http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/2011-hu-yong-looks-back-year-chinese-media-new-and-old

2011: Hu Yong
Looks Back on the Year in Chinese Media (New and Old)

December
28th, 2011 by Susan Jakes


Hu Yong is one of China’s leading experts
on new media.

 

This
post is part of a series of year-end posts on Asia Blog written by Asia Society
experts and Associate Fellows looking back on noteworthy events in 2011. You
can read the entire series here.

 

Asia
Society Arthur Ross Fellow Susan Jakes talked with Center on
U.S-China Relations visiting fellow Hu Yong (Twitter) about
internet trends, the Chinese media and what he learned on his visits to Zuccotti Park. Hu,
a former print and television journalist, is a professor at Peking University’s
School of Journalism and Communication and a leading authority on the Chinese
Internet.

 

SUSAN
JAKES: What do you think the most significant developments in world of the
Chinese media have been over the course of the last year?

HU YONG:
There’s a very important trend unfolding right now that not only pertains to
the media but the society at large. It centers around the Chinese word minsheng,
or “the people’s welfare,” which is a term that was part of [Chinese
revolutionary leader] SunYat-sen’s Three People’s Principles
[nationalism, democracy and people’s welfare]. It’s a word the current Chinese
government has been using lately to try to legitimize itself and to show that
it is doing its job of taking care of the basic social services — healthcare,
educating, housing etc. — that are its job.

The
reason I mention this word is because I’ve been noticing a trend on the Chinese
internet that I call the transition from minzuzhuyi, nationalism,
to minsheng. I think the nationalist thing is in a downturn.
It peaked during the Olympic Games in 2008. That was the year we also had the
riots in Tibet. But after the Olympics, people just didn’t find this
nationalist logic as appealing as before. The government still plays its
nationalist cards — the Shenzhou space program, the launch of the country’s first aircraft carrier. They’re
still doing these types of things to rouse people’s nationalist feeling, but I
don’t think they’ve been that effective. [Conversations in Chinese cyberspace]
revolve around minsheng issues. The high speed train crash in July, was a
huge event in Chinese cyberspace. People are deeply concerned about
environmental issues, school bus safety, etc.

I
would say this is a general trend. A lot of Western observers are concerned
about Chinese nationalism and particularly, about its use in cyberspace, but I
think these concerns overestimate the role of nationalism.

 

So
you think the internet has the potential to make the Chinese government more
responsive to popular concerns and demands?

It’s
not just because I study it, but to a great extent, the only useful outlet for
the expression of popular concerns in China is the internet. In China we
usually don’t have other outlets like elections, so people can’t hold officials
accountable, especially not township or above officials. We don’t have an
independent judicial system and the traditional media are heavily controlled by
the propaganda departments, so that leaves the Internet as, it could be said,
the only venue for people to voice their opinions and concerns.

I
don’t think many Chinese officials go online, but they do have a mechanism for
the aggregation of public opinion by certain personnel. These people are online
trying to gather what people are saying and they turn it into a regular reports
that are very popular among Chinese government officials.

I
think it’s strongly reflected in these reports that the issues in Chinese
cyberspace are always these bread and butter issues, and, a lot of “mass
incidents” are related to those issues — land grabbing, demolition, even the
taxation of small enterprises.

 

And
these events are reported on people’s microblogs?

The
message usually appears on microblogs first. People will start to
post photographs, what people are saying and sometimes video from the local
people who happen to be traveling there. Those kinds of incidents — more than
50 percent — will be reported first on microblogs.

 


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