The number of government micro-blog accounts on Sina Weibo, China’s leading micro-blogging service, reached about 20,000 as of early November, 2011, with 35 accounts operated by government agencies at the provincial or ministerial level and 14 by officials at the provincial or ministerial level.
Government micro-blogs have provided a platform for direct communication and interaction between officials and the public, for reducing the gaps in understanding between officials and the public, and for encouraging the silent majority to express their opinions.
“2010 is known as the first year of micro-blogging in China, and 2011 can be regarded the first year of government micro-blogging in the country,” Sina Editor-in-Chief Cheng Tong said at the 2011 Government Micro-blogging Summit on Dec. 12.
Government agencies embracing micro-blogging
Statistics showed that the number of verified government accounts on Sina Weibo reached about 20,000 as of early November, 2011, with more than 10,000 accounts operated by government agencies and nearly 9,000 by individual officials. In addition, 35 accounts are operated by government agencies at the provincial or ministerial level, and 14 by officials at the provincial or ministerial level.
The number of government accounts on Tencent Weibo, another major micro-blogging service in China, reached over 18,000 as of the end of September this year, with nearly 300 accounts operated by high-level government agencies and officials.
Chinese government micro-blogs have adopted diversified styles. For example, Guangdong police have set up several micro-blog groups, Beijing police focus on releasing information on public security, and Xiamen police focus on the work of primary-level police stations. Furthermore, government micro-blogs have also been used to release news bulletins, to conduct communication within groups, to deal with public opinion and to attract more government agencies and officials. Experts believe that government micro-blogging is nearing maturity in China.
The public is responding to micro-blogs on government affairs with enthusiasm. Statistics show there are more than 1 million fans of the official micro-blog of 17 government agencies and nine officers in Sina micro-blog, and Zhejiang Province Organization Minister Cai Qi has nearly 6 million followers on his Tencent micro-blog.
What did administrative micro-blogs change?
Various forms of government micro-blogs have become a powerful way to practice social management innovation for all levels of government.
Zhu Huaxin, the secretary-general of public opinion monitoring, said that micro-blog offers a "salvage platform for silent voice."
Wang Yukai, a professor from the National School of Administration, said that micro-blogs are changing the power balance of discourse between China's official and social, and it is changing for the whole pattern of strong government and weak society.
Data shows that Chinese micro-blogs have more than 300 million users, 700 million registers and 200 million posts a day. This changed the past manner of information dissemination in which the public got information from the social indoctrination of "listening" to the government through mainstream media and had less opportunity to speak. The public now has more right to carry out a full range of supervision of government.
Of course, the “first year” is only a beginning.
Language style is one of the most common problems of government micro-blogs. Many “shocking words”, “surprising words” and “bureaucratic and stereotyped words” news on government micro-blogs in 2011 often caused negative feedback.
Experts said that government micro-blogs should understand the suffering and requirements of the masses; prevent “affinity” from changing to “glib words” on one hand and seek truth from facts, do not be biased, jump to conclusions or make over-commitments on the other hand.
Some radical and false statements also should be corrected within micro-blogs. Such pressure often deters some grassroots officials. In this case, more and more officials are eager to learn about and be familiar with micro-blogs, thus the amount of training is beginning to increase. Forty-five government employees from 15 districts and counties as well as eight committees, offices and bureaus of Beijing received professional training on micro-blogging recently in the Party School of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee.
Government micro-blogs should not pursue number of fans blindly but pay more attention to quality of fans, reminded Zhu Huaxin, secretary-general of the People’s Daily Online Public Opinion Monitoring Center.
China Advisory Committee for State Information member Wang Yukai suggested that the government should actively create conditions to guide their micro-blogs to give play to positive effects, that is, to first ensure the participation rights of citizens; then govern online “water army” and Internet marketers and standardize online marketing companies; and finally make innovations in Internet governance.