Briefing Paper

Briefing Paper 161 (2014)   

China’s Public Opinion Management:
Tightening the Grip in the Digital Age

Publicerad 1.10.2014

Elina Sinkkonen
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

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The number of netizens in China is growing year on year and the increase in the use of mobile technologies to access the internet is the most notable trend of late. Around half of the Chinese population are now internet users.

The Chinese leadership has tightened internet control since August 2013. In February 2014, China established Central Internet Security and Information Leading Group, headed by President Xi Jinping, to monitor Chinese cyberspace. Defamatory social media posts were criminalized, and the first sentence was imposed in April 2014.

Despite stricter internet control, criticism of the state and politicians has often been tolerated in social media, whereas any content that promotes offline collective action is systematically censored. However, the idea that the development of the internet in China would lead to significant political change seems unwarranted in the current circumstances.

Poll data released on September 9 show that almost 90 per cent of the Chinese respondents harbour negative views about Japan. Internet forums and increasing commercialization of the traditional media are contributing to this public opinion trend, which complicates the handling of China’s turbulent relations with Japan.