Development and Current Characteristics of Social Media in China

Essay, 2011

11 Pages, Grade: 1,0



1 Introduction

2 Development of (Digital) Communication in China

3 Social Media in China
3.1 Definition of Social Media
3.2 Characteristics of Social Media in China
3.3 Social Business in China

4 Summary


1 Introduction

The People’s Republic of China is a country of many superlatives. It is not only the most populous state and fastest growing economy, but also home to the largest Internet community in the world. Today, China’s population consists of more than 457 million Internet users[1] who work with the World Wide Web in lots of different ways. As in many other countries, “Social Media” has become a crucial aspect of China’s everyday Internet and business life. Still, this use of “Social Media” cannot be taken for granted considering the strong governmental control over citizens’ personal lives a couple of decades ago, and in some aspects its characteristics and terms of use differ from the rest of the world.

In this essay, I first want to present the development of China’s (digital) communication in order to provide a better understanding of former and current aspects of media in general. Then, I will have a closer look at the characteristics of “Social Media” in China. This chapter will include a rough definition of the term “Social Media” to avoid misinterpretation. Finally, I will deal with economic aspects by explaining so-called “Social Business” in China.

2 Development of (Digital) Communication in China

The development of digital communication in the People’s Republic of China is strongly connected to the history of China’s politics. Briefly, one can say that changes in media communications always went along with governmental decisions or changes. Therefore, a good way to approach the development of digital communication in China is to look at political changes and their impact on communication and information distribution in general.

Esarey and Qiang (2011: 301-305) offer a basic description of these historical changes by referring to China’s information regimes. In total, three information regimes can be identified. Information Regime I dates back to the time from 1949 to 1978. This period is mainly characterized by the consequences of the establishment of a national propaganda system dominated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This vanguard party did not only determine the information for the masses, cadres and state leaders, but it also made use of newspapers, magazines and the radio as its “mouthpieces”. In brief, the availability of print and broadcast media as well as the domination of all media outlets represent Information Regime I.

After Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, reformations of the economy towards a more market-oriented mixed economy took place. Furthermore, “media commercialized and became self-supporting financially” (cf. Esarey & Qiang, 2011: 303). Thus, a major change was that state-owned print and broadcast media slowly became dependant on advertising revenues. Self-censorship of Chinese media was encouraged by financial incentives as well as punishment in case of disobedience. Another key aspect of Information Regime II was the production of more non-political and noncontroversial news in mass media and the emphasis of entertainment. Nevertheless, local government was still in charge of day-to-day media operations and media was constantly evaluated to guarantee the conformity with the directives of the Chinese Communist Party. Interesting is also the fact that “the number of newspapers in the 1980s increased by a factor of eight and the number of televisions grew by nearly a factor of 10” (cf. Esarey & Qiang, 2011: 303).

In 2003, Information Regime II finally turned into Information Regime III, which is also referred to as the “Digital Age”. In China, people were experiencing growing individual wealth and at the same time, advancing digital communications technology became available. “By the early 2000s, millions of citizens had purchased telephones, cell phones, and personal computers and subscribed to broadband Internet service” (cf. Esarey & Qiang, 2011: 304). Expressing one’s view via digital networks started to become a common feature of the Digital Age in China, with restrictions due to state regulations. In comparison to China’s Information Regime I and II, people were able to express themselves and their political opinions in a more liberated way, and moreover, access to information has become easier.


[1] according to The 27th Statistical Report on Internet Development in China (CNNIC)

Excerpt out of 11 pages


Development and Current Characteristics of Social Media in China
University of Hamburg  (Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
Business English C: Emerging Markets – China and India
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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591 KB
Social Media, social, China, development, current characteristics, current situation, Media, definition of Social Media, Social Business, digital communication, netizens
Quote paper
Sebastian Baumann (Author), 2011, Development and Current Characteristics of Social Media in China, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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