China’s lively micro-blogging services might have to face internet controls, but that does not mean the national and local debate is curtailed, explains internet watcher Jeremy Goldkorn to Australia’s ABC.
Jeremy Goldkorn is another avid follower of Weibo and other Chinese social media sites.
He was the founding director of Danwei.com and is a respected Beijing-based researcher of the Chinese internet.
JEREMY GOLDKORN: Social media has, perhaps for the first time in Chinese history, given every citizen a space where they can express themselves that really never used to exist in any institutionalised format. China’s never had a very uncensored letters to the editors pages in its newspapers etc. and social media has given people a place to express themselves that is just unprecedented.
STEPHEN MCDONELL: And on Weibo can you just talk about anything, or are there certain subjects completely off limits, or where are the lines?
JEREMY GOLDKORN: People do try to talk about absolutely anything on Weibo but there are lots of subjects that you can’t talk about. And most of the subjects that you can’t talk about if you do start talking about them your postings get deleted and if you continue to talk about them your account may possibly be deleted. And this censorship is done by Sina, the company that controls Weibo, because they have to because their business licence is dependent on government approval of them, and the government expects them to make sure that the content is clean.
But it is nonetheless remarkable, despite the censorship what a wide and vibrant range of discussion there is on Weibo about every issue imaginable of concern to the Chinese people.
STEPHEN MCDONELL: So it’s not just people chatting about their love lives and stuff like that; there is genuine discussion about serious issues in China?
JEREMY GOLDKORN: Oh absolutely, there’s genuine discussion. There’s a lot of quite bitter name calling and feuding between different intellectual camps and different writers and bloggers and tweeters but it ranges the gamut from people uploading pictures of their kitties to serious political discussion.