Yu Sun: Public Deliberation in Chinese Online Sphere

Yu Sun, University of Groningen, Department of Journalism and media studies | Supervisor: Professor Marcel Broersma | 1 September, 2013 – 31 August, 2017 | y[dot]sun[at]rug[dot]nl

Chinese Internet has become a prominent source for keeping people update about what is happening in China. There are more than 480 million Internet users now in China. With the emergence of social media in China, people have a new participatory channel to get informed and discuss issues of their concern. Sometimes, lay citizens’ voices expressed on this interactive media platform generate collective preference among all actors and can be transformed into influential say in authorities’ governance. This successful deliberative practice not only empowers ordinary citizens to express their appeals in public policy to defend their rights and interests but also provides governments a larger setting to make good and democratic decisions. Nevertheless, the outcome of public discussions in online sphere, sometimes, leads to nowhere.

Therefore, the value of social media itself is still questionable in terms of its engaging and mobilizational capacity without looking at the whole socio-political context and power relations outside it. In order to comprehensively understand the social media’s role in Chinese public sphere, it’s necessary to look at online discussions about specific issues and the interaction and dynamic interplay between deliberative outcome and other social actors in the whole network of power relations.

In my study, public discussions on Chinese social media platforms will be investigated to see how “street-level deliberation” is shaped in Chinese cyberspace (Coleman & Moss, 2012, p.11). Besides, the interaction between citizen deliberative outcome and the authorities’ policy-making will also be explored to further reveal multilevel interaction among publics and governments and the multifaceted power relations between state and society in China.