From Active Consumers to Active Citizens: Social Media and Political Consumerism in China
This study explores the relationship between Internet use and civic engagement in China, a country where voluntary political participation is not necessarily encouraged. We are particularly interested in examining how social media use correlates with political consumerism actions, and in determining whether and the extent to which consumer actions relate to political efficacy. Based on an online survey of 544 Chinese adults, we found some support for the position that social media use is positively associated with political consumerism in general and with at least one form of case-specific political consumerism (i.e., consumer actions related to China–Japan conflicts); however, we found no significant relationship between either traditional media or news website use (i.e., more passive kinds of Internet use) and political consumerism actions. In addition, the findings of this study suggest that social media use was positively related to internal and collective efficacy while social media use was not related to external political efficacy. We also found some support for the argument that active political consumers could evolve into politically active citizens, though this active citizenry may not necessarily be of a democratic nature.
Mihye Seo (PhD, Ohio State University) is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY) in the US. Her areas of research are media effects and political communication.
Shaojing Sun (PhD, Kent State University; PhD, University of Virginia) is an associate professor in the School of Journalism at Fudan University, China. His research focuses on mediated communication and research methodology.
Jinhee Kim (PhD, Pennsylvania State University) is an assistant professor in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of Creative IT Excellence Engineering at Pohang University of Science and Technology, Korea. Her research areas include social and psychological processing of media, media and emotion and cultural differences in mediated communication.