Despite criticism about suppression of ideas on the Web, a new survey shows that nearly two-thirds of Chinese officials agree social media is the most influential communications channel in modern China.
The survey of 132 communication specialists and government decision makers found that 66 percent believe opinions expressed in social media have more influence over contemporary public policy than other media.
The news arrives as debate over access to social media sites like Twitter in China were placed squarely on the agenda by visiting U.S. President Barack Obama.
Addressing students in Shanghai this week, Obama said he was a big believer in the free-flow of information.
"I think that the more freely information flows the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable, they can begin to think for themselves and that generates new ideas and encourages creativity," he said.
Sites such as QQ, Tencent, tianya.cn, Renren.com, 51.com and video sites like Youku.com and Tudou.com are playing a bigger role in how public policy is shaped.
Alan VanderMolen, president of Edelman Asia Pacific, which conducted the online survey, said it is no longer adequate to simply monitor social media.
"It's clearly impacting the development and implementation of public policy in China," he said. "Foreign MNCs, SOEs and other organizations must get engaged to foster meaningful dialog and relationships with stakeholders on an ongoing basis."
When it comes to leveraging social media as a means to collect and disseminate information about their business, the survey shows 60 percent of respondents use it at least several times during the week for news and information about their business.
Almost as many use social media for putting messages about their business into public view at least several times a week. Nearly half (46 percent) use it only infrequently (less than once a week) or not at all.
VanderMolen said the data reflect the views of those communication professionals who responded and should not be projected to the larger universe of China-based communication professionals.
Among those responding to the survey, six out of 10 claim to be decision makers for government or public affairs strategy in China. The remainder are mostly involved in the implementation of government or public affairs strategies. More than six out of 10 respondents are residents of China or Hong Kong.
See also: "Who's In Charge of Social Media?"
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