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Barnard Professor Xiaobo Lu Discusses Corruption and Social Media in China

July 29, 2013

Corruption is the most challenging issue facing China in the upcoming decade, said Barnard Political Science Professor Xiaobo Lu, who spoke on corruption and social media in China during a talk July 17 at Columbia Global Centers | East Asia. Lu also discussed the recent surge in popularity of microblogging Weibo sites such QQ, and their role in pressuring the Chinese central government to more actively fight corruption.

Lu talked about how prevalence of corruption has been undercut by an emphasis on the divide between local politicians and the central government. Both intentionally and unintentionally, he said, corruption has been characterized and perceived as largely a local problem, unrelated to the central government.

Lu said social media plays a role in the perception of corruption, through mechanisms such as increasing the information flow, amplifying even small-scale corruption cases, nationalizing local incidents, and chronicling corruption with hard evidence. Lu said the central-local dynamic so emphasized in recent years will become less useful as social media gains power, and it will continue to create a more institutionalized mechanism with which to report and deal with corruption charges.

Lu’s lecture was part of the Weatherhead Forum in Beijing, an initiative co-sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and Columbia Global Centers | East Asia. Lu is also a member of the Center's Faculty Steering Committee and was the founding director of the Center.