The horse is out of the barn. Now that China's social Web has given every citizen the ability to publish to a wide audience -- a privilege once reserved for the government -- state publications and Web users continue to wrangle over who best grasps the zeitgeist. Just yesterday, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences released its Annual Report on Development of New Media in China . According to the Beijing Evening News, the findings depict a vast and growing Weibo nation: In the second half of 2012 alone, Chinese Weibo (i.e. microblogging) platforms drew over 15.5 billion visits and 73.9 billion page views spread over a total of 1.5 billion hours.
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Those statistics would turn all but a handful of Internet titans green with envy. But the numbers' significance transcends mere metrics: China's Weibo sites have often acted as alarms to spot corruption, platforms to air citizen grievances in an authoritarian state, and even labs to test-market policy changes, which are sometimes pulled following online outcry.
To ask who comprises China's most voluble Weiborati is thus to ask who speaks for a very influential part of Chinese society.
That helps explain the outcry greeting a recent opinion piece in Seeking Truth, a magazine published by the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party and frequently read by high-level Chinese officials. The article's provocative title is perhaps best translated this way: "Instead of Venting Online About Dissatisfaction with Society, Cut Off Your Web Connection and Change Your Own Destiny."