AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 761

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Session 761: Cyber Communities and Their Challenges for China and Beyond

Organizer: Jens Damm, Chang Jung Christian University, Germany

During recent years, various forms of cyber communities have been established in Greater China. These communities are said to represent great challenges for politics, society and economy, and can therefore be regarded as an integral part of the changing of China and China’s unique path towards modernization. Taking examples from the PRC as staring points, this panel moves beyond geographical boundaries to examine the ways in which these cyber communities affect relations within China, Greater China and the global community, including the Chinese diasporas worldwide. By presenting specific empirical case studies the panel will focus on more far-reaching issues related to the interaction between politicians’ blogs in the PRC; the ways in which social communities are used for international business purposes; the role of the Chinese diaspora in the construction of various Taiwanese ethnicities; and the mutual influence of Cyber China and the Chinese diaspora in New Zealand with regard to nationalism. By exploiting interdisciplinary perspectives the panel will offer new insights into the social characteristics/features of cyber communities with regard to the more recent changes in China; discuss the way national/transnational usage patterns have evolved; and tap into potential future developments. This panel is part of the Changing China multi-session series sponsored by the Journal of Current Chinese Affairs.

New Means of Interaction Between the Public and the Government: A Study of Chinese Politician Blogging
Jin-qiu Zhao, Communication University of China, People's Republic of China

Since its introduction to China, blogging has become one of the most popular online activities. As the Internet has become a more important source of information for citizens and consumers, politicians in China have employed the Web as a tool to facilitate contact with constituents and supporters since 2006. Politicians’ blogs have drawn people’s attention from the very beginning, partly because of those bloggers’ unique social status. Moreover, these blogs provide the public with an opportunity to have their voices heard by local/national officials through commenting online on blog entries. The “success” of politicians’ blogs has been accompanied by a number of concerns: What is the purpose of these blogs? Do the officials listen to what the people say? Does this mean the beginning of the transformation towards a service-oriented government? A “Liveliness Index” is introduced to define different intentions among officials to continue blogging. In order to facilitate the analysis, the blog entries are classified into three basic types: sheer speech draft, work-related, and others. The results of the preliminary analysis show that politicians’ blogs can be seen as a platform for opinion exchange between the public and officials. But despite the positive impacts the politicians’ blogs bring about, we must also pay attention to their limitations as communication channels between the public and the government.

“Global Guanxi”: Profitable Networking Within Online Business Communities in the PRC
Simona Thomas, Free University, Germany

E-business as well as social-networking have expanded exponentially over recent years and both are widely expected to continue their rapid development. While the Internet has gained importance not only as a showcase for products and companies but also as a sophisticated marketing tool, one of the proven structural changes means that the Internet has become a communication channel for enterprises to approach users directly. In addition to this traditional understanding of translating business and especially marketing practices to the new media, social networks make possible on many levels an enhancement of not only the relationship of enterprises towards their customers but also of the business community in general. This paper highlights the ways in which cyber communities are used for international business purposes by Chinese and foreign businesses. The paper argues that communities challenge existing e-business practices in many ways, and I also present an analysis of corporate-invented, state-initiated and marketplace-stimulated communities. How do new forms of sharing information have an impact on competitive business environments? Special emphasis will be given to the questions of how the users of online communities in China are truly connected within the international business arena, and what conclusions can be drawn from China’s participation and integration into local, regional and global markets.

The Scripting of Taiwan’s Ethnicities
Jens Damm, Chang Jung Christian University, Germany

This paper presents the results of an ongoing research project dealing with the scripting of Taiwan’s ethnicities within the political identity discourses of the last two decades. The main concerns are the constructions of various Taiwanese ethnicities and the roles played by the Chinese and Taiwanese diasporic cyberspace which, for the purpose of my analysis, is broadly divided into: 1) the Taiwanese diaspora (including the online presence of the Taiwanese independence groups based e.g. in Japan and the US), 2) overseas PRC-Chinese (nationalist Chinese students and groups connected with various activities of the Chinese embassies online worldwide), and 3) the older ethnic Chinese (Huaren) diaspora and their online presence. The research focuses on compiling a classification scheme to show how the diaspora has helped to form these ethnicities and how the diaspora has reacted to this formation. The question emerges: Which kind of networks have developed, and in what way has cyberspace changed existing networks and relations between homeland and diaspora? In this paper I will present first-hand findings from this ongoing cyber-anthropological research project, which are based on a classification; discursive content analysis of relevant websites (including Web 2.0); interviews with blog owners; and online questionnaires.

SkyKiwi, Cyber Chinatown or Diasporic Patriotic Outpost?
Manying Ip, University of Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealanders chose the kiwi, a flightless nocturnal bird, as their national symbol. In 2003, a group of young entrepreneurial students from China established a website called “SkyKiwi”, which soon became the country’s largest Chinese-language Internet site, with registered readers from New Zealand, Australia and China, as well as other countries. Through a critical analysis of Internet discourse on recent events particularly pertinent to China and New Zealand (the contaminated milk powder scandal of 2008–2010 involved Sanlu, a subsidiary company of New Zealand’s Fonterra; a number of New Zealand parliamentarians continue to openly support some of China’s condemned enemies such as the Dalai Lama, the Uighur leader Ribaya Kadeer, and the Falun Gong), this paper examines the severe tension between egalitarianism and a sense of fair-play, (both of which are core New Zealand values), and the fervent nationalism and pro-Beijing stance of many of the Skykiwi “netizens”. This paper suggests that cyberspace nationalism among the New Zealand Chinese is much more than the product of China’s propaganda machine. The majority of the Chinese in New Zealand share a rather short immigration history there. Most of them arrived after immigrant selection criteria were changed in 1987 in favour of migrants’ personal qualities rather their national origins. For these new Chinese immigrants the Internet is a potent agent in the construction of the transnational digital realm, a virtual homeland. Using empirical data, this paper further explores the mutual influence between Cyber China and diaspora China.