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The Political Consequences of the Rise of the Internet: Political Beliefs and Practices of Chinese Netizens

Lei, Y.-W.
Political Communication, 28 (3), (S. 291–322).
2011

This article addresses a long-standing question: What are the political consequences of the rise of the Internet and the attendant emergence of netizens in China, particularly in terms of China’s democratic prospects? Given the Chinese state’s firm control in the realm of traditional media, the Internet has been expected to bring about political and social change in China since its introduction. Although scholars have had divergent views on what this change might look like, there has been no systematic effort to produce representative evidence to address the debate. Examining a nationwide representative survey data set, this study finds that Chinese netizens, as opposed to traditional media users and non-media users, are more politically opinionated. In addition, they are more likely to be simultaneously supportive of the norms of democracy and critical about the party-state and the political conditions in China, while also being potential and active participants in collective action. This article argues that, despite the competent authoritarian state, a more decentralized media system enabled by technology has contributed to a more critical and politicized citizenry in China’s cyberspace. The Internet has made it possible for China’s media system to undertake a new, albeit restricted and contingent role as a communication institution of the society. As critical citizenry, China’s netizens constitute a new social force challenging authoritarian rule.

Zitation (APA)

Lei, Y.-W. (2011). The Political Consequences of the Rise of the Internet: Political Beliefs and Practices of Chinese Netizens. Political Communication, 28(3), 291–322.