Ahead of transition, China officials embrace social media

During China's last party congress, the cadres in charge of the world's most populous nation didn't know a hashtag from a hyperlink. But five years on, there's a new message from Beijing: The political transition will be microblogged.

Party officials have this fall embraced social media with unprecedented enthusiasm, hoping it can help guide public opinion and stir up excitement about the staid and scripted party meeting taking place this week in Beijing that kicks off a transition to a new, younger set of top leaders. Dozens of the more than 2,000 party delegates, among them Chairman Mao's grandson, are using social media to wax rhapsodic about China's rise and Party General Secretary Hu Jintao's live 90-minute reading of highlights from this year's party work report. Typical posts include pictures of grinning delegates on Tiananmen Square and mobile snapshots of poinsettia arrangements and chandeliers from inside the Great Hall of the People, where the congress is meeting.

State media also are posting microblog interviews with officials and shooting out updates about the congress schedule via Twitter-like accounts. But apart from being a tool to deliver Beijing's approved policy messages to the mobile phones of ordinary Chinese, the Internet is a two-way street that's also being used by the public to poke fun at and critique the propaganda. Online commentators have compared the gushy crying and clapping of some delegates over Hu's speech to North Korean style mass hysteria.

Responding to state media report about how a female delegate, Li Jian, cried five times at Hu's work report, a Sina microblog user writing under the name Buying Soysauce wrote: "I sobbed uncontrollably too, at the thought that these people were my compatriots.''

At the last party conclave in October 2007, Twitter was a little over a year old and hashtags had only just been introduced. China's leading homegrown Twitter-like microblog service, Sina Weibo, was still two years from launch.

... contd.

Please read our terms of use before posting comments
TERMS OF USE: The views expressed in comments published on indianexpress.com are those of the comment writer's alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Indian Express Group or its staff. Comments are automatically posted live; however, indianexpress.com reserves the right to take it down at any time. We also reserve the right not to publish comments that are abusive, obscene, inflammatory, derogatory or defamatory.