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Social Media, Culture and Politics in Asia

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Edited By Lars Willnat and Annette Aw

The Internet’s explosive growth over the past decade is nowhere more visible than in Asia. Fueled by an expanding middle class, thousands of people connect to the Internet for the first time each day to explore and discuss issues that are relevant to them and their lives.
This book provides an in-depth look at the impact of social media on political engagement among young citizens in this rapidly changing region of the world. Leading media scholars from nine Asian nations focus on three main questions:
How frequently do Asians use social media to access and discuss political information?
Does the use of social media increase political participation?
What political, social and cultural factors influence the impact of social media on political engagement in each nation?
To answer these questions, contributors first analyze the current state of social media in their nations and then present the findings of a cross-national survey on social media use that was conducted with over 3,500 Asian respondents. By employing a comparative approach, they analyze how social media function and interact with the cultural and political systems in each country – and how they might affect political engagement among individual citizens.
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3. Social Media and Political Participation in China

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CHAPTER THREE

Social Media and Political Participation in China

Lu Wei



The Internet’s development in China has come a long way in a relatively short time (Wu, 1996). Since the first e-mail message (“Across the Great Wall we can reach every corner in the world”) was sent from China to the University of Karlsruhe in Germany in September 1987 (Qiu, 2003), this fast-developing nation has seen rapid Internet expansion. In the mid-1990s, only a few thousand Chinese used the Internet (Liang & Lu, 2010). This figure jumped to 1 million by 1998, then reached 111 million in 2005, and finally 298 million by 2008 (China Internet Network Information Center, CNNIC, 1998, 2009). By the end of 2008, China had surpassed the United States and claimed the most Internet users in the world (Liang & Lu, 2010). The latest CNNIC survey, published in January 2014, reported 618 million Chinese netizens, representing 45.8% of China’s total population (CNNIC, 2014).

China’s rapidly growing number of Internet users is evident within the existing social structures. A quick demographic sketch, as reported in the 2014 CNNIC survey, reveals some substantial variations. For example, the majority (56%) of Internet users in China are male. In terms of age, 20- to 29-year-olds are dominant Internet users (31.2%), followed by those aged 10–19 (24.1%) and users aged 30–39 (23.9%). Persons younger than 10 and older than 60 rarely go online and account for...

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