CCP congress enters the Weibo era

We are working conscientiously on the finer points of Hu Jintao’s political report, and we hope to have a preliminary analysis to share with everyone this afternoon. In the meantime, we want to point out one important fact that distinguishes the 18th National Congress of the CCP from congresses past — and that is the controlled but nonetheless groundbreaking development of social media in China.

Remember, Chinese microblogs, or weibo (微博), did not come onto the domestic information scene in China until nearly two years after the last Party congress, held in October 2007. But by 2010, which many dubbed the “year of the Weibo,” these platforms had already become immensely popular and influential.

Obviously, conversation about the 18th National Congress will be watched carefully by China’s social media minders. It is interesting to see already, however, just how much discussion there is about Hu Jintao’s political report this morning. Here are a few examples that flitted across our screen.

In this post, University of Wisconsin scientist Yi Fuxian (易富贤) writes:

“Watching the report to the 18th National Congress, it seems they’ve not raised the ‘one-child policy’ (计划生育). I’m not sure if I missed it, or whether ‘one-child policy’ really isn’t in there. If ‘one-child policy’ isn’t there, that’s a great thing!

“It’s really not there,” one user (皱眉公子) responded. “Even the word ‘population’ was put only in the section on resources and the environment.”

Another user (@刘毅Kevin) questioned the significance of the term’s appearance, or not, in the report: “It’s not important whether it was in there or not. They key is whether this policy will be continued or not.”

A third user (郑_长一些) wrote: “From front to end, it really wasn’t there. But nor was there anything at all about land policy.”

User Wan Qingtao (万庆涛) focused on another phrase in the report to ask whether the one-child policy might be phased out: “[The report] talked about the ‘sustainable development of the Chinese people (中华民族永续发展). If the Chinese population were to go into decline because of the one-child policy, that would mean it was the enemy of the people. So I wonder if raising this ‘sustainable development of the Chinese people’ in the report implies that the one-child policy will be cancelled?”

Wang Xiaoshan (王小山), a writer and publisher, included a whole section of the political report in a post on Sina Weibo, labeling it “madness”:

Madness . . . Raising high the glorious banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, with Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important ideology of the “Three Represents” and the Scientific View of Development as the guide, emancipating our thinking, [pushing ahead with] reform and opening, uniting our strength, mastering difficulties, moving forward while sticking firmly to the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, struggling for the full construction of a well-off society.

Many of the responses to Wang Xiaoshan’s post were emoticons — laughing faces, sarcastic applause, thumbs pointing down. “Ha ha ha ha ha,” wrote one user. “I can’t stop laughing,” wrote another.

Veteran Chinese journalist Luo Changping (罗昌平) seized on one particular phrase in Hu Jintao’s political report:

We cannot take the old road of seclusion and stagnation, nor can we take the wicked way of changing our banner.” (既不走封闭僵化的老路、也不走改旗易帜的邪路). Now how are we to understand that?

The guess from user “shichensu”: “[It means] continuing to [cross the river by] feeling the stones.”

And from “Free Foundation 012″ (自由基012): “[It means] maintaining the status quo, more rocking and swaying.”

“[It means] they want to lie down while making money, and then take the road overseas,” said a user called “A Big Gold Ingot” (一个大元宝), alluding to corrupt officials who get rich and then send their assets and family members overseas.

Another user, “Mac’s Weibo” (Mac的围脖) saw only more of the same: “[It means] continuing with the river crab [ie., Hu Jintao's enforced "harmony"], with [Wu Bangguo's] “Five Don’ts”, with stability preservation, with [socialism with] Chinese characteristics.” [Note: Wu Bangguo said there would be 1. no multiparty system, 2. no diversity of guiding ideologies, 3. no separation of powers, 4. no federal system, and 5. no privatization in China].

Whether or not the 64-page political report offers anything new is a question that may take days to answer. But it is interesting indeed to see Chinese discussing its language on social media platforms, searching for clues about the direction of domestic politics and making their own feelings and criticisms known (however ephemerally).

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