Jeremy Goldkorn

While the government is still firm in control, the online debate in China has become more outspoken, and the authorities rather try to manage the information flow, rather than shut it up, tells internet watcher Jeremy Goldkorn in the Global Post.

The Global Post:

Some critics see China’s recent moves to regulate the sector as an attempt to exert a softer kind of control.

“I think they are using a strategy of trying to shape and guide the conversation rather than shut it off,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, founder of Danwei, a blog about media in China.

“[This new policy] shows the party is as serious as it’s ever been about controlling information, and that message isn’t lost on people. But I haven’t seen that any of the recent measures have had the effect of dampening the conversation.”…

In the last several years, microblogs have become a crucial outlet not only for frank political opinion, but also breaking news. In August 2011, a high-speed train crashed in Zhejiang province and killed 40 people. While the state-run media largely steered clear of it — as with other controversies — weibo users broke the news and covered it obsessively, generating 10 million messages on the crash in a single week.

Weibo is absolutely key to understanding the Chinese media landscape,” Goldkorn said. “Everyone in the media in China is on weibo. Your taxi driver who doesn’t get online will eventually hear about news because it’s broken there first.”

This power to drive the news explains the Communist Party’s urgent concern about microblogs — especially in a once-a-decade election year. This fall, seven new members will be nominated to the nine-man clique that rules China, the Politboro Standing Committee.

More in The Global Post.

Jeremy Goldkorn is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

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