Who Not What: The Logic of China's Information Control Strategy

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In this paper, we examine how the Chinese state controls social media. While social media companies are responsible for censoring their platforms, they also selectively report certain users to the government. This article focuses on understanding the logic behind media platforms' decisions to report users or content to the government. We find that content is less relevant than commonly thought. Information control efforts often focus on who is posting rather than on what they are posting. The state permits open discussion and debate on social media while controlling and managing influential social forces that may challenge the party-state's hegemonic position. We build on Schurmann's ideology and organization, emphasizing the Party's goals of embedding itself in all social structures and limiting the ability of non-Party individuals, networks or groups to carve out a separate space for leadership and social status. In the virtual public sphere, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to apply these principles to co-opt, repress and limit the reach of influential non-Party thought leaders. We find evidence to support this logic through qualitative and quantitative analysis of leaked censorship documents from a social media company and government documents on information control.




Gallagher, M., & Miller, B. (2021). Who Not What: The Logic of China’s Information Control Strategy. China Quarterly, 248(1), 1011–1036. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305741021000345

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