The Internet, freedom of speech, and social transformation: An examination of the impact of cyber-forums on policy-making in China
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As the development of the Internet in China is speeding at geometric rate, various researches have been conducted regarding the role of the Internet in facilitating democratization. Some argue that it can actually strengthen deliberative democracy; while others infer that it is an effective tool of political control through surveillance. The theoretical framework is backed by Habermas' concept of the public sphere and the associated notion--civil society, which emphasizes the role of open and free online discussion, highlights the significance of grassroots' participation, and underscores the existence of a well-functioning public sphere. With the thoughtful examinations of the impact of cyber-forums on political policy-making and deep analysis on China's social and political transformation process, this study argues that online discussion is becoming a new important societal force on the government decision-making system, and that citizens' online participation favors China's democratic development more than the state propaganda power and authoritarian surveillance. However, the challenges and limitations online participation is facing curb the cyber-forums being the representative of the public sphere. Comprehensive and most recent quantitative and qualitative data and cases are employed to give a clear overall picture of China online uprising. The thesis also makes a great contribution in the new findings on China Internet research.