Online Public Opinion: Transforming Agenda Setting and Shaping the Public Sphere in China

Saifuddin Ahmed 1 *, Lang Jia 2

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Abstract

Internet usage has exponentially grown in China since it was first established in 1993. The newest report indicates that 43.2% of the population in China is connected to the online world. The medium has re-shaped the Chinese society and the public sphere unprecedentedly in terms of public information sharing modes, communication habits and most importantly, expression of opinions. Traditional mass media is experiencing marginalization in terms of news events as Web 2.0 has developed as a huge "electronic plaza" in China where people from every walk of life can publish and exchange self-generated information in any form, comment about these information, express their petitions and complaints, elect their own opinion leader and set agenda for whole society. As Internet usage is on the rise in the country, we argue that the technology is changing the old mode of agenda setting for the society and hence transforming the reality of Chinese citizens. In detail we highlight how the setting of public agenda worked in the traditional media mode in China and how it is now altering under the new media (Internet) mode, along with the help of opinion leaders. Finally through discussion of Weng‘an riot (2008), one of the first riots where information was spread via the Internet, we try to establish the agenda setting enabling power of this medium in a highly censored society like China.

Keywords

Agenda setting Public sphere Public Opinion Spiral of Silence China Internet

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Article Type: Research Article

Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp. 100-118

Published Online: 15 Oct 2014

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