The emergence of blogs in China in 2002 posed a challenge to a Government that wanted to encourage new communication technology while at the same time curbing the expression of dissent. The Government was at that point succeeding in controlling the internet, but the lightning speed of the blogosphere provided a new means for people to communicate precisely the kind of information of which the Government did not approve. This gave Chinese blogs a reputation for anti-government outspokenness, but they also featured other types of content, spurred in particular by the sexual self-publicity of the beautiful “Mu Zi Mei”. Blogging has now become enormously popular, with 72 million blogs recorded in China in 2007, and has gone way beyond those narrow areas of coverage. This article asks whether the blogosphere is still a platform for political dissent, and, if not, what its functions have become. The 164 most popular Chinese blogs were examined for their types of content and levels of identification. It was found that most bloggers were open about their identities, some even providing contact details. In some ways this was unsurprising, because many blogs have been started by VIPs who are widely covered in the mainstream media or by others seeking to make their names known. However, the most abundant content was forwarded information, much of it close to or even derived from the mainstream media. There are still anonymous blogs, and blogs that use puns to hide references to sensitive matters, and more than a third of blogs express opinions. Yet the overall indication is that the blogosphere seems to be more of a social connection phenomenon, providing people with material of types and in quantities they have not had access to before. While this information doesn’t trigger the censors’ sensors, it may well form a major part of a social transformation that could balloon beyond government control.
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||Australian Journalism Review|
|Publication status||Published - Jul 2008|
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