Safety Valve or Pressure Cooker? Blogs in Chinese Political Life

International Communication Association
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Communication, 2012, 62 (2), pp. 212 - 230
Issue Date:
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Despite censorship, Chinese bloggers routinely uncover corruption, help solve social problems, and even pressure state officials to change policy. The power of online opinion is undisputed in individual cases, but the overall effect of blog discourse on Chinese political life is unclear. Do blogs relieve pressure for political change by allowing troublemakers to vent frustrations in a marginal medium, or are they integrated with the larger system of political communication in China, inspiring political activism and building communities of likeminded activists? Using large-scale content analysis and specific case studies, I argue that blogs serve as a "safety valve" on issues where the mainstream media set the agenda, and a "pressure cooker" on issues where bloggers get ahead of journalists.
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