Chinese Netizens Are Actively Distancing Themselves From a Survey That Praises the Chinese Internet Environment

March 2, 2016 Updated: March 4, 2016

A recent online survey by the Chinese authorities that captured overwhelmingly positive vibes by the Chinese netizenry with regard to the Chinese regime’s web censorship actions and the Chinese Internet environment has riled up Chinese netizens.

According to a survey conducted at the end of January, over 9 in 10 Chinese Internet users support seven different censorship measures or actions to “improve the online environment” which the Chinese regime carried out in 2015. For instance, 96.2 percent of Chinese Internet users indicated that they were in favor of the government’s action to “investigate and punish online rumor mongers in accordance with the law.”

As for the Chinese web environment, 80.7 percent of the respondents agree that there has been an increase of “positive energy” in the Chinese cyberspace, while only 64.9 percent indicated that they noticed an increase in Internet regulation.

Global Times, the nationalistic state-run publication, said that the survey was carried out by Horizon Research Consultancy Group, the largest privately-owned research and consulting company in China. All 12,600 survey participants, sourced from 50 big cities across China, at least possessed a college degree.

Meanwhile, on the popular Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo, Chinese netizens questioned the accuracy and legitimacy of the poll. Netizen “Soft Rose 575” wrote: “There is a saying, ‘public opinion rape.'” A netizen from Xinjiang wrote, “Oh my, I am being ‘represented’ again,” while another from Beijing echoed, “I am surely not one of those polled.

Others mocked the ludicrously high approval ratings of Internet censorship policies which have plagued the Chinese netizenry since time immemorial. “Since it’s the Communist Party’s Internet, shouldn’t the approval rating be 100 percent?” asked a netizen from Guangxi. A Shanghai-based netizen using the moniker “Looking at the sky” wrote: “It would be 100 percent if ten 50-Centers are polled.”

50 Centers belong to the so called 50 Cent Army, a massive group of freelance online agitators hired by the Chinese Communist Party to scour the web, harass dissenters, and “guide public opinion” in favor of the Chinese regime. As their name implies, 50 Centers are paid 0.5 yuan ($0.08) for each post they make online that defends the regime or attacks its critics.

Chinese netizens have a good reason to believe that members of the 50 Cent might have skewed the results of the recent “public survey.” Many 50 Centers are young people in universities and colleges—according to documents released in 2015 by the Communist Youth League, they number about 4 million—and one of their main tasks as ideological workers is to promote “positive energy online,” an area that 8 in 10 respondents agreed with in the survey.

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