Public Opinion in China Does Not Reflect the Public

A new Global Times editorial expresses deep concern that too much public opinion on the Internet is negative, and fails to reflect how much most of the public actually appreciates the government. (Remember, according to a Pew Research poll some 86 percent of Chinese are happy with the direction their government is taking.)

Opinions expressed on the Internet have shown an increasing tendency of going to the extreme, pressuring those wanting to speak to either criticize the political system or remain silent. The pressure is obvious, given the volume of opinion leaders on the Internet. Dissidents have to be careful in voicing their views.

Freedom of speech has long faced restrictions, first under the powerful control of the government. Now, restrictions from the government are gradually in retreat, especially at where academics gather, such as universities. But pressure from public opinion is rising quickly.

Criticism is seemingly the main tone of cyber opinion. To many, everything in real life is negative, thus every word they utter is full of aggravation. Mainstream society obviously has different opinions of people’s lives since most people have benefited from the country’s progress.

This problem of negative thoughts needs to be addressed. Public opinion needs to be molded by those who know better. Whingers and perennial critics of the government are gaining the upper hand, and they need to be countered. What better way than to form a government-appointed panel of experts with the specific mantra of making sure the Internet reflects how happy the Chinese really are?

It is already hard to speak the truth in China. Now this difficulty is facing new challenges. China needs a group of courageous scholars to speak out against unhealthy public opinion, helping to build a value system in accordance with China’s reality.

Cyber space has come to dominate China’s public opinion, but its value orientation is distanced from real life society. The government needs to reflect. With its influence over public opinion decreasing, certain powerful parts of the public will naturally take up a greater share.

Truth is particularly valuable to today’s country. Truth should be based on facts, and should reflect real diversity. But the truth now is twisted. It needs the participation of a wide scope of scholars to reverse it.

Truth needs to presented within the range of the Party discourse. It’s gotten way out of hand, twisted by dissidents who suddenly have a broad platform to subvert it. Luckily the Party is considering solutions to stem the tide. Luckily, a group of scholars can determine for us what’s true and what isn’t. And lest we forget, “Dissidents have to be careful in voicing their views.”

Let me just add, nearly all the posts about government on Twitter and Facebook, as on Weibo, are critical. That’s what impels most Netizens to speak out. The Internets would be pretty boring if it was stuffed with tweets and posts about how happy people are with their government. It would also not reflect the truth, that people have issues with their government, in China and everywhere else.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 14 Comments

When I read this, there came unbidden to my mind Mary McCarthy’s lapidary assessment: “Every word [they] write is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.”

June 2, 2012 @ 12:35 am | Comment

China needs to get a new public. Or encourage Hidden Harmonies to publish a Chinese-language version, to restore cadres’ faith that down can still be up and up can still be down if only one is willing not to look at things carefully.

June 2, 2012 @ 12:39 am | Comment

wouldn’t it be easier for the government to dissolve reality and select a new one? (Bertolt Brecht, slightly rephrased)

June 2, 2012 @ 1:28 am | Comment

Seems like the wrong place to talk about something like this.

Wouldn’t paying some of that 110 billion dollar security budget into setting up domestic policy think tanks (a la the Brookings Institute) solve the problem?

June 2, 2012 @ 2:44 am | Comment

Only if the policy think tanks think correctly.

June 2, 2012 @ 3:25 am | Comment

They’re right in that people with complaints are the most motivated to leave comments, but they could solve the problem just as easily by addressing the complaints.

June 2, 2012 @ 3:36 am | Comment

When the CCP and relevant organs speak of “truth” and “facts”, it’s always difficult to suppress laughter. Although it’s interesting that they suggest delegating the “fact rescue” mission to scholars, rather than relying on the CCP’s own tried-and-true fact-generation mechanism, which may not be very effective but certainly tries very hard. Perhaps these “scholars” are to lend these new “facts” an air of legitimacy that the old-fashioned CCP methods couldn’t hope to project or obtain.

That being said, I do agree that the nature of internet discourse skews the discussion towards an over-representation of discontent. There’s an inherent selection and responder bias in those who go online and choose to comment, such that it is not scientifically reliable as a gauge of overall opinion. I guess the CCP is getting tired of just deleting stuff, and wishes to more directly affect the discussion.

June 2, 2012 @ 11:05 am | Comment

Let’s visiting scholars Chen Guangcheng and Jeremiah Jenne on this panel of discourse-leading wise men.

June 2, 2012 @ 11:30 am | Comment

Sorry. Drinking hipster ales. Let’s PUT ….

June 2, 2012 @ 11:32 am | Comment

This reminds me of a sketch by Rory Bremner many years ago when an ex-minister (Frank Dobson) was standing as the Labour Party’s candidate for mayor of London. He was appearing on “Who wants to be a London mayor”. Dobson was asked who was going to win the election. He asked the audience, which voted for Ken Livingstone. Dobson then asked if he could change the audience.

Just goes to show what a pathetic bag of shit the Global Times is. It’s always the case that more people complain than applaud in public, even if the majority is content. Governments just have to live with it. You can’t tell people with complaints to shut up because it’s spoiling the atmosphere. Maybe if the CCP took its finger out over issues like rule of law, corruption, income disparity, lack of public services, etc there might be less people complaining without the need to silence them.

June 2, 2012 @ 5:28 pm | Comment

Just….plain….scary.

June 3, 2012 @ 8:47 am | Comment

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nsNHYYrvMrk#!

Speaking of anti-foreigner bias, I should add that what Yang Rui said pales in comparison to a full-fledged TV show on what terrible people foreign men are.

I know we don’t like to pull equivalency here, but this shit is just so egregious it deserves mention. The fact that this was produced by MBC, Korea’s largest broadcasting network, as a prime-time special means that unlike the rants of one or two people, this is what the system itself thinks. That’s extremely disturbing.

June 3, 2012 @ 10:06 am | Comment

“The morals of foreigners in Korea has become a serious cultural issue”

“Foreigners give you HIV and make you pregnant, and then leave”

wow. holy shit this is just terrible

June 3, 2012 @ 10:07 am | Comment

So, instead of a Potemkin village, the Chinese government wants to create an entire Potemkin society. Look at all the happy, smiling people.

June 12, 2012 @ 9:41 pm | Comment

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