Duyi LiFollow

Date of Graduation

Fall 12-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Dorothy Kidd

Second Advisor

Anne Bartlett


This thesis discusses features of citizen communication on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform, and its relationship to participatory democracy in China. Weibo is a complex social space due to the interplay of different forces and social actors. On the one hand, Weibo provides the space for bottom-up political participation: it expands the horizontal discursive space where plural discourses coexist and interact; provides a social sphere where counter-discourses are created; a space where the culture of resistance is formed; and serves as an alternative source for information. On the other hand, the vertical political control of the state, and the digital divide produced by capitalist power, are forces that constrain citizen participation. The thesis examines the interplay of these dynamics in three online ethnographic case studies: the response to street vendor Xia Junfeng’s death sentence, the sanitation workers’ strike in Guangzhou, and the anti-trash incineration protest in Yuhang, and triangulates the results with an online survey and examination of the extant literature.