Adapting to online opinion a tough test

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-2-27 0:03:02

If people think public opinion is insignificant in China today, then they are wrong. Public opinion has been playing a dominant role in China's policymaking and implementation process. Governing in accordance with public opinion has become a guiding principle in China's politics.

The Internet has provided unprecedented channels for all kinds of people to voice their opinions. Those who speak louder on the Internet claim that they are more qualified to represent the public. Currently, it is difficult to define what public opinion is, but there are certain clamorous voices on the Internet which seem to represent the public.

One unique characteristic of this community is that it brews negative sentiments and tends to deny everything. This is a new phenomenon. Authorities are yet to learn how to treat opposing voices. The mainstream group doesn't know how to interact with those people. The "opposition group" also lacks experience. Many believe opposing the authorities is the same as promoting democracy in China without taking on the responsibilities involved.

Due to the authorities' lack of credibility, mainstream society is woefully divided. Opposing voices have even managed to challenge traditional mainstream media like CCTV.

The government is facing a long-term test in listening to mainstream opinion and properly handling online opinions. It obviously shouldn't ignore online opinion or go against it. Rather, it should try to take more mature measures to deal with it.

The current problem is that as online opinion is spreading into society, escaping it seems to be the first choice by the government and mainstream society.

"Online opposition" has prompted officials to be cautious in exercising their powers on the one hand, and on the other, it has sapped officials' enthusiasm for being creative in their work as they have to make sure they are not being targeted by public opinion. Meanwhile, these opposing voices have injected negative sentiments into society.

The best approach to this phenomenon is, perhaps, adaptation. Adaptation here means to become accustomed to the existence of these opposing voices, to correctly gauge the relations between these voices and mainstream opinion, thus deciding to what extent we should accept them. Authorities and mainstream powers should stick to their principles when there is a divergence of opinion on the Internet rather than simply compromising with online criticism.

In recent years, there have been voices such as those completely denying the validity of high-speed railways and saying all demolition is wrong. There is certainly a gap between these voices and real public opinion.

But at the same time, the Internet has greatly promoted the reform process, such as calling for corrupt officials to be punished and demanding speedy reforms. This shows that we should not take one single attitude toward online voices.

Those who hold power and other influential figures all bear responsibility for society. As the impact of the Internet on social transition is prevalent, all should contribute positive energy for society's sake. It will make a big difference if we do so.

Posted in: Editorial

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