A string of crises over the last few months — including crippling snowstorms and Tibetan protests — has taught the government a few lessons, Berkeley’s Xiao said.
Government officials held a rare, real-time online exchange with ordinary Chinese on Friday to answer angry questions about why so many schools collapsed in the quake.
“They understand better now that to react slowly or to cover up in the Internet age is a bad idea,” Xiao said in a telephone interview.
But the government is still monitoring the online conversation. Seventeen people have been detained since the earthquake, warned or forced to write apologies for online messages that “spread false information, made sensational statements and sapped public confidence,” the state-run news agency, Xinhua, reported Thursday.