Netizen Voices: State Media Steal Weibo Mic

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The Party is listening to the people. At least, it’s starting to listen. Following the rise of (and now WeChat) as China’s digital fora, authorities at every level of government are hiring polling firms, while universities and state-run media are opening social media monitoring offices.

“The government is trying to understand public opinion on an unprecedented scale,” writes Washington Post Beijing bureau chief Simon Denyer (via CDT), who interviewed leadership at the People’s Daily Online Public Sentiment Monitoring Center. The People’s Daily analyzes every single post on Weibo, according to Denyer.

The monitoring center produces mostly private reports, but on Monday it shared some of its findings with the public via its own primary source, Weibo:

A large number of central government media outlets, along with provincial and municipal Party newspapers, have launched Weibo accounts, comprising nearly 200,000 of the leading accounts in the “National Weibo Team.” They guide public opinion on the subjects of sudden incidents and sensitive issues, seizing back the social media “microphone.” As of July 26, @人民日报 [People’s Daily], @央视新闻 [CCTV News],  and @新华视点 [Xinhua Viewpoint] lead official accounts in metrics. [Source]

一大批中央级媒体、省市级党报开通官微,成为全国近20万家政务微博的龙头老大,打造“微博国家队”,在突发事件和敏感议题上引导舆论,初步夺回了互联网上的“麦克风”。截至7月26日,@人民日报、@央视新闻、@新华视点 三大官微互动参数。

The media were first charged with “public opinion guidance” (舆论导向) in the wake of the Tiananmen protests of 1989, and essentially stipulates that news coverage stay in line with Party policy and “spirit.” The People’s Daily elaborated on this point in a comment on its first weibo, including a table of social media metrics on the three most active official Weibo accounts listed above:

Official media accounts decode public opinion, respond to hot topics, promote the credibility of the ruling party, and warm the hearts of the people, while also unleashing official media’s capacity and expanding coverage. Official weibo appeal on behalf of the people and speak on behalf of the system, opening access between the two fields of public opinion. They are the expression of Party journalism’s flexibility, resilience, and ability to keep up with the times. [Source]

(Click for full view.)

(Click for full view.)


媒体官微解读民意,回应热点,提振了执政党的公信力,回暖了民心;也盘活了官媒资产存量,扩张了受众覆盖面。官微为民呼吁,代体制立言,打通两个舆论场,正是党的新闻事业与时俱进、有弹性和张力的表现。

In the comment thread for this second weibo, many netizens wondered if the official media–and by extension, the central government–are really listening to them after all:

抑郁症先森:The use of the term “seize” is incredibly accurate, perfectly embodying their longtime style of banditry.

这个“夺”字用的非常传神,完美体现了一直以来的强盗作风。

武黎嵩: How many enemies are there on the Internet, how many reactionaries, how many aggressors, that you have to use words like “seize back”? All netizens are legitimate. We all have People’s Republic of China ID cards!

网上有多少敌人、多少反动派、多少侵略者?要用“夺回”这样的词。网民们都是有中华人民共和国身份证的合法人民!

作家-天佑: From whom have they “seized” [the mic]? From the people? Damn.

跟谁夺?跟人民?尼玛。

段海新_THU: So the central media has seized back the microphone on Weibo. This is the way of the despot, the logic of habitual robbery—everything has to be stolen.

中央媒体在微博上夺回了麦克风,好霸道啊,习惯了强盗逻辑,什么东西都靠抢。

文烂阁正字:Why must you always seize the microphone? Can you not stop for a minute and have a good listen?

干嘛老要抢夺麦克风?你们就不能静下心来好好听听?

干瞪眼不着急:Party media are more shameful by the day, and every day ordinary folks loathe it even more.

党媒一天比一天无耻,老百姓对你们一天比一天厌恶。

江强华的微: You seize every opportunity for the ordinary people to speak. Is the next step seizing their lives?

人民大众普通百姓说话的机会都要夺,那下一步是不是要夺命了?

The two People’s Daily weibo drive home a flaw in China’s public opinion monitoring: much of what the government hears on Weibo is the sound of its own voice.

Read discussion of the Post article abroad at CDT, and more netizen responses at CDT Chinese.

Translation by Josh Rudolph.

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