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The Contentious Public SphereLaw, Media, and Authoritarian Rule in China$
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Ya-Wen Lei

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691196145

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691196145.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 22 September 2021

An Emerging Online Public

An Emerging Online Public

(p.129) 6 An Emerging Online Public
The Contentious Public Sphere

Ya-Wen Lei

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on the emergence of an online public in China and delves into its relationship with the party-state and various intermediary actors, as well as its interaction with legal and media institutions. It argues that netizens' everyday practices and participation in public opinion incidents facilitated the rise of contentious culture and China's contentious public sphere. Because the late 2000s were critical to the rise of an online public and the contentious public sphere, the analysis focuses mostly on this period. To depict a more comprehensive picture of Chinese netizens, the chapter first draws on statistical data to describe their demographic background, social networks, political attitudes, and political behavior. Next, it describes their everyday practices and participation in public opinion incidents. It then examines the case study of a public opinion incident involving food safety, and shows how netizens interacted with the Chinese party-state and various intermediary actors to make what happened a “public opinion incident.” Finally, the chapter draws on in-depth interviews with ordinary citizens to understand how netizens' everyday practices and participation in public opinion incidents contribute to politicization.

Keywords:   online public, netizens, public opinion incidents, Chinese netizens, intermediary actors, politicization

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