My new article, “Connectivity, Engagement and Witnessing on China’s Weibo,” has just been published in Jacques deLisle, Avery Goldstein, and Guobin Yang eds. The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China University of Pennsylvania Press (2016).
It is the first book-length study of the Chinese Internet after the social media revolution to explore the impact of social media in Chinese society and the changing state-society relationship focusing on three areas—civil society, law, and the nationalist turn in Chinese foreign policy.
My article discusses recent developments with respect to civil society and civic engagement in China and the role of social media in this respect. The article pays particular attention to the significance of images for civic engagement, connectivity and social mobilization. What new possibilities can social media offer for civic engagement in an authoritarian country? The article tries to tentatively answer this question by analyzing different types of civic engagement, including interest based networks, communities of solidarity, public interest campaigns, NGO and charity work, that since 2009 have been facilitated by or developed on weibo. The main argument is that the emergence of new forms of civic engagement has been facilitated by social media platforms such as weibo, although not determined by the technology, and that users have appropriated weibo as a tool to develop new ways to connect and engage on social issues.