Do China’s Bloggers Threaten or Bolster Communist Rule?

In the Globe and Mail, Mark MacKinnon writes about the weibo, or microblogging, phenomenon in China and asks whether the government’s selective tolerance of it as a form of expression helps entrench Party rule in China:

Welcome to Sina Weibo, a giant speakers corner frequented by about 300 million Chinese, making it the largest national public square in history.

It’s fast, it’s rude and, even though it just turned three years old, it’s a 24-hour-a-day nightmare for government officials across China, who for decades have kept tight control on information. Many have never before been questioned, let alone ridiculed, in public.

[...] “There was already a growing credibility crisis [in China]. People just don’t believe what the government is telling them. Weibo has drastically exacerbated that,” says Bill Bishop, the Beijing-based author of Sinocism China, a daily email roundup of news and Internet trends.

[...] So is Weibo a threat to Communist Party rule, or does it fact entrench it? The latter might be true in the short term. Replacing Facebook and Twitter with a medium they can control means that China’s rulers are unlikely to face the rapidly spreading unrest that has marked the Arab Spring.

Read more about weibo via CDT, including lists of words blocked from Weibo search results.