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ICA 2012: Fei Shen

Campaigning with Weibo: Independent Candidates’ Use of Social Media in Local People’s Congress Elections in China

The outpouring of independent candidates and their fresh presence on the most popular Chinese micro-blogging site, Sina Weibo, in local People’s Congress elections in 2011 become an interesting and intriguing phenomenon that deserves special scholarly attention. A content analysis of 50 independent candidates’ Weibo content during their campaign periods was conducted to understand the ways they used new media technologies for political participation. Results showed that independent candidates were very active on Weibo; most of their posts were for expressing opinions towards various social issues; the most frequently expressed emotion is anger; and election procedures and laws were discussed more frequently than the idea and notion of democracy. Nevertheless, the dilemma is, the more active these candidates were, the more likely they were subject to government pressure and interference. In the short run, new media technologies did not give the independent candidates enough leverage over other Party endorsed candidates in winning the elections. But in the long run, a civic and democratic culture might be fostered through campaigning with social media tools.

Fei Shen (PhD, Ohio State University) is an assistant professor in the Department of Media and Communication at the City University of Hong Kong. His research interests include public opinion, digital activism, and political communication. He published articles in the Journal of Communication, the International Journal of Public Opinion Research, Communication Research, Press/Politics, and the Asian Journal of Communication.