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Title:Sina Weibo and its political implications: a case study of the Zhou Yongkang incident
Author(s):Yang, Wenqi
Advisor(s):Shao, Dan
Department / Program:E. Asian Languages & Cultures
Discipline:East Asian Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Sina Weibo
Public sphere
Public discussion
Zhou Yongkang incident
Abstract:After the Chinese government blocked Facebook in 2008 and Twitter in 2009 in mainland China, perspicacious Chinese Internet service providers have invented alternative social media platforms. Sina Weibo is one of them. Scholars studying the Internet and social media in Western countries have suggested that social media have the potential to construct a unique online public sphere and contribute to a much deeper social change. However, social media and its social and political implications in such a populous developing country with 710 million Internet users have not been thoroughly addressed due to the linguistic estrangement and the firm historical association of the new communication technology with democratic discourse. Furthermore, among the literature studying Chinese Internet, there is a lack of empirical research. The number of studies that look directly into the Chinese social media content is still relatively small. Therefore, this study is an effort to fill this gap through an empirical case study to map out the distinct dynamics in China’s online public sphere facilitated by Sina Weibo. This thesis strives to examine Weibo’s role in facilitating public discussion and constructing an online public sphere in China. To this end, it analyses Sina Weibo users’ discussion about the Zhou Yongkang incident. The theoretical framework applied in this study originates from Habermas’s conception of the public sphere and Warner’s notion of publics. Since these theories formed in Anglophone context, this study focuses on extrapolating the theories into Chinese context. This study uses mixed research methods. It uses both quantitative content analysis and qualitative critical discourse analysis. A wide range of political, social and historical perspectives are also employed to explore the diverse discourse and dynamic interaction on Weibo. Drawing from the public discussion in Zhou’s case, the thesis paints a relatively promising picture of the social media as a platform for personal expression in public discussion on political issues, comparatively jumping out of the discourse agenda set by the government and state media. The interaction among users indicates that rational-critical debate has become a part of China’s online public sphere.
Issue Date:2017-04-11
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Wenqi Yang
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-08-10
Date Deposited:2017-05

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