• Andrew Collins

Chinese Citizens Take to Social Media to Address Health Concerns

Image via SCMP

For the same reason that many western countries have embraced social media, Chinese netizens have welcomed the opportunity to express their views on a larger scale. While political causes are pretty much a no go, there has been more leniency and action with social issues. Weibo in particular has been the outlet for many to call attention to health issues.

As China’s standard of living increases, consumers are demanding more food safety regulations and enforcement. Food has been a particular concern, from the widely publicized melamine-laced baby formula scandal in 2008 to the most recent gutter oil scandal. Basically, if every scandal were true, there’s probably very little you could (or would want to) actually consume while in China.

That’s the problem that worried Wu Heng, creator of zccw.info, a database for food problems in China. The name, “Zhi Chu Chuang Wai”, which means “throw it out the window,” is inspired by a story of US President Theodore Roosevelt tossing a sausage out the window after reading about food production horrors. After realizing there were too many reported food issues in China for Heng to handle alone, he reached out on social media and soon recruited dozens of volunteers. Today, his website gets over 5,000 hits daily – while so far he’s only able to track a small amount of reports relative to the size of China, his dreams and future goals are captured in his email signature: “the world is not a fine place but is worth fighting for.”

On a less organized scale, protests last week in Guangdong similar demonstrated increasing Chinese dissatisfaction with the state of the environment. The proposed construction of a garbage incinerator led to local residents protesting at the site. Though reports of the numbers ranged from low (police reports) to in the thousands (protestor claims), it’s clear that there’s increasing criticism from the public on the consequences of China’s rapid development in the past few decades.

Since 2013, there’s been a marked increase both in use of social media as an outlet to air grievances and in attention from the government to the Internet in general- hopefully despite the increased tightening of controls, social media will continue to grow as a platform for netizens to help solve their country’s issues.

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