Twitter and legal activism in China

Jonathan Benney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Much has been made of the use of the micro-blog Twitter in political campaigning and mobilisation. But questions have been raised about how effective the limited medium of Twitter can be in recruitment and resistance. The claim that activists in Tehran in June 2009 were using Twitter en masse, for example, has been substantially debunked. China, however, is beginning to use Twitter in novel and captivating ways. During 2009 and 2010, Chinese political activists began to use Twitter in earnest. Controversial lawyers, academics and public citizens, along with a bevy of followers, are using Twitter as a space to debate and criticise the party-state; a virtual space which has proved to be freer from censorship than many others. In this article, I discuss the qualities of Twitter and its Chinese users, and argue that the Chinese use of Twitter is enhancing the pluralism of Chinese society, as well as facilitating genuine political discussion and debate, and not just mobilisation: this is so for both technical and political reasons. I also show that online networks of Chinese Twitter users are making links with real-life activist networks, and suggest that, in China at least, Twitter can be a valuable medium not only for resistance but also for discussion of public policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-20
Number of pages16
JournalCommunication, Politics and Culture
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • Twitter
  • activism
  • legal activism
  • political activism
  • online activism
  • online networks
  • resistance


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