We Hear You: How do State-run Media Engage and Shape Online Public Opinion? Evidence from China

23 November 2022, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Winning citizens’ hearts and minds has long preoccupied autocrats, but thus far how they communicate with their citizens in an informational age remains elusive. This study examines the communication strategies of Chinese state-run media on social media and their effectiveness in harnessing public support. In contrast to the conventional wisdom where the media set the agenda, using original data from Weibo, I explore that state-run media let the public set the agenda, and shape the flow of news. I find their dominant strategy is to engage with viral events originating from the West. They engage in two ways, reproducing fact-based news reporting and citing anti-foreign elite opinions, and the former is more effective in evoking the public’s positive evaluations of the Chinese government. This paper contributes to the media effect research by presenting state-run media’s new engagement strategy on social media, and their ability to win approval than previously thought.


Political communication
Authoritarian politics
Social media
Machine learning


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