The Communication Revolution: Social Media and the Emergence of New Media Platforms in China

Chances and Challenges for Chinese Journalists

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On June 6th 2012, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung|Shanghai in cooperation with the Cologne School of Journalism organised a workshop on the role of Social Media for Chinese journalists and media companies.

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Communication Revolution I

Dr. Peter Hefele, director KAS | Shanghai, during his introduction of the media work of the KAS.

This year students from the Cologne School of Journalism and from the Media School of Fudan University, supported by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Shanghai, once again jointly held a summer school. The aim of the summer school is to develop an understanding for the current media landscape in China among the German students and to promote the exchange between young journalists from China and Germany.

For the participants of the workshop the KAS | Shanghai organised a workshop on the growing role of blogs and micro blogs in China. Firstly Dr. Peter Hefele, director of the KAS | Shanghai, introduced the media work of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in China and presented the regional programme media in Asia to the students.

Professor Shen Yi of Fudan University explained how social media is able to support the political activities of Chinese citizens. Since China already possesses more that 500 million internet users, the opinions expressed on the internet are increasingly reflecting the opinions of the public in general. By now a large number of internet users are average citizens with low income and average educational backgrounds. In addition, even opinion leaders and activists on platforms like the micro blog service Sina Weibo are more and more average people, who stand up for their rights. Social Media therefore increasingly develops into a platform for the expression of criticism of social developments and the organisation of protest activities. But over the last years, entertainment, chatting and gaming functions, which had barely been noticed by the first internet users, have been gaining prominence. Today those features are the most important functions of social media for many users.

Journalists use social media to interact and to be informed about the latest developments but also to increase their publicity. However, often employers will request them to restrain themselves when voicing opinions on the internet in order to avoid conflict with the authorities. The second speaker, Wei Lai of the Global Times, discussed the ways in which party members and government officials use online platforms to exchange opinions among them. Controversial debates however still only take place behind closed doors. Also the handling of so called „rumours“ which circulate in the social media and which can have significant impacts, constitute an important – and controversial – field of further developments.

During the second part of the workshop, the Shanghai journalist Guan Shunying discussed the market strategies of Chinese media companies against the the background of the increase in commercialisation and professionalism exemplified through the International Chanel Shanghai (ICS). For her company special offers on the internet play an increasing role as well. The strong regulation and monopolisation of the media industry as well as the control by the government confront private media companies with additional challenges, as they strongly impact their marketing options.

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China, June 5, 2012


Tim Wenniges