Development of New Media
The establishment of the leading group for network security and informationization of the CPC Central Committee and the action plan for “Internet +” proposed in the Report on the Work of the Government made to the 2015 NPC session heralded the launch of China’s strategy for developing its internet industry. As the country strengthens top-level design, the development of new media has approached a new stage where increasing mobility and integration push new media to develop new functions. The effect of the integration of new media with politics, economy and culture at a deep level has kept releasing, leading to the rise of new ideas, new technologies and new types of operation.
I. Rapid Development of New Media Ushers in an Age of Micro-communication
The internet has become an important channel for Chinese netizens to access news and information. By December 2015, the number of netizens in China had reached 688 million, including 620 million connected to the internet via their mobile phones. Internet penetration reached 50.3 percent. More and more Chinese are using mobile phones to surf the internet, with 90.1 percent of cell phones on the grid. Of all the internet applications, news applications had 564 million users, or 82 percent of the online population, 482 million (77.7 percent) of whom are using news applications on their phones. According to iResearch, in June 2015, a total of 55.737 million users visited online news portals daily, spending a total of 99.38 million hours there in terms of effective duration time.
Thanks to diversification of exits and entrances of web news and accuracy of the news content, Chinese netizens are offered more channels to access news. In addition to traditional news portals and websites, browsers boasting huge numbers of clients, instant messaging tools, social media and some application-distribution apps are all feeding news to individual devices by making use of their huge user pool data. Of them, the browsers and distribution apps mainly play the roles of users and incoming flow while instant messaging tools and social media, by making use of their “social” attribute, focus on forwarding the news contents and uploading personalized comments. The various news sources interpret their users through recommending search engines, so as to achieve accurate recommendation to meet their users’ personalized needs.
Micro-communication, represented by Weibo (Microblog), WeChat and client-end applications, has gradually become the mainstream means of news dissemination in China. With the popularity of smart phones and the rapid growth of mobile new media and wearable devices, news and information are reaching people via newer and better means, and more people are changing the way they obtain news — from newspaper, radio and television to new media — through which news is read in fragmented time slots. By the end of June 2015, China’s Weibo users had reached 204 million, or 30.6 percent of the total number of netizens; Microblog mobile App users numbered 162 million, or 27.3 percent of the netizens and 79.4 percent of the total number of Microblog users. Daily postings on the Sina Weibo service surpassed 120 million. By December 2015, 624 million accounts had been created for instant messaging applications, meaning 90.7 percent of Chinese netizens had such accounts; and 557 million, or 89.9 percent of all netizens on mobile phones, used a cell phone to access the applications.
Administration at all levels made full use of new media in promoting service-oriented government. From central ministries to local townships, the government actively embraced new media, communicating with the public on online service platforms as compared to one-way information releases in the past. By the first quarter of 2015, official government WeChat accounts had reached 100,000, and verified government Weibo accounts at Sina numbered 140,000. “Ping’an Beijing,” a Sina Microblog, had 10.28 million followers, and was widely popular as a new online identity for the municipality’s public security system. Government WeChat accounts, such as “Communists” and “Shanghai Release,” garnered 100,000 views on a daily basis. Xinjiang’s WeChat account “The Last Mile” used articles and pictures by grassroots-level officials, and its many services were welcomed by ordinary citizens.
By making use of their advantages, the emerging new media is made possible to pool great positive energy promoting beauty, kindness and improvement through self-improvement and self-purification. On May 21, 2015, “Shaanxi Fire,” the Microblog account of the provincial fire corps, tweeted 15 postings after a young child in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province fell into a well, updating on the rescue effort over 16 hours. It also started a fund for the rescued child and collected RMB200,000 to cover the medical expenses. In online voting for “Touching Stories of the Internet” in 2015, millions of netizens took part in order to choose their heroes: a group of young college students who regularly carried their paralyzed teacher to the hospital, the AIDS intervention and prevention specialist Liu Zheng, the farmer who turned barren hills to forests Huang Shenghong, and so many others who played their part or lent a helping hand. According to statistics from communication platform “Baidu Bar,” when the cruiser Dongfang Zhixing (Eastern Star) sank in the Yangtze River, half of Chinese netizens engaged in online discussions about rescue plans, and the figure rose to 80 percent on the seventh day after the accident. In the wake of the warehouse explosions in Tianjin, a port city, calls for blood donors on new media met with an active response. Weibo user “Yaoyao Xiaojing” drew a picture of a firefighter walking towards the burning buildings while everyone else was fleeing, moving millions to tears. On August 18, Chen Xiaozhou, a netizen in Hangzhou, called for commemoration of heroes who fought in the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression through making cartoons to record their deeds and a gesture with two hands crossing as a dove of peace. Over 1.66 million netizens took part, and positive energy accumulated to permeate the Internet.
While new media bring convenience and free access to information, they also produce certain negative influence. Negative information, rumors and fake news are spread through the internet, and violations of personal privacy occur regularly, disrupting the order of news dissemination, harming social life and infringing upon the rights of the person.
II. Chinese Government Regulates the Internet by Law to Guarantee Orderly Internet Information Dissemination
In the era of new media, governments around the world are all concerned about how to ensure orderly dissemination of information. In light of its conditions, China is actively exploring ways to regulate the internet to both boost internet development and ensure security; it strives to regulate the internet under the rule of law, guard orderly online dissemination of information, and punish such unlawful activities as the spread of rumors and fake news in accordance with the law.
China regulates new media and orderly online dissemination of information in accordance with the law. On August 28, 2014, China’s State Council issued the Notice on Authorizing the State Internet Information Office to Oversee the Management of Internet Information and Contents. In accordance with the Interim Regulations on the Development and Management of Public Information Services of Instant Messaging Tools, Regulations on the Management of Internet User Accounts, and Regulations on Admonishing Interview with Internet News and Information Service Providers — all issued by the State Internet Information Office — the Office, in collaboration with other units, rolled out campaigns to crack down on internet pornography and illegal publications, online blackmail, and unauthorized removal of postings by hired hands, so as to create a healthy and orderly environment for the development of new media.
The Chinese government ensures the legitimate rights of minors and protects them from harmful information on the internet. Prior to the International Children’s Day on June 1, 2015, the government launched an online program for a sound internet environment for the healthy growth of youngsters. As online reports on crimes, bullying and insults targeted at minors increased, the State Internet Information Office issued the Notice on Further Strengthening the Management of Online Reports on Crimes Against and Bullying of Minors on June 30, 2015, setting strict standards for online news articles involving such incidents. In online reports involving minors, raw videos and untreated pictures of violence, bloodshed, pornography and horror are strictly forbidden. Collecting information from minors by means of coercion and deceit, discrimination against minors, and profiting from negative news of minors are prohibited. While reporting on news involving minors, websites should develop an awareness of protecting the rights of minors, respecting them and prioritizing their rights and interests.
III. The Development of New Media Ensures the People’s Freedom of Speech and Right of Supervision over the Media
Like the real world, the internet honors freedom while maintaining order. Order is necessary for achieving and ensuring freedom. The Internet is not a lawless place. The Chinese government supports free expression of views via new media, and welcomes public criticism and suggestions and discussion of state and social affairs. It strives to create a sound and orderly environment for the public to obtain and exchange information, so that information flows on the internet in a free, safe and orderly fashion.
The internet has become an important source of information and a place to air views for Chinese netizens. The public participates in in-depth discussions of public affairs and activities on an unprecedented scale, exerting a positive impact on public decision-making. From January 1 to February 28, 2015, online searches on the search engine Baidu with the keyword “2015 two sessions” (meaning the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference) totaled 580,000. NPC deputies and CPPCC members collected public opinion through the internet, and strengthened interaction with the people through email, Weibo and other channels. On the internet ordinary citizens expressed their views on the “two sessions,” contributing ideas and suggestions and participating in the management and discussion of state affairs. In early 2015, the web portals of the Chinese government, People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency, China Central Television, China Internet Information Center (China.org.cn), Sina, and Tencent jointly launched an online activity inviting citizens to contribute their ideas to improve the work of the government. Many well-known public figures took part. The 79,000 suggestions made by netizens were read by relevant departments, 1,426 popular suggestions were sent to the drafting team for the report, and 46 were directly included in the 2015 Report on the Work of the Government. On March 26, 2015, seven netizens were invited to Zhongnanhai, headquarters of the Chinese government, for a seminar to discuss their contribution to the report.
The people’s courts at all levels opened their own Microblog accounts, forming a regular information release mechanism under public supervision. At some courts online broadcasting systems have been set up on Weibo with the help of professional video streaming services. At Sina Weibo, 29 courts of Wuhan’s Intermediate People’s Court and 13 courts at lower levels have been connected to the system.
New media play an important role in facilitating free expression of public demand and opinion, in solving issues related to public well-being, and in promoting political progress. As the management of public affairs turns O2O, public engagement has increased. “Wenzheng Yinchuan,” the government Weibo account of Yinchuan, Ningxia Province, was opened to listen to public opinions and activate government action offline. The Siming District government in Xiamen, Fujian Province set up a Weibo account by the name “Silian Mingzhi” as a supervising service to receive complaints online and deal with problems offline. In many places social media platforms serve as a vinculum between the police and citizens. In Jinzhong, Shanxi Province, netizens like to seek help from “Jinzhong Gong’an,” the Weibo account of the local public security services. In Taiyuan, “Wangluo Wenzheng” is a popular government account which answers citizens’ questions every week.