibo is acting like a supplement of paper- version reports.
Every famous news agency has their own weibo accounts, whenever there was an influential news, there would be a short post to give people a brief introduction of what happened. Also, weibo can be a place where the journalists post updates in a continuous event. For example, when the missing airplane MH370 accident happened this year, every progress the rescue group had made was posted through weibo. While we were waiting anxiously for the latest news–if there were survivors, how was their family numbers, where was the plane, what caused this crash, etc. several news agencies post the latest contents immediately when there were new discoveries.
The general public simply need to refresh their weibo to look for the latest news, which makes it more convenient and quickly. The advent of weibo also has tremendous impact on the daily life of the general public. Firstly, weibo users can follow official accounts based on their interests–what kind of news they care about most, which celebrities they esteem and want to know more about. For instance, a person likes sports might follow soccer players and other sports news related accounts. A person cares about health might become a fan of Chinese Healthy Diet on weibo.
In this way, the weibo users can conveniently receive information specifically 3 what they want to know by using the Internet. Moreover, by reposting these weibos, weibo users can share the interested news with other followers and show the support for the original weibo user. Besides that, weibo users can also follow private accounts, which consist of one’s family members, friends and co-workers. Even if people cannot meet each other every day, they can still keep in touch and let others know what happened in their life by posting weibo.
In the current society, weibo is a good communication tool to help promote the interaction between people who are busy working or studying every day and cannot meet each other because they live far away. My own example can best illustrate this point. I study abroad, which means I can only meet my family members and friends once a year. But I regularly post on weibo about what I have learned, what I have done, how I feel, etc. My friends can like or comment on my posts so we would not feel so far from my life in a remote country. The use of the micro blog also provoked great repercussion on the whole society, especially on the political field.
Since a two-way communication between government officials and the general public was built up based on the proliferation of weibo. Almost every civic servant in China has their weibo account and is required to post their weekly work publicly. If Internet users have problems with the policy or officials’ behaviors, they can comment under the post or send a private letter 4 through weibo. It is the government officials’ duty to reply in time to the citizens and explain every action they take until the askers receive a satisfied answer. Making sure that the general public has a clear understanding of what the government is doing is a task for government officials through their communication on weibo.
It is also common for people to show their support to certain policy or government officials through the use of weibo. Due to the impressive influence it has on the whole society, once a post was sent by a civic servant or a department in the government, it would be repost at once by thousands of Internet users who advocate this proposal. Therefore, with the power of the weibo users, it is easy to distinguish if an action or policy by the government is welcomed to the public in society.
On the other hand, weibo can dramatically help to supervise the political system and other charitable organizations. Before the proliferation of weibo, it is relatively hard for the public to directly oversee the behaviors of the authorities and social groups. This kind of supervision is mostly achieved by the specialized department set up to keep an on the behaviors of the government officials. However, nowadays, people can freely post anything they discovered in their daily life and keep an eye on the celebrities what they have posted through weibo.
The weibo users also supervise the misbehaviors of government officials in political field and urged the related to investigate. 5 Two examples happened in 2011 and 2012 Chinese society can best help to explain this point. In 2011, a weibo user with the account number Meimei Guo posted several micro blogs about her Maserati and big houses. And her title was the manager of the Chinese Red Cross, which was revealed in her weibo profile. This made the weibo users pretty confused: where did all her money come from? How can she afford such luxury? With more and more people paying attention to this young girl with such unusual background, the Red Cross was forced to response to this issue.
Although that this organization clarified it had no connection with Meimei Guo, the public do not think that is the real truth. Also, the Public Security Bureau began to investigate the relationship between Meimei Guo and the Red Cross. Specially, they suspect this so-called manager had improper relationship with the chairman of the board, so she could have access to the money people donated to the Red Cross and used it for big houses and Maserati. Later after the Meimei Guo affair, the Red Cross was mistrust by the public for a long time and was required by the relevant department to reveal its budget to the society and become completely transparent.
Another case happened in 2012 was triggered by one picture taken by a weibo user in a car accident scene. The post on weibo showed that in this kind of 6 occasion, the government official was smiling instead of grieving for the hurt people, which made the general public angry. Afterwards, this official was severely criticized by the people on weibo. People even found out all his other pictures taken in different occasions to see if he was eligible to be a civic servant.
Eventually, people found that in many pictures, he wore different costly watches, which were not accordance with his income earned from his job. With more and more people doubted the sources of the money, relevant department began to investigate in this case. They found out that a large amount of the money of his fortune was from corruption. This official used the convenience of his position to make money for a long time so he had money to afford expensive watches and big houses. As a result, this official was “sent “by the weibo users into prison. Of course, the spread of weibo is a two-edged sword,which means it can also exert negative effects on society.
For instance, there is a group of people who open weibo accounts only to sell products, which makes the Internet environment full of commercials. It is difficult to regulate these commercials because it is hard to tell if the product is of good quality based on the limited information weibo posts can provide. Also, the freedom people possess when they use weibo makes the online environment increasingly complex. Diverse people holding totally different opinions can equally and freely express on weibo. On rare cases, immoral people purposely release fake news to the public in order to tarnish others’ reputation or cause a society panic.
The general public might get confused based on the complicated information they receive. 7 There was once a water company being framed by a piece of news in Beijing Daily. It reported that the water from Nongfu Company was not clean and could not achieve the water standard in China. Later on, this news was posted by several weibo users without testing its accuracy. Along with the spread of this breaking news all over the weibo environment, this company got stuck in trust crisis and had a significant decline in monthly sales.
Thousands of Internet users showed their anger and disappointment to this water company and the news was reposted in a large scale. However, when Nongfu Company went to test its water in the Quality Supervision Bureau, the result showed Nongfu water was clean and had achieved the water standard. It turned out the news was distorted and afterwards misused by the weibo users. This example showed that it is equally easy for both the truth and fake news spread out through weibo and the latter would absolutely damage the social order to some degree. The spread of Weibo and its effects can be the introduction of the second part of this paper, which explains the Chinese society progress and the government policy.
Because of the significant impact weibo exerts on Chinese society, the government has taken specific measures to regulate the weibo environment. Moreover, the policies, being increasingly flexible and allowing for more freedom, can reflect the Chinese progress in recent ten years. Fifty years ago, Chinese people were not used to freely speak in the public at all, nor were they allowed to criticize the government officials and the policy. In my 8 father’ generation, people who dared speak out the actual evaluation of one policy might even end up being caught into prison because they were considered too aggressive.
Almost every thing they said or did was under the guidance of the government. People did not have a way to express their thoughts, not to mention giving advice to the government. Obedience blindly might be the best words to describe the people living in that period. However, in the new era, with more rights are given to the general public, people are changing their mind accordingly. They begin to say something in public instead of stubbornly listening to the authority. Weibo is an excellent tool to help achieve this transformation within this background.
With the advent of weibo, people are having a channel to easily express themselves. They can set up an account and apply their personal design to the home page. They can post words and pictures. These weibo contents do not limit to their daily life about what they have done and how they feel which are mainly shared with their friends and family members. Weibo users can also use the micro blog to comment on recent events happened in China and in the international scale. For example, after the plane crash MH370, many weibo users criticized the inappropriate behaviors of the Malaysia government and airplanes.
Another example would be the lawsuit in 2011. The driver, whose father is Gang Li–a government official, was interrogated in court because he triggered a car accident, which caused one people dead and one people severely injured. Hundreds of weibo users posted on Internet their complaints because they thought the court was treating this criminal inequity due to his special social 9 status. This case reflects a big progress which not only means the government is giving more freedom to people, but also means people are more willing to discuss the current affair and becoming the masters of their own country.
Still, I cannot deny that there are restrictions on weibo use. Offensive words and pornographic contents are definitely not allowed to exit on Weibo. Besides, the regulation on political field is relatively strict compared to the policies used to regulate the Internet in other countries. However, even if there are certain amount of restrictions on the contents people can post, it is too a large degree progressive compared to before. The limitations are primarily in political area, especially when the reputation and safety of central government were threatened by aggressive speech on weibo.
If happened, the relevant accounts might be suspended and the posts would be deleted as soon as being found. Moreover, this weibo user might even be arrested if the post had caused a severely negative effect within the whole society. This is a comparatively strict punishment compared to the policies made on pornographic or fake news. To the latter one, the account might still be used. Only the specific weibo contains pornographic or violence contents would be deleted by the administrator. The policies in sensitive period in China, (for example, when minorities groups were trying to split China) are harsh compared to that in normal times.
The government is controlling weibo environment to stop the rumors, which aim to cause social panic. During that special period, Internet users even cannot post 10 weibos including sensitive words such as “split of China” ”The independence of Tibet” or the names of the sensitive characters in the political fight. All in all, Chinese society is making progress in the new millennium, not only in terms of economics, but also in political and cultural area. The policy and laws enacted by the government guarantee freedom and democracy to the public.
Chinese people’s minds are opening to the world and becoming more autonomous accordingly. They use weibo to share their life, enjoy the rights they are accorded to help master the country. It is not possible for the social organization or government to block a piece of news they do not want the public to know any more. With the extensive use of weibo, all the information around them and directly affect them would spread quickly and has a significant effect within the whole society. People have already stepped into a new era with the extensive use of weibo and the old days will never come back.
Courtney from Study Moose
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