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The ties that bind: How the dominance of WeChat combines with guanxi to inhibit and constrain China’s contentious politics

Yan Wu Orcid Logo, Matthew Wall Orcid Logo

New Media & Society, Volume: 21, Issue: 8, Pages: 1714 - 1733

Swansea University Authors: Yan Wu Orcid Logo, Matthew Wall Orcid Logo

Abstract

Despite the market dominance of the 'WeChat' app in today's China, we currently know little about its significance for contentious politics. This paper argues that MIMAs facilitate communication within relatively strong tie networks (compared to conventional Social Network Sites) whic...

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Published in: New Media & Society
ISSN: 1461-4448 1461-7315
Published: SAGE 2019
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa48613
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Abstract: Despite the market dominance of the 'WeChat' app in today's China, we currently know little about its significance for contentious politics. This paper argues that MIMAs facilitate communication within relatively strong tie networks (compared to conventional Social Network Sites) which prior research indicates is potentially consequential for patterns of contentious political engagement. Drawing on evidence from a series of Chinese WeChat-user focus groups, we reveal that these ‘chat apps’ create spaces where, although users are often connected through strong ties offline, contentious politics rarely manifests. This trend is driven by a range of dynamics, which we elaborate in a theoretically-informed thematic analysis. When contentious politics does emerge, it is reported by our focus group participants to be largely confined to matters of ‘pragmatic’ and/or ‘safe’ politics that concern defending the interests of individuals or discrete groups, but do not challenge the wider political system.
Keywords: Digital Political Communication; Contentious Politics; Mobile Instant Messaging Applications; China; WeChat; Social Networks; Strong and Weak Ties; Guanxi
College: College of Arts and Humanities
Issue: 8
Start Page: 1714
End Page: 1733