Towards Democratisation?: Understanding university students’ Internet use in mainland China



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Contents


Abstract 1

Contents 4

Illustrations 10

Tables 10

Figures 14

Acknowledgements 14

Chapter 1: Introduction 17

1.1 Introduction 17

1.2 Aim, objectives, and rationale of the research 17

1.3 Research background 20

1.4 Limitations of existing literature 22

1.5 The structure of the thesis 27

Chapter 2: Literature review 32

2.1 Introduction 32

2.2 Democracy and democratisation 32

2.2.1 Democratisation and favourable conditions 33

2.2.2 Democracy and its people 34

2.2.3 Political culture 36

2.2.4 Free markets, capitalism, and economic growth 37

2.2.5 Strong civil society and public sphere 40

2.2.6 Political participation and disengagement 48

2.2.7 The role of mass media 51

2.3 China’s political tradition 53

2.3.1 Dominant political ideas 53

2.3.2 Persistence of authoritarian regimes 58

2.4 Contemporary China in the process of democratisation 59

2.4.1 Economic reform and opening-up policy 62

2.4.2 Political reform 67

2.4.3 Standard of living, urbanisation, education and media exposure 70

2.5 The development of the Internet in China 77

Chapter 3: Methodology 82

3.1 Introduction 82

3.2 Grounded theory 82

3.3 Research design 84

3.4 The population: university students 85

3.4.1 Student protest and social movements in Modern China 86

3.4.2 University students and Internet use 86

3.5 Data collection 87

3.5.1 In-depth interviews 87

3.5.2 Focus group research 96

3.5.3 Web content analysis, digital auto-ethnography, and literature review 108

3.6 Data analysis 109

3.6.1 Four coding phrases 109

3.6.2 Emerged categories 113

3.6.3 The participants 116

3.6.4 Other media use 120

Chapter 4: Participants’ Internet use 122

4.1 Introduction 122

4.2 Internet use habit and online activities 122

4.3 Online news reading, information search, and lecture 127

4.3.1 Online news reading 127

4.3.2 Online information search 142

4.3.3 Online lecture 148

4.4 Between acquaintances and strangers 149

4.4.1 QQ 149

4.4.2 Renren 160

4.4.3 Weibo (Microblog) 163

4.4.4 Between acquaintances and strangers 183

4.5 University intranet and online forums 187

4.5.1 University Intranet 187

4.5.2 Online forums 194

4.6 Online and offline political participation, participation, and volunteering 200

4.7 Online travelling and movies 205

4.7.1 Online travelling 205

4.7.2 Online movies 208

4.8 Climbing over the Great Wall, Twitter, and Facebook 210

4.8.1 Climbing over the Great Wall 210

4.8.2 Twitter and Facebook 213

4.9 Participant as a communicator 214

4.10 Civic talk 223

Chapter 5: Participants’ perceptions of the Internet 228

5.1 Introduction 228

5.2 Belief in the Internet’s effect 228

5.2.1 The Internet’s effect on Chinese society 229

5.2.2 Individual’s effect through the Internet 245

5.2.3 The Internet’s effect on individuals 247

5.3 Understanding of online comments and user-generated content 256

5.4 Disbelief in relevance of social problems 259

5.5 Understanding of censorship 262

5.6 Attitude toward government corruption 268

Chapter 6: Discussion 270

6.1 Introduction 270

6.2 Political disengagement and why 271

6.2.1 Introduction 271

6.2.2 Political disengagement 271

6.2.3 Censorship 273

6.2.4 Political socialisation and irrelevance 276

6.2.5 Belief in a shock therapy and low political efficacy 280

6.2.6 Lack of civic organisations and activities 282

6.3 The power of disengagement and mass entertainment 283

6.3.1 Introduction 283

6.3.2 Who communicates to the participants online 284

6.3.3 The power of political disengagement and mass entertainment 287

6.3.4 Control or liberation: Huxley vs. the gadget theory 294

6.4 How do participants understand the influence of Internet use on them? 297

6.4.1 Introduction 297

6.4.2 Why Internet users? 297

6.4.3 The Internet and better-informed citizens 299

6.4.4 Strangers and internal political efficacy 301

6.4.5 Belief in ‘We’ effect and external political efficacy 303

6.4.6 Summary 304

6.5 Climbing over the Great Wall: liberalised Internet, liberalised China? 305

6.5.1 Introduction 305

6.5.2 Lack of motivation: an obstacle to a liberalised Internet 306

6.5.3 Liberalised Internet, same perspective 308

6.5.4 Liberalised Internet, more active political engagement? 308

6.6 Beyond the Internet and beyond politics: civic talk and civil society? 310

6.6.1 Introduction 310

6.6.2 Civic talk beyond the Internet 310

6.6.3 The rise of online civil society 310

Chapter 7: Conclusions 317

7.1 Introduction 317

7.2 Reflective summaries 317

7.3 Scope and limitations of the research 323

7.4 Contributions of the research 325

7.5 Further research 329

Appendices 333

Appendix I: Interview Guide for In-Depth Interview 333

Appendix II: Informed Consent Form Template for In-Depth Interviews 342

Appendix III: An interview invitation letter 348

Appendix IV: Informed Consent Form Template for Focus Group 350

Appendix V: The researcher as an instrument 356

Appendix VI: Youg’s Internet Addiction Test 359

Appendix VII: Other Internet use 360

Bibliography 365






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