Cyberspace and Political Participation in Contemporary China : A Preliminary Assessment Based on Two Case Studies

University essay from Lunds universitet/Centrum för öst- och sydöstasienstudier

Abstract: This paper approaches information technology and the Internet's social and political impact in contemporary China from the perspective of political participation. This paper applies the "public sphere" concept as an analytical tool to define the relationship between public sphere and the newly rising cyberspace. It finds that certain part of cyberspace is the relevant reflection of public sphere in the virtual world. Then the paper turns to political participation process in the context of contemporary China. It argues that political participation in China is composed of at least two layers: behavioral layer aims at directly affects policy-making process, and psychological layer concerns more with broadly involved and engaged in politics in more dimensions. This paper then introduces some basic information about the recent Internet developmenttrend in China. The paper views the Internet regulation in China as a paradox: the party-state encourages the development of the Internet on one hand, while on the other hand believing that it can monitor and censor activities and information flows in cyberspace. The most primary part of the paper is the case study. Two public forums or BBS have been chosen, which are corresponding to the two layers of Chinese political participation process respectively. The first one that corresponds to the behavior layer is the Hepatitis B virus carriers (HBVers) forum, which engages with changing state discrimination against them. The second one that corresponds to the psychological layer is the Tianya BBS. Its membership and discussion topics are very broad and universal. The paper finally concludes that although the cyberspace and Internet make some landmark changes in political participation process and even the whole political system in China, the prospect of political development oriented to a more democratic regime is still dim and pessimistic rather than bright and optimistic. Internet use on its own is unlikely to launch the dawning of a new political age in China

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