The Media Activism Research Collective (MARC) of the Annenberg School for Communication presents a talk entitled "Web 2.0 and Political Engagement in China" given by Fengshi Wu, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
As social media studies become mainstreamed in current fields of social mobilization, activism and political development, the case of China continues to present paradoxical trends. On the one hand, China is one of the very few countries where Facebook, Google and Youtube cannot reach. However, on the other, the country boasts its world’s largest e-commerce platform Taobao.com and a lively social media space called WeChat where hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens exchange and re-invent information. This talk starts with these macro-level puzzles, while focusing on the impact of social media and Web 2.0 technologies on public engagement in policy related and even politically sensitive issue areas in China. It draws upon three recent cases where activists and ordinary citizens take full advantage of interactive information technologies and Web 2.0 portals to overcome obstacles and to reach goals. The cases show how activists act strategically to mobilize mass-based support and use various technologies to ensure monetary transaction, resource allocation, public monitoring and large-scale inter-organizational coordination. In addition, they also demonstrate how ordinary Chinese citizens take part in social activism initiatives, act upon their own decisions, and eventually contribute to the change of a failed policy or a new solution to public problems.