The evolving importance of the social control in the Chinese regulation of social media
Workshop for PhD students working on digital technology
Despite the late arrival of the Internet and social media in China, Chinese authorities stepped into the regulation of the new communication tools earlier than many European and American countries. Since the landing of the Internet in 1994 and the generalized use of social media in the late 1990s, laws, administrative provisions, and regulations were adopted one after the other in China. However, the main objectives of the regulation vary in different epochs, due to technical difficulties in earlier periods, the changing governmental priorities, and the striking technological progress in China. After a detailed document analysis conducted about all of the 39 social media-related legislations and regulations adopted from 1994 until now in China, the article argues that social control is not always the prime concern for Chinese regulators of the Internet and social media. Throughout the period from 1994 to 2012, Chinese regulators aimed above all at setting up a general regulation framework and working out a set of feasible norms and standards for the telecommunications and online activities. It is during the period of 2012-2017 that social control stood at the core of the state regulation of social media. From 2018 onward, the priority of the regulation shifts again. Making full use of social media to boost the development of the E-commerce becomes an important goal of the regulatory activities.