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Web 2.0 and Political Engagement in China

  • Fengshi Wu
  • Shen Yang
Original Paper

Abstract

This article examines civic and political engagement in contemporary China by three recent cases where activists and citizens take full advantage of interactive information technologies and Web 2.0 tools to overcome obstacles and mobilize for public goods. The cases show how activists act strategically to mobilize mass-based support and use various technologies to ensure monetary transaction, resource allocation, public monitoring, and large-scale inter-organizational coordination. In addition, they also demonstrate how ordinary Chinese citizens take part in innovative civic initiatives, act upon their own decisions, and eventually contribute to the change of a failed policy and the solution to a public problem. Different forms of online mass political engagement have introduced new dynamism to public affairs in China, enhanced social autonomy, and thus can have accumulative impact on the asymmetric power relationship between the authoritarian state and society.

Keywords

Political engagement Policy advocacy Civil society Web 2.0 China 

Résumé

Cet article étudie l’engagement civique et politique dans la Chine contemporaine par trois cas récents où des militants et des citoyens tirent pleinement parti des technologies de l’information interactives et des outils du web 2.0 pour surmonter les obstacles et se mobiliser pour les biens publics. Ces cas montrent comment les militants agissent de façon stratégique pour mobiliser un soutien de masse et utiliser différentes technologies pour assurer la transaction monétaire, l’affectation des ressources, le contrôle public et une coordination interorganisationnelle à grande échelle. Ils montrent, de plus, comment de simples citoyens chinois prennent part à des initiatives citoyennes innovantes, agissent selon leurs propres décisions et contribuent finalement à modifier l’échec de la politique et la solution à un problème public. Différentes formes de participation politique de masse en ligne ont introduit une nouvelle dynamique aux affaires publiques en Chine, une plus grande autonomie sociale et peuvent donc avoir des répercussions cumulatives sur le rapport de force asymétrique entre l’État autoritaire et la société.

Zusammenfassung

Dieser Beitrag untersucht das bürgerliche und politische Engagement im heutigen China anhand von drei jüngsten Beispielen, bei denen Aktivisten und Bürger interaktive Informationstechnologien und Web-2.0-Tools zu ihrem Vorteil nutzen, um Hindernisse zu überkommen und sich für öffentliche Güter zu mobilisieren. Die Beispiele zeigen, wie Aktivisten strategisch vorgehen, um die Unterstützung der Massen zu mobilisieren, und wie sie verschiedene Technologien nutzen, um finanzielle Transaktionen, die Ressourcenverteilung, die öffentliche Überwachung und eine umfangreiche Koordinierung zwischen Organisationen zu gewährleisten. Darüber hinaus zeigen die Beispiele, wie gewöhnliche chinesische Bürger an innovativen Bürgerinitiativen teilnehmen, eigenständig handeln und schließlich zur Änderung einer fehlgeschlagenen Politik und zur Lösung eines öffentlichen Problems beitragen. Verschiedene Formen des politischen Engagements der Massen haben in China zu einer neuen Dynamik in öffentlichen Angelegenheiten geführt und die soziale Autonomie erhöht, wodurch sie die asymmetrische Machtbeziehung zwischen dem autoritären Staat und der Gesellschaft verstärkt beeinflussen können.

Resumen

El presente artículo examina el compromiso cívico y político en la China contemporánea mediante tres casos recientes en los que los activistas y los ciudadanos aprovechan plenamente las tecnologías interactivas de información y las herramientas Web 2.0 para superar obstáculos y movilizar bienes públicos. Los casos muestran cómo los activistas actúan estratégicamente para movilizar apoyo de masas y utilizan diversas tecnologías para garantizar las transacciones monetarias, la asignación de recursos, la monitorización pública y la coordinación entre organizaciones a gran escala. Asimismo, también demuestran cómo los ciudadanos chinos corrientes participan en iniciativas cívicas innovadoras, actúan según sus propias decisiones y contribuyen eventualmente al cambio de una política fallida y a la solución a un problema público. Diferentes formas de compromiso político de masas online han introducido nuevo dinamismo en los asuntos públicos en China, han mejorado la autonomía social y de este modo pueden tener un impacto acumulativo sobre la relación de poder asimétrica entre el estado autoritario y la sociedad.

摘要

本文列举了三个最新案例:在这些案例中,活动分子与市民充分利用了互动信息技术与Web2.0工具,以克服障碍、调用公共产品。通过这些案例,我们检视了当代中国的公民与政治参与情况。这些案例显示了活动分子是如何有策略地采取行动以调动以大众为基础的支持,如何有策略地使用各种技术以确保货币交易、资源配置、公众监督与大规模组织间的协调的。此外,这些案例还展示了普通中国公民是如何参与到创新性公民提议中的,他们是如何自主做决定并最终为纠正针对公共问题所作的错误政策与解决方案而做贡献的。不同形式的大众在线政治参与为中国的公众事务引入了新的动力,加强了社会自治,进而对集权国家与社会之间的权力不对称关系产生了累积式的影响。

要約

本論文では、現代中国における市民的および政治的関与を調査するが、活動家や市民が双方向性の情報技術とウェブ2.0のツールにフルに活用しつつ、公共財を収集して障害を克服する最近の3事例を提示する。事例は、活動家がどのように大衆のサポートを動員、金融取引、資源配分、公共の監視、大規模な組織間の調整を確保するさまざまなテクノロジを用いて戦略的に行動するかを示している。さらに、一般的な中国の市民がどのように革新的な市民活動に参加するか、自身の判断を下すか、最終的に失敗した政策変更と公共への解決策に貢献するかを示している。オンライン上での政治的関与の異なる形態は、中国の公務における新たなダイナミズムと強化された社会的自治を導入しており、独裁主義的な国家と社会間の非対称の力関係の累積的影響を持つことができる。

ملخص

يتناول هذا المقال المشاركة المدنية والسياسية في الصين المعاصرة عن طريق ثلاث حالات حديثة حيث النشطاء والمواطنين يستفيدوا إستفادة كاملة من تكنولوجيا المعلومات التفاعلية وأدوات الويب 2.0 للتغلب على العقبات وحشد للبضائع العامة. الحالات تبين كيف يتصرف النشطاء إستراتيجيا" لحشد الدعم القائم على الكتلة وإستخدام التقنيات المختلفة لضمان المعاملة النقدية، وتخصيص الموارد، مراقبة العامة و التنسيق على نطاق واسع بين المنظمات. بالإضافة إلى ذلك، فإنها تبين أيضا" كيف أن مواطنين صينيين عاديين يشاركون في المبادرات المدنية المبتكرة، يأخذون قراراتهم بأنفسهم والمساهمة في نهاية المطاف في تغيير السياسة الفاشلة وحل مشكلة عامة. أشكال مختلفة من المشاركة السياسية الجماعية على الإنترنت أدخلت دينامكية جديدة للشؤون العامة في الصين، عززت الإستقلال الذاتي الإجتماعي وبالتالي يمكن أن يكون لها تأثير تراكمي على علاقة القوة الغير متكافئة بين النظام الإستبدادي والمجتمع.

Notes

Acknowledgments

An earlier version of the paper was presented at RSIS Luncheon Seminar on 18 March 2015. We thank Caitriona Helena Heinl, Pascal Vennesson, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research and The Johns Hopkins University 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.S. Rajaratnam School of International StudiesNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Department of Government and Public AdministrationChinese University of Hong KongHong Kong SARChina

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