What is it about?

In China, the advent of Weibo, the biggest Chinese microblog platform (launched in 2009), has brought changes to the restrictive communicative environment. Through rapid information dissemination and exchange of opinions online, it creates a public sphere where Chinese netizens exercise media citizenship. Adopting a discursive approach, this study explores the disagreement strategies and their role in public sphere building in Chinese mainstream media editorial comments on Weibo. These disagreement strategies are used to criticize the content of the editorial, attack the trustworthiness and impartiality of the mainstream media, and express negative emotions to the mainstream media. The findings suggested that the online commenting space on Weibo is a public sphere of combined deliberation and liberal individualism.

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Why is it important?

Disagreement is essential to deliberative democracy because citizens can shape political policy through the exchange of ideas, reasons, and arguments. In the Web 2.0 era, online disagreement comments play an important role in participatory journalism, serving as a lens to explore the complexities of the online public sphere. Mainstream media editorials can arouse extensive attention from the public and exert greater influence on public opinion building. The findings suggest that underneath the seemingly irrational arguments were rational appeals. Therefore, the mainstream media should reflect on the rational appeals behind them by enforcing journalistic codes of ethics such as reliability of content and journalistic integrity.


The study is a valuable attempt to analyze online commenting by adopting a discursive approach, which is never an easy task. By quantitative and qualitative analysis, this article probes into how Chinese netizens deploy the social media to voice their opinions.

Jie Xia

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Disagreement strategies and institutional face attack in Chinese mainstream media editorial comments on Weibo, Pragmatics and Society, March 2023, John Benjamins, DOI: 10.1075/ps.19016.xia.
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