Onlookers’ Power: Micro-blog’s Impact in “723 High-Speed Train Crash”

Posted in 2011 The Gnovis Blog  |  Tagged , ,

China experienced an uneasy end to July with the  “723 high-speed train crash” when two bullet trains derailed and resulted in 40 deaths and more than 200 injured in Wenzhou, struck the heart of the nation. By the word “uneasy,” I mean not only the query about the safety of trains that arose across the nation, but also, every step of the accident’s progress was followed with attention from every corner of the country. Micro-blogging,  is a internet service provided by main Chinese websites such as Sina, Sohu, and NetEase, is the Chinese form of Twitter, played an essential role in it.
We call the netizens who use micro-blog onlookers because they always have a glance of news on micro-blogging sites.
On the night of July 23rd, it was on micro-blog sites that people first found out that a horrible train crash occurred. One passenger that survived sent out the first information about the accident and then drew every onlooker’s attention. Just like Twitter, when every single network becomes connected, the power of micro-blog unfolds. For the citizens of Wenzhou city, in which the crash took place, the quick news that local hospital was in an urgent need of blood,  called upon them to donate their blood, to alleviate the effects of the catastrophe.
Onlookers did not just stand by; they were also eager to open their mouths and make their voice heard. One day after the accident, a press conference was held by the ministry of railways, but the exact cause of the accident was not mentioned, and equivocation of the spokesman did not satisfy the public. To make detailed inquiries about the facts, onlookers asked questions and supervised the aftermath by public opinion, creating a huge pressure on the government to include more opinions from the public to be taken into consideration. For instance, the compensation for victims kept rising from 172 thousand yuan (at the very beginning), to 500 thousand yuan, and to 915 thousand yuan in the end. The impact of micro-blog could not be ignored in this case.
It is rare in China for such a large number of people to be involved, and make their own voice into an incident that the government had to take into consideration. The public has no access to speak a word via the traditional mass media, which lacks a feedback component. Even the flourish of blogs several years ago in China was not able to catch the eyes and amplify the voice of the public in such short time. However, here comes the onlookers of the micro-blogging networks that break the traditional relationship between mass media and the public, from one-way communication to interaction, resulting in real impact.
Even though the rumor risks still altered us, we did see the powerful impact of micro-blogging in the “723 high-speed train crash,” which may gradually strengthen China’s democracy development.