Wang Lijun, Social Media, and China's Power Struggles

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The political scandal surrounding Wang Lijun and Bo Xilai is showing a power struggle within the Chinese Communist Party. In the past, the Party's propaganda department kept a tight rein on information. But today, the Internet and social media are changing how inner Party politics play out.

The scandal involving former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun is bringing to light larger power struggles within the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP. And one of the biggest ways it's doing that is through social media.

[Chen Zhifei, NTD Senior Analyst]:
"It's really very instrumental in changing people's attitudes, in bringing news—it changed the whole society."

After Wang Lijun fled to the US consulate two weeks ago, he was taken to Beijing by Chinese state security officials. At first, Chinese state-run media reported that he was on a "vacation-style medical treatment," due to stress on the job.

But China's social media, especially microblogs like Sina, exploded with a very different take on the situation.

[Chen Zhifei, NTD Senior Analyst]:
"If you go online, you could see the could see police vehicles surrounding the compound of the American consulate in Chengdu. It's remarkable."

People are getting their news through social media because it's harder to censor than traditional media. Sheer volume means that deleted or censored information can be quickly reposted by other users. There are more than 250 million users on Sina Weibo alone.

But as different factions within the CCP vie for power, social media can become a very powerful tool for them as well.

[Chen Zhifei, NTD Senior Analyst]:
"Some people intentionally want the news to be known, to be spread abroad, because they want to use it as leverage for their own fight in the Party."