Towards a Chinese Public Sphere? Online Public Opinion & The Yuqing System
With the emergence and popularization of the Internet, China is slowly developing a public sphere, with “Internet public opinion” taking shape in parallel and counterbalance with the so-called “mainstream public opinion.” However, in a highly centralized society, such an alternative force has provoked the Party’s desire to tighten speech control, and nurtured its ability to invent ingenious methods of micro social management. This has led to the emergence of yuqing (public sentiment) studies and a booming yuqing industry as intelligence, surveillance, and policing agencies on the “sentiments” of online public opinion. The far-reaching yuqing monitoring system has transformed its function from intelligence gathering and analysis on “social conditions and public opinion” into manipulation and fabrication of Internet public opinion. In the end, the yuqing system has “successfully” constructed an orderly and harmonious cyberspace with positive “public opinion”. However, in doing so, it has brushed aside and buried the real online public opinions on issues and conflicts between and among regions, social classes, religions, ethnicities, and the state and the society.
Hu Yong is professor of journalism and communication, Peking University; author of 13 books; veteran journalist; founding director of Communication Association of China (CAC) and China New Media Communication Association (CNMCA); academic committee member, China Information Economics Society (CIES); member of the Steering Committee of Chinese Internet Research Conference (CIRC); member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Social Media, 2013-2016; jury member, the BOBs (Best of Online Activism) Awards, the world's largest international blog and microblog competition, 2013-2016; primary researcher, Ranking Digital Rights 2015 Corporate Accountability Index.