Social Media in Industrial China
Xinyuan Wang
Politics & Social Sciences
Social Media in Industrial China

Described as the biggest migration in human history, an estimated 250 million Chinese people have left their villages in recent decades to live and work in urban areas. Xinyuan Wang spent 15 months living among a community of these migrants in a small factory town in southeast China to track their use of social media. It was here she witnessed a second migration taking place: a movement from offline to online. As Wang argues, this is not simply a convenient analogy but represents the convergence of two phenomena as profound and consequential as each other, where the online world now provides a home for the migrant workers who feel otherwise ‘homeless’.

Wang’s fascinating study explores the full range of preconceptions commonly held about Chinese people – their relationship with education, with family, with politics, with ‘home’ – and argues why, for this vast population, it is time to reassess what we think we know about contemporary China and the evolving role of social media.

Half Title
Introduction to the series Why We Post
List of figures
List of charts
1 Introduction
A brief review of the book
Chinese family and hukou
The story of Dong
The GoodPath: A transitional town
A tour of GoodPath
The first stop: The high street
The second stop: Zhao village
The third stop: Peasant flats (nongmin fang) in the new villages
The fourth stop: The digital centre
The fifth stop: Factory plants
The end of the tour
A final note on methodology
2 The social media landscape in China1
A brief history of Chinese ICTs’ development6
QQ: The dominant social media platform in GoodPath
QQ – once the symbol of urban lifestyle
WeChat —​ China’s favourite new social media
What is Weibo?
Social media and smartphones
3 Visual material on social media
Genres of visual material on social media
‘Compulsorily shared’
‘Chicken soup for the soul’
‘Anti-​mainstream’ (Feizhuliu)
What is special about the visual postings of rural migrants?
The coming of age of young rural migrants on social media
The visual on social media – a new language
4 Social media and social relationships
‘Thank you for keeping me on your contact list’
The ‘hot and noisy’ principle
Couples and wider family relationships on social media
Romantic relationships on social media
Friendship on social media
Yin si (privacy) on social media
5 Social media, politics and gender
Internet censorship in China
The living experience of politics – offline and online
‘Be in love with the government, but don’t marry it’
Politics as a football game
‘I have no interests in politics, but being a Communist Party member is so useful’
The ‘phoenix man’ and his political life
The good women of China41
Men: From opposition to feminisation
6 The wider world: Beyond social relationships
The atheist, folk religion and death
Chinese folk religion: Some background
Deities on social media
The homeland on social media
Folk tales on social media
Story 1 (in brief)
Story 2 (in brief)
Future life on social media
7 Conclusion: The dual migration
The deep rupture offline
The profound reconstruction online
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