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The story of Qi Shi Ma: Online discussion and community engagement in urban China
Unformatted Document Text:  - 8 - expression of alternative public opinions and amplified civic participation. Vigorous debates on public affairs in early years were gradually sabotaged by state forces (Li, 2010). Qiu (2000) defined China’s cyberspace regulation policies as virtual censorship, which referred to “a series of defensive policies undertaken by the Chinese authorities to prevent China’s ‘domestic cyberspace’ from being merged with ‘foreign cyberspaces’ and (to) keep apart the apolitical and political domains of computer-mediated communication” (p. 3). The control mechanisms are both tangible and intangible. Besides regulations, the Great Firewall and cyber-police are gatekeepers against any “inappropriate” uses of the Internet. Also, website hosting companies are responsible for cleaning “inappropriate” messages online; otherwise they will face to penalties, such as fines or license revocation. In summary, when studying China’s online discourses, researchers have to consider that all online discussions are supervised. In general, past studies about China’s online deliberations mainly focused on the tensions between the public and the authorities and were mainly macro in scope (e.g. Pan & Jacobson, 2009; Qiu, 2000; Taubman, 1998; Wong, 2007). Fewer studies started at the community level to address China’s phenomena or discussed the connection between online forums and the real community. Zhou et al’s (2008) content analysis of a local online forum did not mention the interactions between the online and offline discussions. In addition, surprisingly little research was from the perspectives of comparing new media with traditional mass media. Since China’s mass media outlets are regarded as the Communist Party’s mouthpieces and heavily censored (Qiu, 2000), the comparison among different platforms would provide empirically meaningful evidence for the debate about cyberspace’s promise of democracy. Therefore, the current study proposed two Online discussion and community engagement in urban China

Authors: Liu, Zhengjia.
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- 8 -
expression of alternative public opinions and amplified civic participation. 
Vigorous debates on public affairs in early years were gradually sabotaged by 
state forces (Li, 2010). Qiu (2000) defined China’s cyberspace regulation policies as 
virtual censorship, which referred to “a series of defensive policies undertaken by the 
Chinese authorities to prevent China’s ‘domestic cyberspace’ from being merged with 
‘foreign cyberspaces’ and (to) keep apart the apolitical and political domains of 
computer-mediated communication” (p. 3). The control mechanisms are both tangible 
and intangible.  Besides regulations, the Great Firewall and cyber-police are gatekeepers 
against any “inappropriate” uses of the Internet.  Also, website hosting companies are 
responsible for cleaning “inappropriate” messages online; otherwise they will face to 
penalties, such as fines or license revocation. In summary, when studying China’s online 
discourses, researchers have to consider that all online discussions are supervised. 
In general, past studies about China’s online deliberations mainly focused on the 
tensions between the public and the authorities and were mainly macro in scope (e.g. Pan 
& Jacobson, 2009; Qiu, 2000; Taubman, 1998; Wong, 2007). Fewer studies started at the 
community level to address China’s phenomena or discussed the connection between 
online forums and the real community. Zhou et al’s (2008) content analysis of a local 
online forum did not mention the interactions between the online and offline discussions. 
In addition, surprisingly little research was from the perspectives of comparing new 
media with traditional mass media. Since China’s mass media outlets are regarded as the 
Communist Party’s mouthpieces and heavily censored (Qiu, 2000), the comparison 
among different platforms would provide empirically meaningful evidence for the debate 
about cyberspace’s promise of democracy. Therefore, the current study proposed two 
Online discussion and community engagement in urban China


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