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Chinese Scholar: World Politics in the Web 2.0 Era

[Editor’s Note: Qiushi Online republished an article from Foreign Affairs Review analyzing the worldwide spread of “Web 2.0” and its impact on world politics. [1] The author argued that Web 2.0 technologies have dramatically amplified an individual’s ability to influence political, economic, and social changes. Web 2.0 is leading to World Politics 2.0. Big countries, especially the U.S., are adopting Web 2.0 in their political and diplomatic activities. The government of China should study the impact carefully and control the direction of the Internet and Web 2.0 world. The following are excerpts from the article.]

In 2011, many countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and North America experienced varying degrees of social unrest, revolution, and even war. Internet technology is a common factor in the social chaos in many countries. Social media based on Web 2.0 technology has become the fueling factor that influences all world politics. While it has attracted the attention of a number of Western thinkers, China’s academic institutions have not paid sufficient attention to it. I believe that it is necessary to conduct systematic and academic research into this changing, new force that impacts world politics. This will not only help people recognize the political changes in the world in the new Internet era, but will also have a very important practical significance in shaping the new strategy and future development of China’s Internet.

I. Social Media: The New Factor That Impacts World Politics

Social media is the Internet application based on Web 2.0 concepts and technology, allowing users to create content, communicate emotions, and share information. Since 2004, a new generation of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace have emerged and grown rapidly. Users recognize that the Internet has completely entered the Web 2.0 era. Although Facebook and Twitter have not entered China, since 2007, Chinese replicas (such as kaxin001 and microblogging) have emerged and grown rapidly.

Looking at the Internet usage in the world, 2010 was a year of great symbolic significance for the development of social media. Facebook’s brand valuation surpassed that of Microsoft to be ranked first among the world’s 500 most influential brands (the ranking was done by World Brand Lab). Also, the number of visits surpassed Google for the first time. In China, social media was also on a fast track. Statistics show that, in 2010, over 50% of Internet users in China were customers of social networking sites (such as microblogging and kaixin001), and the number was growing exponentially. According to the 28th China Internet Development Statistics Report, in the first half of 2011, the number of users of microblogs in China increased from 63 million to 195 million, an increase of 208.9% in 6 months. In other countries, social media increased rapidly, as well. For example, before the “Arab Spring,” Egypt had more than 5 million Facebook users and more than 2 million Twitter users. As of May 2011, Egypt’s mobile phone users reached 74.77 million, out of its total population of 88 million. Mobile phones have been quite popular among Egyptians, who use Facebook and Twitter to share and disseminate information, rather than rely on official media and news organizations. The Internet and mobile phones have become young people’s favorite items.

The worldwide popularity and growth of social media make it an important platform for disseminating public opinion, news and information, corporate branding, business marketing and development, and social interaction. As social media become a more integral part of our daily lives, their ability to affect social reengineering, network interaction, and political restructuring has also become increasingly powerful. The main manifestations of this powerful new ability include:

Social media are redefining the individual’s ability to act. According to statistics gathered by the Data Center of China Internet (DCCI), the Internet in China made a historic leap in 2010. The usage of content produced by individuals surpassed what websites produced. Site traffic of the former is now more than 50.7% of the total. This indicates that China’s Internet has formally entered the Web 2.0 era, matching the direction of the Internet worldwide. In the Web 2.0 era, individuals can use social media to break the traditional pattern in which the production, publication, and dissemination of information are controlled by the state or its monopoly organizations. The ability of people to share, cooperate, and coordinate does away with the past restrictions on production costs. The personal impact on the development of society has been greatly improved. At present, unorganized groups in each country are “re-organizing” themselves through social media and even demonstrating more political power than traditional organizations. In the book titled The Butterfly Effect: Using Social Media’s Fast, Effective and Powerful Ways to Guide Social Changes, the author argued that the organizational strength of individuals using social media can have a huge “butterfly effect” as long as the timing is right. In recent years, the new media have caused a large number of new social reactions in China, such as exposing social scandals on microblogs. Many local officials have been reprimanded, transferred, suspended, or even dismissed from their positions because of the adverse effects of information posted on microblogs. In short, people use social media to re-construct relationships, social values, marketing channels, and organizational frameworks. China’s Neweekly Volume 2, 2010 refers the “micro power” of social media such as microblogs as the “micro revolution,” calling it the “prominent trend of the human world.”

Social media are reshaping the political agenda. In the pre-Web 2.0 era, the world’s political system was mostly based on representative government. Whether or not it was through a fair election process, a certain group represented its members’ opinions. A few people created the rules to participate and planned policy. The wide availability of social media has provided the young generation and social activists with new technologies to express themselves directly and to participate in politics. The traditional mainstream political environment is thus quietly changing. The first world event in which social media reshaped the political agenda took place on January 17, 2001, when Filipinos sent Short Message Service (SMS) messages calling for protests. A short statement of 16 letters, “Go 2 EDSA. Wear blk” was madly forwarded. Over 100 million people gathered as a result. The gathering continued until January 20, when President Estrada stepped down. People attributed the president’s stepping down to “the SMS generation.”

During the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Obama’s team successfully used Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to prompt young people to donate small amounts of money and to vote. Obama was thus the biggest beneficiary of social media and was known as the first “Internet President” or the “Web 2.0 President.” In April 2009, an attempted “color revolution” failed in Moldova. Because Twitter was used in this event, this incident became the first one that the Western media called the “Twitter Revolution.” After the election in Iran in June 2009, the defeated party used BlackBerry mobile phones (to send text messages) and Facebook and Twitter to spread discontent and incite protests. The result was up to two weeks of unrest. A Washington Post editorial called it, “Iran’s Twitter Revolution.” During the U.S. mid-term elections in 2010, up to 22% of U.S. adults used social media to participate in and influence the election. In early 2011, the “Arab Spring,” including turmoil and even wars, erupted in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and other Middle Eastern and North Africa countries. The Ali Regime that had been in power for 23 years in Tunisia, the Mubarak regime that had been in power for 30 years in Egypt, and the Gaddafi regime that had been in power for 42 years in Libya were all overthrown. Many other countries are still in political turmoil. The majority of those who participated in riots were social media users. They used the new technologies of the Internet to encourage, call, contact, and communicate with the group; to unify their actions; and to consolidate their political goals. In the summer of 2011, large-scale demonstrations, rallies, and vandalism occurred in London, Paris, Berlin, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and many other large cities in Europe and the United States. In the fall of 2011, the democratic movement, “Occupy Wall Street,” started in New York City and lasted more than two months. It spread to many cities in the West. Almost all of the riot participants were loyal customers of Facebook, Twitter, or BlackBerry. This made the governments of the U.S., Britain, and other countries declare that they had to shut down the Internet and cut out cell phone signals in order to maintain social stability. With social media, the personal creation and consumption of information about public affairs is now an unprecedented, powerful “micro power.” It gets rid of the current, relatively high cost of public participation (in public events) and offers a quick and easy, yet powerful, option for information dissemination, event promotion, and political manipulation. Web 2.0 is gradually rewriting each country’s political agenda.

Social media expand a country’s diplomatic options. The rapid spread of social media in one’s own and in other countries and its powerful infiltration of other countries has created a new kind of diplomatic power. Large countries have made innovations that involve social media. “The concepts of e-Diplomacy,” “digital diplomacy,” and “diplomacy 2.0” have become popular in the diplomatic community in many countries. In 2003, the U.S. Department of State set up the “Office of eDiplomacy” to strengthen U.S. policy and to use the Internet to spread U.S. ideals and values throughout the world. In recent years, when other countries were experiencing social unrest, U.S. officials or former key politicians frequently used social media to appeal to and even to incite the protestors. Former U.S. national security adviser Mark Pfeifl once said, “Without Twitter, the people of Iran would not have felt empowered and confident in standing up for freedom and democracy.” On May 1, 2009, the White House Blog announced that it would set up home pages on Facebook, Twitter, and several other social networking sites, officially entering the “White House 2.0 Era.” In 2010, many people called for Twitter to be nominated as a Nobel peace prize candidate. On February 15, 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during her speech, “Shades of Hypocrisy on Internet freedom,” that the U.S. Department of State sends messages on Twitter in Arabic and Persian and will set up Twitter accounts in Chinese and Russian, too. The U.S. will spend $25 million to help Internet users to overcome any network blockades.

Social media plays an increasingly important role in the U.S. diplomatic strategy on China. Before Obama’s visit to China in November 2009, the U.S. Embassy in China invited some bloggers to brief them on Obama’s visit. On January 7, 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton stated during her dinner with 10 U.S. IT industry executives that the U.S. strategy in the 21st century is to use the power of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other new network technology in its diplomacy to promote (its objectives). Five days later, Google suddenly announced that it might exit China (Ed: to protest the government censorship), causing an uproar in public opinion around the world. On May 16, 2011, the U.S. released the International Strategy for Cyberspace, and publicly declared, “We encourage people all over the world to use digital media… and to organize social and political movements.” On October 1, 2011, Voice of America stopped its short wave radio, middle wave radio, and satellite TV broadcasting in Mandarin and Cantonese. Over half of the Mandarin-speaking broadcast staff was laid off. Its Mandarin program was transferred to social media. Recently, the U.S. Embassy in China has been using microblogs and other social media to increase the influence of U.S. political values and standards in China. They have been blogging about the ambassador’s personal public image and the data on Beijing’s air quality. 2012 presidential candidate, former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Meade Huntsman stated the following during the CBS debates on November, 12, 2011, “We should be reaching out to our allies and constituencies within China. They’re called the young people. They’re called the Internet generation. (There are 500 million Internet users in China.) And 80 million bloggers. And they are bringing about change, the likes of which is gonna take China down. … That’s all I wanna do as president.” [2] Looking at the current trend, the U.S. and Europe are combining social media with the traditional media to expand the so-called “dual-screen strategy,” i.e. using two screens (computer and television) to conduct diplomacy. Social media is the best vehicle in the Internet world.

In summary, the politicizing of social media is becoming increasingly evident around the world. Social media encourages people to participate in politics, and it promotes political transparency and societal improvement by enabling people to use the Internet to inquire into government actions and to monitor the government. Researchers that studied over 210 major public opinion events in China in recent years concluded that, in 67% of the cases, Internet opinions pushed the government to solve the problem. 71% of microblog users believe that microblogs made them pay more attention to politics. At the same time, however, the political role of social media is also connected to the complex game of international politics, making changes in world politics more uncertain. The challenges arising from the latter make it worthwhile for many countries to be more attentive and to conduct more research.

II. World Politics in the 2.0 Era

Over the past 10 years, the increasingly popular Web 2.0 technology represented by social media has had the effect of accelerating information dissemination and the ability of individuals to create and exchange information, restructuring and reshaping social behavior, political agendas, and diplomatic moves around the world. This “self-media” impacts world politics no less than Einstein’s theory of relativity did modern science. It is a paradigm change. Because of Web 2.0 technology, world politics has also entered the 2.0 era. I believe that world politics 2.0 generally has the following three features:

First, the new power structure centered on information will gradually expand the traditional power structure centered on resources, status, money, and other material features. This expansion sometimes tends to have a subversive effect. This is because the old, top-down order of information dissemination will gradually disintegrate under the impact of Web 2.0 technology. Social, economic, and political imbalances in different countries will once again appear, and bottom-up appeals, criticism, resistance, and even confrontation will be much more frequent in countries which have a free flow of information. As a result of the social imbalance in these countries, world politics will be more unpredictable and uncertain.

If we adopt the concept that power is defined as someone’s ability to have a predictable effect on others, then real-time communications, Wikipedia, microblogs, and other social media no doubt are effective tools to re-structure, accumulate, and consolidate one’s ability and power to influence others. In the Web 2.0 era, the gap between the power available to the wealthy, the elite and dignitaries to influence and partake in politics and the power available to the ordinary people to influence and partake in politics is reduced. This reduction (in the gap) promotes the right to choose, strengthens democratic expression and supervision (by the people), and accelerates the interactions between the government and society; yet it also offers the potential to conduct activities based on populism, such as public opinion trials, mass irrationality, confrontation via the Internet, and political mobilization.

On November 30, 2011, about two million Britons took to the streets and held “the strike of the century.” That same day, the two large labor unions in Bulgaria launched a protest involving tens of thousands. Several months earlier, Italy, Spain, Greece, and other countries had large-scale mass protests. These protests were closely related to the European debt crisis. However, one cannot underestimate the promotional or even initiating role that social media played, within its unique power confines, in emotional connections, group consultations, online mobilization, and political initiations. The transition of the old centralized and layered power structure into one that is decentralized and interactive, the enhancement of personal expression, and the ability to participate in politics have continued to bring to light the technocratic defects of the old order. Social complaints and dissatisfaction that converge, coordinate, and are dispersed over the Internet then transform into street politics, square politics, or public opinion politics, ultimately culminate in a huge force that impacts the old order of governance.

The possibility of the 2.0 version of the Internet becoming “Internet terrorism,” “micro-terrorism,” and “digital terrorism” that threaten normal social operations has greatly increased. In May 2010, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report stated, “In the past 9 months, the number of attempts to launch attacks against the United States has exceeded the annual total of any previous year.” With regard to the traditional power structure in the acceleration of information exchanges of Web 2.0, the power wielded by non-government actors has tended to have a high potential to be threatening, instantaneous, and diverse. The internal hierarchy, order, and centralization within the State have been fundamentally shaken; doubt has been cast on governments that are now criticized by non-government forces; the old top-down order of things has weakened, been re-distributed, and even changed. On the one hand, this represents the re-checks and balances brought about by an Internet-centered society exerting its influence over State power. On the other hand, the negative and even destructive role of the Internet is being amplified through the spread of Web 2.0 technology. The relationship between the State and society has become more tense. The change of governments and of the world structure is much more unpredictable in the Web 2.0 era than it was in traditional times.

Second, in the Web 2.0 era, the concepts of time and space in the international power struggle will do away with the traditional geographical and physical framework. Two countries will compete more frequently for power. The scope of competition is expanding from a realistic three-dimensional world to the fourth dimension of the Internet world. Competition in the real world for economic, political, military, social, and other resources is gradually becoming digital competition for power, centered on information. The Internet will increasingly become a battlefield, and countries’ Internet strategies will be elevated to include top-level strategy covering all the security elements in the real world.

In the Web 2.0 era, the vulnerability of personal, social, and national security is much greater than it was in the pre-Internet and the Web 1.0 age. Not only does vulnerability go beyond the limitations of traditional geographic boundaries of a country, but a country with inferior Internet technology will also experience a much greater sense of intimidation, panic, and humiliation. For many countries, protecting themselves from an indiscernible “invader” in the Internet world—which could be a country, a person, one or two or countless numbers—will be a major national security task. During the security strategy paradigm shift, cyber-warfare is moving more from concept to reality. Prevention, deterrence, war, and clashes that are invisible, without bloodshed, asymmetric, or anonymous and that occur in the invisible field, will occur more frequently than those in the physical world.

Since “the first cyber-war in the world” took place on the battlefield of Kosovo in 1999, cyber-warfare has occurred more frequently. The August 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia and the 2009 cyber attack on the governments of the U.S. and South Korea are examples of recent cyber attacks. In the Web 2.0 era, the probability of individuals joining in international conflicts has been greatly enhanced. Therefore, cyber-warfare has become an important element in national defense and exercises. To this end, in August 2009, the six countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) included cyber-warfare on their agenda. In 2010 Britain issued its first “National Security Strategy,” listing Internet security, terrorism, war, and natural disaster as “top threats.” The “Pre-2020 Russian National Security Strategy” stated clearly that the usage of national security forces and resources would focus on “science, education, international, spirit, information, military, ecology, and social security.” On November 4, 2010, the 27 E.U. countries, along with Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland, held their first Europe-wide cyber-war exercise. In 2010, the Obama administration established the U.S. Cyber Command and appointed a cyber-security coordinator as its “cyber czar.” In February 2011, for the first time, the U.S. ”National Military Strategy” listed “response to network security threats” as a separate military strategy and clearly stated that the U.S. must have “offensive capabilities.” On May 16, 2011 the U.S. White House, Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Commerce, and Department of Justice jointly issued the “International Strategy for Cyberspace,” explaining, at the national level, adjustments to be made on Internet space in international security strategy in the areas of politics, the economy, security, justice, and the military. In this report, the U.S. vigorously promoted the “Internet freedom” that favors U.S. interests, making the concept of “cyber sovereignty” and “information frontier” a hot topic for public opinion and academia in many countries.

In the Web 2.0 era, international gamesmanship is resulting in the formation of new relationships. Time and space are enlarged in this face-off for power; so, too, is the pool of potential participants, which now includes societies and even individual persons. The State is no longer the only international participant with a strong cross-border offensive capability. Multinational companies, NGOs, terrorist organizations, criminal groups, and individuals are more and more able to confront a nation or the entire world. In the future, a one-man war that impacted world politics like WikiLeaks did will no longer be a rare event. In the Web 2.0 era, national geographic barriers have disappeared completely. There are many variations of and deviations from traditional security concepts. Also, the behavior against foreign countries resulting from a state’s own notions, will, and emotions is changing. The behavior, in the four-dimensional (including the cyber dimension) world, has become sharing, negotiating, compromising, or confronting. Countries with strong information technology are, through the use of a huge “information flow,” experienced diplomats, and publicity, demonstrating that they can penetrate deeply into other countries; subtle graphics and text infiltrations are skillfully implanting their own national policies, ideologies, and values, and dividing and disintegrating the social cohesion of the target countries. They are thereby able to achieve strategic objectives that were more difficult to achieve in the past.

Third, the media restructuring in the Web 2.0 era will have an effect on citizens’ loyalty to their government. As the accelerated invasion of foreign information influences a country’s citizens, the emotional reactions and the information generated will contribute to a national governance crisis and threaten the original ruling party. “Information imperialism” and “digital feudalism” will become the impersonal forces that impact and shackle people’s loyalty to their country. People will feel alienated and separated from their own cultures as they seek to re-identify themselves. The international political boundaries are increasingly blurred.

Social media users usually question a government’s legitimacy and rationality, which they express by sharing their emotions, spreading criticism, and voicing complaints. According to a Gallup global public opinion survey that the United Nations commissioned, two-thirds of the respondents believed their governments were not governing in accordance with the wishes of the people. In the era of Web 2.0 social media, such a mentality of doubt will have a contagious effect. It could shake some people’s loyalty to their homeland and result in their emigrating overseas, working in other countries, criticizing their own government, blindly praising other countries, and even in seeking revenge or in terrorist actions.

In his book Exit, Voice, and the State [3] economist Albert Hirschman repeatedly indicated that the re-enforcement of exit voices, which negatively impact group development and encourage exiting and resistance, have the inevitable effect of damaging the stability of the group. Such voices can be effectively heard through songs, preaching, and smuggled audiovisuals. Newspapers, broadcasts, and other distribution channels can also influence the audience’s judgment. With the support of Web 2.0 technology, every member of society has the ability and conditions to publish information, express opinions, and criticize political situations. The information meant to encourage subversion is mixed with constructive criticism and social whining, coupled with magnifying information about emigration, the regional outflow of people, and social revenge. This really stirs up exit voices. “Scouts” [4] within the country will then capitalize on that fervor. After being brainwashed and armed by the foreign forces’ ideology, the stability of the country will be dealt an enormous negative blow, which may even lead to a separatist crisis and the weakening of the government.

In early 2011, many regions in the Middle East and North Africa experienced social unrest in which technology was used to express or spread internal disputes. Amidst the chaos in some cities in the U.S. and Europe, many slogans indicate a yearning for a socialist country, demonstrating the subtle change in people’s loyalty. Especially for countries in transition and those that are weak in Internet technology, the Web 2.0 era will further aggravate the disordered state of political participation. The manner in which social media are opening up will contribute to the situation in which citizens who know little about politics demonstrate extreme democratization tendencies such as absolute freedom and anarchy. Those who use “information imperialism” with the advantage of Internet hegemony are likely to launch “human sea tactics” and “invisible invasion” to attack the political attitudes, beliefs, and values of developing countries, and will eventually exacerbate the crisis of citizens of developing countries struggling to identify with their political system and national culture. More dangerously, after a fierce competition, the Internet could be controlled or even monopolized by private companies. The major Internet giants such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter are all private sector companies. They coordinate, cooperate, and form alliances with the U.S. government in building hegemony in the new field, which contributes to a continuation of the U.S. superpower position. As the authors of a 2011 report by the New America Foundation put it, “We are entering a world of digital feudalism, where a handful of colossal corporate mega-giants rule private empires.” We are seeing just the beginning of the impact that the “evil marriage” of capital, politics, power, and monopoly is having on countries worldwide. [5]

III. The Challenges to China and Its Responses with Regard to Web 2.0

The Internet has become essential to the Chinese and it permeates every corner of society. Its impact on China’s politics, economy, society, military, diplomacy, and other areas has exceeded the government’s pre-set boundaries. Especially in recent years, after China entered the Web 2.0 era, the impact and practical applications of the Internet with regard to China’s current administration and academia have been hard to predict or prevent. Due to China’s unique situation, the social functions that the Internet fulfills far exceed those that normal communication tools and information channels fulfill. The use of the Internet to disseminate information, provide emotional release, share ideas, allow for social criticism, express interests, monitor democracy, appeal for justice, comment on the government, and compete internationally are likely to explode and cause the (government’s) new system to rely on it. This virtual space can help increase sudden social divisions, political confrontations, and external clashes, and make this unbearable “light load” (since it is virtual) inimical to China’s rise. Therefore, academia in China needs to carefully analyze the change in world politics 2.0 and evaluate the pragmatic meaning of Web 2.0 with regard to the concept of people’s thoughts, politics, and foreign diplomacy, and to provide China with choices and suggestions on how to respond to different situations.

Conceptually, the Internet world in the Web 2.0 era can’t be viewed as a pure virtual world. The social interactions and the power shifts that Web 2.0 brings about are real. Therefore, the new Internet world that social media creates should be viewed as an extension of the real world. As Web 2.0 provides individuals with more power to disseminate information, issue political appeals, and mobilize, China’s traditional vertical and hierarchical social structure is gradually dissolving, and a “horizontal and equal” power structure is taking shape. This means that the shift of politics becoming more democratic, of citizens managing society, and of power returning to the people is unstoppable. Facing this World Politics 2.0 shift, China should not only have an open mind in adapting to changes, but should also have a grand strategy to carry out a smooth, orderly system of reform and transition. This includes developing a rational society, making the government’s fiscal system transparent, actively accepting citizens’ monitoring, guiding the public’s emotions, and demonstrating that the government is tolerant. In the Web 2.0 era, China should study the people’s “revolution” in transitioning countries (i.e. some countries in the Middle East and North Africa) as a result of traditional tight regime control and study the social turmoil in the developed countries (i.e. the U.S. and European countries) as a result of how power serves capital. These are traps that China should avoid in its future political, economic, and social reforms.

Web 2.0 technology is the tool that can awaken the Chinese people in their quest for power, their political demands, and their pursuit of democracy. Though Chinese netizens’ performance on the Internet is still amateurish, violent, or confused, Web 2.0 technology should be viewed as a technical opportunity for China’s development. At a minimum, it offers more opportunities than challenges. Therefore, mainstream ideology should participate in the Web 2.0 world. China should improve its legal regulations over the new Internet space. It should utilize the convenience of Web 2.0’s communication abilities to advance the influence of mainstream ideology on the Internet. Also, it should make use of this opportunity to get feedback from people on government policies, improve the government’s internal monitoring and its democracy functions, resolve some people’s dissatisfaction and complaints, encourage people to understand the nation’s situation, urge people to contribute to the country’s development, actively encourage the use of microblogs to service society, and enhance the Party’s and the government’s governing capability in order to advance the nation’s smooth transition and rise.

Strategically, China must improve and strengthen the concept of Internet sovereignty. China has become the number one Internet country, with the largest netizen population and the most broadband connections in the world, but China’s Internet technology started late and Chinese people’s concepts are still trailing behind. Foreign vendors still control the operating systems and core hardware technology. Among the 13 root domain servers in the world, 10 are located in the U.S. This in-born disadvantage means that China must use a defensive strategy. From the hardware perspective, given the sensitivity of personal and private information, companies’ and organizations’ internal data, trade secrets, and the government’s national security secrets, once they are digitized, the chance of leaks is much greater than when they are just on paper or in some other physical form. The possibility of a “Web 2.0 strategic crisis” such as WikiLeaks is also much higher. From the software perspective, China’s societal concepts have already emerged in the wave of ideology that has been globalized and spread over the Internet. The “Internet freedom” promoted in the Web 2.0 era is more confusing, yet more convincing, than traditional ideological infiltration. All the Chinese Internet users should be aware of the U.S. ideology behind this notion. Thus, China should not only continue to strengthen its Internet strategy set during the Web 1.0 era, but should also be vigilant and guard against malicious slander and rumors that emanate from the external world. China is in a sensitive period of social transformation; it needs to handle the transition carefully. From the government’s perspective, it needs to have a more proactive, comprehensive, rigorous, and long-term Internet national security strategy; establish a national information security strategy for different levels; improve its capability to do risk analysis, crisis warning, and challenge control; and set up defense lines at different levels accordingly. From the people’s perspective, they should not only improve their awareness of Internet security, set up rational values, and understand the basic logic that “The Internet has no boundary but netizens have their country” to avoid being confused by malicious information from overseas and becoming addicted to all kinds of information that individuals on the social media publish.

Diplomatically, social media should be China’s new tool for “all people to conduct diplomacy.” As Web 2.0’s social impact deepens, China’s foreign diplomacy should also implement “Diplomacy 2.0,” which is “people to people” Internet diplomacy that should come into play when the power of diplomacy between the government and the people weakens. Especially since the U.S. and the European countries are using microblogs and other social media to conduct “Public Diplomacy 2.0” against China, China should take the “eye for an eye” approach to study and leverage the new media tools to encourage more social forces to participate in “Public Diplomacy 2.0” and invite more of the Chinese elite who are well-known to use social media to serve China, and to make them the new envoys who will build up China’s power in public diplomacy. Sina Microblogging, the “Foreign Affairs Smart” microblog that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs owns, has over a million followers. China should apply this successful experience to foreign countries. Many countries’ embassies in China; Neil Bush, former President George W. Bush’s brother; Renhō Murata, Japanese Minister for Administrative Reforms; and other important Western political figures and organizations have set up microblogs in China. They attract widespread attention from the Chinese. China’s foreign offices should also expand their outreach and be smart about utilizing Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, and other international social media in bilateral visits, foreign negotiations, and international gatherings. This will result in those foreign targets improving their understanding of China, more fully acknowledging China, and better disseminating China’s policies. In the future, how skillfully China is able to use social media to serve its work in foreign diplomacy will be an important measure of the nation’s soft power and smart power. Chinese are famous for “using things” and “combining hard and soft things together.” Social media’s emergence is an important opportunity for China to demonstrate its flexibility and creativity in foreign diplomacy. China needs to fully exploit the media resources of the Web 2.0 era, take action proactively in the overseas broadcast and interaction fields, control more discourse power in the international competition, and better realize national benefits. I believe this is a beneficial endeavor that is worthy of exploration, study, and promotion.

[1] Qiushi Online, “The World Politics in the Web 2.0 Era,” January 29, 2012.
[2] (CBS News/NJ debate transcript, part 1).
[3] World Politics 31, no. 1 (October 1978): 90-107.
[4] From the author’s note: “带路党”是中国互联网中对那些敌人入侵时给敌人“带路者”的调侃与讥讽。
[5] From the author’s note: Monthly Review Online, “The Internet’s Unholy Marriage to Capitalism,” March 2011, Volume 62, Issue 10.