in Jacques deLisle, Avery Goldstein & Guobin Yang (eds), The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China (University of Pennsylvania Press 2016)
The relationship between courts and the media is not an easy one in many countries, and China is no exception. While trial by media is often frowned upon in the West, its close variation—known as “public opinion supervision”—has been embraced in China. The latter term was coined by the Chinese Communist Party (the Party) in the 1980s to describe the mobilization of citizen awareness and public opinion by the media to check deleterious forces within the state under the guidance and supervision of the Party. The objects of scrutiny by public opinion supervision have included the courts, with the media acting as a state agent between the authorities and the citizenry.
By the dawn of the twenty-first century, Web 2.0 had changed this dynamic. Armed with the Internet, public opinion has become a powerful force. Free from Party supervision and seemingly holding the potential to provide genuine monitoring, this “public opinion monitoring” differs from public opinion supervision. It is an independent force arising from the citizenry and seeking to hold the government accountable, to prevent abuses of power, and to bring justice and fairness to society. The Internet has played an indispensable and prominent role in fostering this form of citizen monitoring. As Guobin Yang points out, the Internet in China is an arena of intense struggle, full of complex dynamics and participatory and contentious in nature. This struggle is also being played out in legal disputes, posing new challenges to the judiciary... Click here to read further.