Navigating the internet public in China
By examining Fang Fang's Wuhan Diary entries, this thesis reveals how netizens, while faced with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, practiced online civic engagement. The work stems from a desire to understand the civic engagement strategies available during times of uncertainty. Fang Fang's Wuhan Diary serves as the thesis's case study. The introduction and Chapter 3 of this thesis situate Fang Fang's writing methods within the broader context of Chinese culture by exploring themes such as Chinese Internet literature, collectivism, historical civic engagement, and guanxi. A year after the start of the pandemic, scholarly articles are being published that too shed light on the role of social media during the pandemic (Chen 2020). This thesis is unique in that it provides an in-depth textual analysis of Fang Fang's writing style and strategies. Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 focus on Fang Fang's writing strategies and examine the response of Fang Fang's readers. In Chapter 1, I illustrate how Fang Fang established her authority to speak for the collective people of Wuhan by emphasizing her location and by calling upon her Wuhan networks. In Chapter 2, I investigate Fang Fang's desire for people to stand together, as a collective, against injustices. More specifically, I focus on her common strategy of asking questions and calling upon her confidential sources to call for action. In Chapter 3, I argue that guanxi exists in the Internet public and that despite its limitations, guanxi should still be considered an appropriate lens for analyzing Weibo publics.