The Government Versus the Weiborati
In light of the recent release of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Annual Report on Development of New Media in China, David Wertime at Tea Leaf Nation looks at how the report was received by the leadership and people:
Chinese Weibo (i.e. microblogging) platforms drew over 15.5 billion visits and 73.9 billion page views spread over a total of 1.5 billion hours.
Those statistics would turn all but a handful of Internet titans green with envy. But the numbers’ significance transcends mere metrics: China’s Weibo sites have often acted as alarms to spot corruption, platforms to air citizen grievances in an authoritarian state, and even labs to test-market policy changes, which are sometimes pulled following online outcry.
To ask who comprises China’s most voluble Weiborati is thus, to some extent, to ask who speaks for a very influential part of Chinese society. [Source]
The report’s findings were summarized by Offbeat China:
The report concluded that:
1) 74.88% of China’s weibo users (from all weibo users, not only Sina Weibo) have an education level of high school or below.
2) Students account for the largest segment on weibos.
3) 92.2% have a monthly income of RMB 5000 yuan or less, among which the majority has no income at all. Again, because most are students. [Source]
Predictably, the results were well received by the government, which has been doing its best recently to discredit weibo users. In his Tea Leaf Nation post, Wertime examines an article written in Seeking Truth, a magazine published by the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party and frequently read by high-level Chinese officials:
The opinion piece hotly disputes that the Chinese Internet is an “objective reflection” of current events. Instead, it maintains, online discourse has been distorted by a combination of self-anointed public intellectuals who clamour for attention, paid posters (in Chinese slang, the “Water Army”), and the general failure of the social Web to represent Chinese public opinion. [Source ]
Wertime looks at the online reaction, including responses from many of the who’s who on weibo.
The South China Morning Post also wrote on the report, focusing on the fact that the Internet is now the primary tool for exposing corruption in China.
Global Times did as well, leading with “Most Chinese microbloggers are young, have a poor educational background and are in a low-income bracket.”