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Xinhua Insight: Pushing Chinese democracy on mobile phones
Posted: March-11-2014Adjust font size:

    By Xinhua Writers Wang Wen and Ji Shaoting

    BEIJING, March 10 (Xinhua) -- A sense of achievement swept over Wang Donglin when his ideas on anti-terrorism education won support from his fellow political advisors in China.

    Wang's "aha moment" came as he browsed his online networks and found his friends and acquaintance talking about ways to survive a terrorist attack. The discussion came only hours after Kunming bloodbath and lasted for days.

    He is not the only member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee or deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) who samples public opinion on mobile Internet. Of this year's deputies and members, 203 have real-name accounts on Chinese microblogging websites.

    The ongoing Second Session of the 12th NPC and the Second Session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee have set up public WeChat accounts to forward latest news and service information to the general public.

    The mobile Internet has found its way in Chinese people's political life.


    By the end of 2013, China had 1.24 billion mobile phone users. Weibo and WeChat users both exceeded 500 million.

    Fast development of the mobile Internet has changed the form of information dissemination. Instant communication among all classes is possible any time and anywhere.

    NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members have full-time jobs apart from participating in political affairs. It is impossible for them to follow every important topic.

    "Public opinion overwhelms me on the Internet," said Wang Donglin.

    Wang divided his family and friends into six chat groups on WeChat according to their area of expertise. His Weibo account has more than 70,000 followers. Weibo and WeChat are two major ways for him to learn what ordinary people want from the government.

    There are many people like Wang Donglin using new media to promote social reform.

    Two years ago, the president of 3G Portal Zhang Xiangdong initiated an opinion poll on Weibo and received 1.2 billion Internet users' support for abolishing the crime of prostituting girls under the age of 14, and reclassifying the crime as rape.

    On a Weibo account that posts the latest breaking news worldwide, remarks made by head of the regional government of Xinjiang on terrorism received more than 500 "likes" within an hour.

    Shao Zhiqing, an NPC deputy and deputy director of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization, said the legislature had turned from "close-door" to "open-door" legislation, meaning legal drafts are open to public suggestions and critique before becoming final.

    "Now laws and regulations balance interests of all parties, and better realize social justice," said Shao.

    Online public opinion can affect public policy. The government of the southwest city of Guiyang held an online forum with its residents last year on ways to get rid of traffic jams, and formed a traffic management plan including building a light railway, and bus rapid transit system to ease traffic pressure.


    During the two sessions this year, the central Chinese government reached out to the public through its WeChat account and forwarded news twice a day.

    The account forwarded highlights of Premiere Li Keqiang's government work report as observed by different parties such as deputies, officials and the media, as well as authoritative interpretations and data analysis. Articles such as "Understanding Government Work Report in 50 Sentences" and "Big Data Perspective on Two Sessions" were widely reposted.

    Interconnectedness, the single most outstanding characteristic of mobile Internet, places pressure on government departments to change their management, said Shao.

    "Mobile Internet has pushed forward disclosure of government affairs," said Shen Yang, professor at Wuhan University with Internet as his area of research.

    He said information disclosure will clear up misunderstandings between the government and the public, and help with anti-corruption campaigning.

    Lei Jun, NPC deputy and founder of the well-known Xiaomi Tech, said Internet thinking is similar to the CPC's ongoing campaign of adopting a mass line to strengthen ties with the public -- "from the masses, to the masses."

    The country's leadership has attached great importance to Internet thinking.

    In a piece of graphic news named "Where Did President Xi's Time Go," Xi Jinping appeared in a cartoon image wearing gray jacket and blue trousers, and explaining that his time was devoted to international trips, conferences and grassroot research.

    The feature was posted on, a website run by the publicity department of Beijing Municipal Government and was a great success. Internet users praised Xi's posture as a man of people.

    "The public now has access to the once mysterious process of political decision making. It represents ideological emancipation and a technological advance," said Chang Jiang, professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Renmin University.


    "Internet will change China, making the country much stronger," said Robin Li, CEO of Nasdaq-listed Baidu, China's No. 1 online search company.

    He attended a CPPCC National Committee press conference as one of the speakers, the first time Chinese Internet business leaders have been speakers at the annual session; Tencent CEO Ma Huateng, Lei Jun, Robin Li, and Shanda Interactive's Chen Tianqiao were all present.

    "Young technical elites will have a greater say in political affairs because they are proficient in mobile Internet technology," said Chang, who believes more younger people will become political participants.

    He added that mobile Internet has become the major battlefield for public opinion, meaning the government faces more intense challenges than ever before.

    Shao Zhiqing thinks government at all levels should realize scientific and democratic decision-making by utilizing big data.

    But Internet anarchists including hackers and users who spread false information should be severely punished, said many lawmakers at the sessions.

    Experts say making use of mobile Internet in the international political arena is a new task for China as international organizations such as embassies of foreign countries in China have created their own Weibo and WeChat accounts.

    "Now that foreign countries have access to public opinion domain in China, they will influence it for sure," Shen Yang said.

    (Xinhua correspondents Gan Quan, Ye Qian, Yang Yijun, Zhang Xinxin, Li Yunlu and Xu Xiaoqing contributed to the story)

Source: Xinhua 2014-3-10Editor: tracyliu
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