Good netizens not just '50 cents'

Updated: 2015-01-09 09:55

By Fang Zhou(China Daily USA)

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A recent article from the Anhui provincial publicity department on what a good netizen should and should not do has sparked an intense online debate over the role of Internet users in the country.

To be considered a good netizen, one should love the country and see the achievements it has made instead of looking at its problems with tinted glasses, says the article authored by An Xuanping. It says to be good netizens should consciously work as the transmitters of mainstream values and be bold enough to act as wumaodang, or 50 cents, a negative term referring to the netizens who are paid 50 cents to sing high praise of any government move.

Such standards for good netizens not only violate the true meaning of "passing on positive energy", but also try to give the good netizens a bad name.

Given China's huge number of Internet users who are increasingly influencing public opinion and decision-making on a range of economic, social and political issues, policymakers can no longer afford to ignore their views and the way they react to events and incidents. Positive-thinking netizens along with their constructive opinions can undoubtedly lubricate a country's decision-making process and facilitate its march toward progress.

According to the China Internet Network Information Center, the number of netizens in China by the end of June 2014 had reached 632 million, up by 14.42 million from the end of 2013. Among them, the number of Internet users through cell phones was 527 million, an increase of 26.99 million from the end of 2013. With the popularity of smartphones, the number of netizens is expected to rise further. Such a huge population exerts significant influence; it helps sway public opinion and even affects government policies, from passage of legislation related to people's livelihoods to the cancellation of some projects that are detrimental to the environment.

The fast pace of development of the Internet over the past decade has helped more and more Chinese to express their views more freely, without the constraints of the real world. This freedom has also prompted some netizens to be more straightforward in evaluating government policies or downright criticism of them. Of course sometimes some netizens lash out at their targets, imaginary and real, and spread unverified - even false - information on the Internet. This is a practice that cannot be completely stopped even if a sophisticated network scrutiny is put in place.

But after years of government efforts to regulate the Internet, including a crackdown on rumormongers, Chinese netizens as a whole have become a more matured and rational group as far as communications and interactions are concerned. They have arguably played a positive (at least less negative) role in taking forward discussions on State affairs and in offering suggestions, as indicated by regular government moves to solicit public opinions through the Internet before adopting policies. There have also been cases on netizens transmitting positive energy to avoid the occurrence of such tragedies as committing suicide.

It is true that compared with in the real world, people are usually more critical in their views in cyberspace. But that does not necessarily mean they have ill intentions or are unpatriotic. In fact, the increasing number of critical appreciations that netizens have been coming up with shows that they are paying greater attention to public affairs and have higher expectations of social progress. Their increasing numbers have made netizens an important part of public supervision over government work.

Therefore, there is no need to worry about their straightforward views and criticisms. The praise and criticism as long as they abide by law, both pass on positive energy in the increasingly plural society.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

 Good netizens not just '50 cents'

Li Feng / China Daily

(China Daily USA 01/09/2015 page16)