The blogosphere is thriving! This is especially so with the number of China’s Internet users hitting new highs. Even in the rurul areas of China, the numbers surged 127.7% in 2007.
In fact, China has become the fastest-growing Internet population with 221 million online users. This makes it a tie with the number of users in the US. The number has exploded despite the Chinese government’s efforts to curb access to materials they deem as offensive or pornographic. Remember the cute policeman and policewoman policing the Internet and screens of the Chinese online users? Perhaps, it is because of the imposed curbs and censorship that has caused the surge in online use.
This growing number of Internet users is seen as a cause of concern for Chinese officials who feel that users would turn to the Internet for their subversive activities and discussions.
Or perhaps they need not worry so much as many Chinese have turned to the Internet to rally support amongst the Chinese against the pro-Tibet acitivists during the Olympic Torch Relay through the various countries.
Perhaps, the Chinese government would like to take a leaf from the Malaysian government in its about turn in moving from ignoring and criticising the Internet to embracing it. It’s now calling all its members to write blogs and use new media to connect with the electorate and general public. It’s learnt its mistake of not using new media, thus leaving a void for other online discussions to take place without it.
In Singapore, blogs, websites and other new media abound to supplement and complement the news in mainstream media and serve as alternative forms of engagement.
I do believe that using new media would in a way help to engage with younger voters and members of the public, but new media in itself would not do much – you would still need good, quality content, and online conversations that would be open to all, and of course, an open mind.