BBC looks at the power of microblogs in China in light of the recent high-speed rail crash in Wenzhou:
In a country where free speech is severely limited, microblogs – and the internet in general – have become an import channel of expression. The web is changing the way the government relates to its people.
In public, Chinese leaders mostly talk in official-speak; language that is often heavy on cliches and light on meaning.
As the People’s Daily article put it: “The language environment of the grassroots, with its special characteristics, is different from that of the [Communist] party and government officials.”
The article goes on to give officials advice on how to tweet: “Only by abandoning bureaucratic or empty talk can one’s microblog messages resonate with the public.”
A former editor-in-chief of the Xinhua News Agency, Nan Zhenzhong, calls it the “great marketplace of ideas.” He says microblogging is changing public discourse. Nan admits that China’s official media, largely out of touch with reality, is no match for vibrant, real-time cyberspace media that includes microblogging, bulletin boards, the QQ instant message service and blogs.
Nan says official media has to master the skills needed to “manage virtual society” if it wants to regain lost ground and win back the people’s trust ….
So far, the authorities haven’t suggested they’re jittery about the potential for the microblog to mobilize people or organize dissent. Their confidence seems to stem from knowing they can pull the plug if ever need be.