Web becomes strong force in public opinion

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The country now often faces social hot-button issues due to the mounting pressure of public opinion, and weibo, Chinese for micro blog, has been playing a big role in driving social changes, a report said.

A report analyzing the frequency and content of keyword searches on baidu.com, a leading search engine in China, has classified 349 issues as "hot online topics", up 30 percent from 2010.

"If you break it down, you'll find almost one incident took place each day on average last year (meaning that) Chinese society has entered an age where hot-button issues are common", said Yu Guoming, a professor at the Beijing-based Renmin University of China, who headed the research.

The research showed issues of most concern to web users were "living standards, public safety and social responsibility", according to the frequency of searches on Baidu.

Social networking, including weibo, the study said, has made such hot-button issues no longer individual cases but interrelated.

"Online topics, after being amplified and connected with related issues, can exert a bigger impact and force the authorities to think twice before making a decision," said Liu Shanying, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank.

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