When Beijing’s Online Propaganda Goes Awry

Engagement between government-affiliated Weibo accounts and ordinary users can sometimes produce messy results, writes expert contributor Yiyi Lu.

Yiyi Lu writes: Nowadays, China’s social media users are increasingly polarized in their ideological orientations. But several recent cases suggest that the engagement between government-affiliated Weibo accounts and ordinary users can sometimes produce messy results rather than straight propaganda victories for the state.

“When leftist and rightist social media users clash on Weibo, China’s main microblogging platform, one would expect that accounts maintained by state organs and individual cadres would lend their support to leftist users. This has indeed happened in reality, but the reality is also far more complex.”

China’s social media users are generally divided between leftists and rightists. The leftists are typically people who combine an emphasis on domestic political stability, sovereignty and national dignity with a strong belief in the leadership of the Communist Party. The rightists, meanwhile, tend to be liberals who favor democracy, rule of law and constitutionalism.

chinese-internet-users-in-internet-cafe-1024x609

“Often, the leftists call the rightists ‘running dogs of the Americans’ or the ‘Leading-the-Way Party’—suggesting that if China and the US were to go to war, the rightists would betray their country by helping the American army find its targets.”

Often, the leftists call the rightists “running dogs of the Americans” or the “Leading-the-Way Party”—suggesting that if China and the US were to go to war, the rightists would betray their country by helping the American army find its targets. Rightists tend to deride the leftists as members of the “Fifty-Cent Party”—implying that they are paid to post pro-government comments online—or “patriotraitors,” self-proclaimed patriots whose extreme nationalism actually harms China’s national interests.

wumao01

“Rightists tend to deride the leftists as members of the ‘Fifty-Cent Party’—implying that they are paid to post pro-government comments online—or “patriotraitors,” self-proclaimed patriots whose extreme nationalism actually harms China’s national interests.”

When leftist and rightist social media users clash on Weibo, China’s main microblogging platform, one would expect that accounts maintained by state organs and individual cadres would lend their support to leftist users. This has indeed happened in reality, but the reality is also far more complex.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

It is impossible to tell how many Chinese state organs and individual government employees are currently active on Weibo, as they may open accounts anonymously. Weibo offers users the option of maintaining a certified account once their identity is verified by the microblogging service. By the end of 2014, 94,164 state organs and 35,939 state employees had opened certified Weibo accounts. These accounts are referred to hereafter as “government-affiliated Weibo.”

These Weibo generally toe the Communist Party line and perform functions useful to the state, such as propagating government policies, answering queries about government services, and monitoring and attempting to influence public opinion.

However, in some recent cases, direct interactions between government-affiliated Weibo and ordinary users—many of whom are unequivocally rightist—have produced unintended consequences.

The Hou Jusen incident in late July is a case in point….(read more)

Source: WSJ

Yiyi Lu, an expert on Chinese civil society, is currently working on a project to promote open government information in China. She is the author of “Non-Governmental Organisations in China: The Rise of Dependent Autonomy” (Routledge 2008).

 

 


One Comment on “When Beijing’s Online Propaganda Goes Awry”

  1. Brittius says:

    Reblogged this on Brittius.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.