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The Chinese government and social media

北京发布

Sina Weibo claims to have more than 400 million users, and its influence and power are without doubt. Yet the Chinese government and all its myriad bodies and institutions are likewise getting in on the act, not just by means of regulation or censorship but by active participation.

A report was published this month that outlined statistics and new trends in government use of social media in China. The 2012 Sina Government Weibo Report (2012年新浪政务微博报告), released by the People Online Public Monitoring Office (人民网舆情监测室), describes in detail what types of government organizations are using Weibo accounts, ranks the most popular ones, discusses new trends, and forecasts three main trends for 2013.

Top ten government Weibo accounts (and other rankings)

The number of government accounts on Weibo has now skyrocketed to 60,064. 20 government ministries, for example, have so far opened a total of 46 microblog accounts, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs having 11 accounts, the Ministry of Public Security, seven, and the Ministry of Health, five.

Based on data from all these accounts by ministries, public security organs, traffic police and regulation agencies, Communist Youth League offices and individual civil servants, the report uses a large number of indicators from number and frequency of posts to portrayal in the media to produce a final top ten ranking (with a score out of a hundred). The overall top ten government microblog accounts in China in 2012 are thus:

In addition to all these top ten rankings, there is also a ranking for the top ten most practically useful government Weibo accounts as well as the fastest growing. The second section of the report provides a brief overview of the development of government microblogging in 2012, outlining the number and type of government microblog accounts province-by-province.

Grassroots and emergency government microblogging 

Another aspect highlighted in the report is the rise of grassroots government microblogging. Thus we find the case of @王于京, which is the Weibo account (now approaching a million followers) of a police officer in Zhejiang province who overtly uses Weibo to provide useful information as a service to local people. Or as another example there is @罗崇敏, which is the account (with around 780,000 followers) of Luo Chongmin, a member of the College Work Committee of the Yunnan Provincial Party Committee and holder of an Economics doctorate degree. Luo uses his Weibo account to discuss all kinds of grassroots educational issues related to his work, also touching on various debates such a college entrance exams and education reform in China.

Another new trend is the use of Weibo by government agencies to deal with emergency situations. The Beijing floods that occurred in July this year was a very notable case in point. During the heavy rains, a number of government accounts in Beijing such as @北京发布, @北京消防 and @平安北京 posted the latest information on Weibo such as dangerous areas in the city, traffic updates and weather forecasts. Another example of this is the way city governments in Nanjing and Shenzhen this year used Weibo to diffuse rumours.

Three trends for 2013

Having considered the various changes in 2012, the report then offers three predictions for new trends to be expected in 2013:

1. Government microblogging will become more scientific and more standardized
While 2012 could still be characterized as somewhat of an experimental phase for government microblogging, 2013 will see more standardized microblogging practices with the implementation of rules and standards on how to use Weibo and exactly what content can be uploaded by whom.

2. Government microblogging to become more youth-oriented
Young people are clearly the major users of new forms of media such as Weibo, and the operators of government Weibo accounts will strive to better harness the participation of energetic and passionate youth. This will change the style and operational procedures of government Weibo accounts.

3. Government microblogging to deepen and expand to new areas
2012 not only saw a vast increase in government microblogs to more than 60,000, it also saw an expansion of microblogging engagement both at the top level ministries and at the very bottom of the use of social media in the grassroots. In 2013, in terms of quality we can expect government microblogging to expand further into new areas such as industry and administration and other areas to expand the government’s provision of information and to strengthen social management of innovation.

Links and sources
People Online Public Monitoring Office: 2012年新浪政务微博报告