Throughout parts of China, social media has become an increasingly common way for the country’s citizens to obtain their news. Most recently, a popular culture figure in Chinese media, Wen Zhang, created a media firestorm. Zhang, a prominent television and film actor, revealed on Weibo (China’s equivalent to Twitter) that he had an extramarital affair with his co-star Yao Di.
Rumors began circulating about the affair in March when photos of Zhang on a secret date with actress Yao Di surfaced in the tabloid, China’s Southern Metropolis Weekly. Wen officially posted the message to his Weibo account on Tuesday and it has since been reposted 1.2 million times and earned 1.83 million comments, breaking social media records.
In this sense, gossip and entertainment media publications as well as social media are not intended to become to mouthpiece for the government. Instead, the people of China are able to express their thoughts in response to pop cultural developments such as this since it does not pertain to the government.
According to Zhan Jiang, a journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, the people of china feel more compelled to offer their response on the affair. Zhang has attributed this to the fact that “entertainment news isn’t restricted or censored by the authorities…From the authorities’ point of view it isn’t good if the public cares too much about politics, but entertainment is safe.”
Although China is for the most part a culturally materliastic country since the government determines the culture of their mainstream media, it does not exert very much influence over social media. Rather, the people of China determine the response and feedback that is given on social networks like Weibo. While the personal romantic life of this celebrity may seem like trivial information, it is considered very important to the people of China because it is one of the few subjects that they can voice their opinions on without fearing government censorship.