Political Participation in an Unlikely Place: How Individuals Engage in Politics through Social Networking Sites in China

Xinzhi Zhang, Wan-Ying Lin


This study investigates how individuals participate in different modes of political participation via social networking sites (SNS) in China, where channels for participation are restricted and the online information flow is censored. A survey conducted at two large universities in southern China revealed that information exchange uses of SNS and SNS-based political activities were positively associated with the canonical mode of political participation—that is, contacting media and joining petitions and demonstrations. SNS-based political activities also positively predicted political engagement via private contacts, such as lobbying acquaintances of governmental officials, and facilitated political actions initiated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Affiliation with the CCP was found to be a significant predictor of the contacting-lobbying mode of participation and CCP-initiated political activities.


social networking sites, political participation, Mainland China, media effects

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