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Chinese Social Media as Laboratory: What We Can Learn about China from Research into Sina Weibo

Ng, Jason Q. (2013) Chinese Social Media as Laboratory: What We Can Learn about China from Research into Sina Weibo. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Like all nations, China has been profoundly affected by the emergence of the Internet, particularly new forms of social media—that is, media that relies less on mainstream sources to broadcast news and instead relies directly on individuals themselves to share information. I use mixed methods to examine how three different but intertwined groups—companies, the government, and Chinese Internet users themselves (so-called “netizens”)—have confronted social media in China. In chapter one, I outline how and why China’s most important social media company, Sina Weibo, censors its website. In addition, I describe my research into blocked search terms on Sina Weibo, and explain why particular keywords are sensitive. In chapter two, I take a quantitative approach informed by political science methodology to examine how the names of Chinese politicians were handled by Sina Weibo during a major political event: the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in November 2012. In response to research by Gary King which finds that online criticism of the government in China is allowed so long as it does not involve topics related to collective action, my study concludes that Sina Weibo actively filtered the search results of Communist Party delegates, particularly higher-ranked politicians and incumbents, during the observation period, often regardless of whether or not the individuals were controversial figures or linked to issues of collective action. In chapter three, I focus specifically on the end user, the microbloggers of Sina Weibo. Relying on communications and media studies research as well as content analysis, I report on the contentious comments netizens made in response to a post by the Japanese celebrity and porn star Sora Aoi—specifically ethnic slurs and nationalist rhetoric—during the Diaoyu Islands dispute between China and Japan in September 2012. These three components will allow readers to understand the power of social media in China—both contained within users and employed by authorities.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ng, Jason
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLandry, Pierre F.pflandry@pitt.eduPFLANDRY
Committee CoChairCarlitz, Katherinekcarlitz@pitt.eduKCARLITZ
Committee MemberZboray, Ronald J.zboray@pitt.eduZBORAY
Committee MemberZboray, MaryZBORAYM@pitt.eduZBORAYM
Date: 10 July 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 April 2013
Approval Date: 10 July 2013
Submission Date: 18 April 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 122
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > East Asian Studies
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: china ccp censorship internet politics socialmedia sina weibo microblogging nationalism data
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2013 20:24
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:11


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