Online network size, efficacy, and opinion expression : Assessing the impacts of internet use in China

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-476
Journal / PublicationInternational Journal of Public Opinion Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


The severe internet censorship implemented in China naturally raises substantial doubt about the potential democratic functions of the internet. This study presents some initial empirical evidence for internet use's impact on online opinion expression in Mainland China by analyzing three survey datasets collected by the World Internet Project in 2003, 2005, and 2007. Results reveal a positive relationship between internet use and online expression. The positive association is partially mediated by online network size, but not necessarily by internet efficacy. Although government censorship has in a measure successfully stifled people's; willingness to speak out, it is argued that the networking function of the internet could still bring incremental changes to the Chinese society through constructing loosely structured networks.