Earlier this week, a Chinese propaganda official said China's internet-based "new media" were threatening the Communist party. Using one of Mao Zedong's most famous phrases, Ren Xianliang, vice-minister of propaganda in Shaanxi province, wrote in an editorial (link in Chinese): "Just as political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, the Party's control of the media is an unassailable basis of the party's leadership."
Indeed, it would seem that microblog Sina Weibo, video sharing sites, and other online forums used by millions of Chinese citizens have government officials shaking in their shoes. In a February survey, half of about 2,100 party officials polled by the People's Tribune said they feared microblogs would increase social unrest . In 2010, a survey found that over 70 percent of Chinese officials suffered from "internet terror," a state fear of being the subject of an internet vigilante campaign that could bring down one's career.
In his editorial, Ren called on the party to use the internet rather than just react to it. Indeed, members of China's sprawling party bureaucracy are signing up en masse to social media sites. As of December 2012, government agencies had opened 176,700 Weibo accounts, a 250 percent increase from the year before.