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China Daily:Government micro blogs on the rise

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SHANGHAI - As the influence of public opinion on micro blogs grows stronger, more and more government departments in China are resorting to this technology to communicate with the public, according to a report from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The report, compiled by the university's public opinion research laboratory, examined micro-blogging in China during the first half of 2011, analyzing its influence on governments, companies and the media.

"As the trendiest social networking model for Chinese netizens, micro-blogging provides a more convenient platform for the expression of opinion," said Xie Yungeng, deputy director of the university's institute of arts and humanities, who led the compilation of the report.

"Here, everyone can have his or her own voice, posing a great challenge to traditional media that have long dominated public opinion."

Xie noted that the micro blog is becoming part of the mainstream media in China.

"Noticing such changes, more government departments and officials are resorting to micro blogs to communicate and hopefully win more support from the public and to build better images."

Xie's research team analyzed several popular micro-blogging platforms, including t.qq.com, weibo.com and t.people.com.cn, and chose the top 100 government department micro blogs and the top 100 micro blogs set up by government officials based on the number of their followers, the amount of information released and the issues they focused on.

The research found that the Anti-drug Office in Baise, in South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, topped the list. Guangdong Zhaoqing Public Security Bureau and Guangdong Province Public Security Department ranked second and third.

It said the top 10 government micro blogs had a total of 5.08 million followers in the first half of 2011, with an average of 6,055 entries for each micro blog.

The top 100 micro-blogging government departments are mainly located in Guangdong, Shandong and Hebei provinces. About 75 percent of them are public security departments.

"The work of public security departments is much more involved with daily life, with things such as transport and public safety. So they account for the majority in the top rank," Xie explained.

The top 100 government official micro blogs are mainly from Zhejiang, Guangdong province, and Beijing municipality. About 63 percent of officials' micro blogs are county-level or below.

By July 6, 2011, 4,920 government departments and 3,949 government officials had opened micro-blog accounts at weibo.com.

"When micro-blogging was just emerging, many government departments and officials disapproved of them and avoided them," Xie said.

"That has changed now. More officials have a positive attitude toward them now, hoping more interaction with the public will ease any tension.

"We also found that the ability of some government departments to respond to public opinion was maturing."

Micro blogs also play an important role in marketing and business promotion, and many enterprises and businessmen carry out marketing activities on micro blogs.

Among the top 150 enterprise micro blogs, Internet industry companies account for 34 percent, manufacturing companies for 33 percent, and culture and entertainment companies for 10 percent.

Among the top 100 entrepreneurs' personal micro blogs, 83 percent are from private companies.

In addition, traditional media are using micro blogs to expand their influence and communication channels.

Micro blogs create opinion leaders, most of whom are from the media, such as TV anchors and newspaper editors.