Social Media Networks and Chinese political attitudes

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Social Media Networks and Chinese political attitudes

Introduction

The Chinese government blocked social sites including Twitter and Facebook in mainland China on August 2009. Following this action, SINA CORP released the Weibo, a new Twitter style Chinese micro-blogging model. Years later, Weibo has grown to be the largest social networking site in China. Weibo’s operational platform that is similar to that of Twitter allows input of only 140 characters in one message. However, 140 Chinese characters can contain several times the amount of information in English characters because each character represents one word in Chinese. The Weibo application also allows users share files such as photos and videos, which make it more interactive than Twitter. Presently, China has about half-billion Internet users, and about 50% of them use Weibo. In essence, Weibo users currently have influential authority of affecting the country’s politics and economy. The influential stake of Weibo is identifiable in its role in providing Chinese citizens, who have been subject of political opinion repression with a strategic avenue through which they can express their views towards political ideologies and governance. This has the potential of enlightening citizens making them change their political attitudes. The selection of this trend is supported by the consideration that changes in the China’s political attitude are likely to affect the global economy and political patterns. This is because China is the world’s second largest economy and it has the largest population in the world. In order to explain the trend, the paper gathers information from two articles. These include Zhang & Pentina (2012) article, the Motivations and usage patterns of Weibo and Chan et al. (2012) work, the Microblogging, online expression, and political efficacy among young Chinese citizens: The moderating role of information and entertainment needs in the use of Weibo. Critical evaluation of the impact of the increased usage of Weibo among Chinese is essential in describing the possibly of a change of the Chinese political attitudes that may command China’s and the entire global political and economic dimensions in future.

The article by Zhang & Pentina had the prime aim of investigating the motivation behind the usage of Weibo and the patterns characterizing the popularity of the site. The scholars recruited 234 participants in their study. The study methods included interviewing five Weibo users for 20 to 50 minutes about their motivations and usage patterns (Zhang & Pentina, 2012). Furthermore, the authors conducted an online survey that challenged users to describe their Weibo’s experience. Particularly, the survey asked respondents to rate the Weibo system and provide demographics, time spent and frequency of their updates among others. The study’s findings highlight that about 78.9% of respondents are younger than 30 years old, and 84.2% of them post updates through their Weibo accounts at least once per week. Most respondents stated that “Professional Development” and “Emotional Release” motivate them into using the Weibo site (Zhang & Pentina, 2012 p. 314). In this context, Professional Development regards to the use of social networking sites for career needs while Emotional Release includes the use of the sites to relive pressure associated with social and personal life. Interestingly, the result indicates that females are more likely to discuss their personal life affairs in social sites while males are mainly interested about technology, business, and politics. In an attempt to discuss the study’s results, Zhang & Pentina observe that although most people update their Weibo status frequently with the intention of expressing their personality, the number of active users at any time is not adequate to make them popular or get a large number of followers. The scholars argue that professional development aspects and exposed social injustice have higher chances of attracting followers. The authors culminated their study by stating that the cross-platform utilization of Weibo site is likely to affect users’ motivations and usage platform further in future (Zhang & Pentina, 2012).

A remarkable limitation of this article includes the fact that authors failed to examine the platforms that individuals use to access their Weibo accounts. This is because users are likely to use diverse platforms and the model used may define frequency and frequency of usage. For example, people who use mobile platform are likely to post more information regarding their personal life because the model is convenient. Furthermore, such users update their status more frequently. Weibo users who use PC to log Weibo are likely to engage in professional development activities. Fine-tuning the study in to provide the fragmentation of the Weibo users could improve the findings of the research.

The article is relevant to the topic of this paper because it describes factors that motivate people into using the Weibo site. The article indicates clearly that individuals use Weibo in situations where they need to release the emotions and express their feelings. Essentially, the article highlights important concepts about Weibo that may be useful in describing the effect of social network on the Chinese political attitude. This is because users receive diverse opinions after posting their views, and such responses have the potential of affective their political attitudes. Furthermore, any insignificant political accusations can spread easily through social network.

Chan et al. (2012) study targeted describing how Weibo is affecting the interaction between the government and Citizens. Authors formulated nine hypotheses that are likely to describe the effect of social networking sites among the Chinese community. The study designed an online survey that collected 574 respondents were collected. The study indentified that from the total respondents, 499 were Weibo users and most of them were educated young people. The scholars also requested the individuals to react to inquiries in a 5-9 points Likert scale regarding different aspects of Weibo. The result supported six of nine hypotheses. Particularly, the result indicated that the frequency of Weibo usage tend to concentrate on “online expression towards government and political affairs,” instead of “internal efficacy” and “external efficacy” (Chan, 20012 p. 348). Many respondents argued that Weibo has become part of their life. A number of individuals also confirmed that they use Weibo to express their opinions about governance and politics (Chan et al. 2012).

The article’s discussion section focused on three major three conclusions. Initially, the authors argue that Weibo has provided an ideal avenue through which Chinese citizens can discuss their political opinions. Furthermore, the article denotes that citizens are increasingly challenging the government especially against ill action through Weibo. Lastly, the scholars argue that Weibo has reduced the gap between Chinese and individuals from western countries (Chan, 2012 p. 348).

The limitation of this study includes basing its evaluation on a sample that comprises a large group of highly educated young people. This is because the largest portion of the Chinese population comprise of individuals who have attained low levels of education. This means a generalization made out of such a sample is likely to be faulty. Utilizing a more diverse sample could improve the result study. The article aligns with the subject of this paper because it indicates that Weibo is affecting Chinese political attitudes considerably. It is apparent that Weibo is offering an effective model through which citizens are sharing their opinions on issues that relate to governance.

Prior to the penetration of the social networking in China, the Chinese community was organized under traditional tenets. Individuals from the community resisted the western way of life and social cohesion was very high during this time. Furthermore, the society held analogous opinions because the only source of information was the government-controlled media. Under this model, people accessed biased information that lured people into accepting government’s ideologies. Individuals who attempted to discredit government policies faced thorough punishments that included being sent to concentration camps. During this time, China presented the most powerful social cohesion in the world. The citizens were willing to do anything for their nation; however, some individuals especially the elites raised different political opinions. The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 highlights the people’s most intense outburst of their political expression. However, the situation normalized with time and citizens could not present their political opinions because of fear.

The development of Internet has provided this community with a unique model of presetting their diverse political attitudes. Particularly, Weibo has provided Chinese with a strategic avenue for venting their dissatisfaction. The model is secure because the government can hardly trace one’s posts. This has created a situation where more and more people are joining the site in order to air their grievances. Social conformity has been very typical in China because the country initially advocated for the socialist commune system. This social conformity is the central factor associated with the social cohesion in China. After China’s Reformation, the commune system was replaced by the state-owned or private enterprises. Under this scheme, social compliance became the key element for social cohesion. This created a situation where citizens were often afraid of the government’s police system. However, this has changed with time because currently, social fragmentation more significant than social cohesion. Internet provided people with an avenue of accessing diverse information. However, restriction of the western-based social sites such as facebook made Weibo emerge as popular social site for the Chinese providing them with a model of expressing their political ideologies. For instance, Weibo played a central role in the dissemination of information during Chinese jasmine revolution in the year 2011. This highlights that Chinese are presenting a trend that signify inclination towards the western-style democracy, which means that Weibo is accelerating social fragmentation.

Conclusion

The two studies reviewed by this paper indicate that the popularity of Weibo is constantly increasing. Most individuals use Weibo because of two main reasons that include professional development and emotional release. Political discontent emanates from unjust government policies in the country. Weibo has provided a strategic avenue through which individuals can express their views on political systems. It therefore becomes apparent that Weibo is affecting Chinese political attitudes considerably. This thesis is unique because Weibo is a new social network that is increasingly gaining popularly in China; yet earlier studies have not critically evaluated the implication of this technology to future political and economic patterns. The trend has high potential of making the Chinese political systems be more democratic. The Chinese government is also increasingly concerned about this influential model. Essentially, this trend will benefit Chinese in long run because to will result to improved governance.

 

References

Chan et al. (2012). Microblogging, online expression, and political efficacy among young Chinese citizens: The moderating role of information and entertainment needs in the use of Weibo. Cyberpyschology, Behavior and Social Networking, 15(7), 345-349. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2012.0109

Zhang, L. & Pentina, I. (2012). Motivations and usage patterns of Weibo. Cyberpyschology, Behavior and Social Networking, 15(6), 312-317 doi: 10.1089/cyber.2011.0615

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