The effect of Chinese microblogs on strikes, protests and accountability

Project leader

Funding source

Swedish Research Council - Vetenskapsrådet (VR)

Project Details

Start date: 01/01/2017
End date: 31/12/2019
Funding: 2820000 SEK


The project has two aims: The first is to study the effects of the Chinese microblog Sina Weibo on collective action events (strikes and protests) and on the sales of counterfeit or substandard medicines. The second objective is to develop a method to generate useful data based on information in micro blogs, and to characterize the measurement error created by this method. A unique data set allows us to study these questions.

The primary data set consists of 13.2 billion blog posts published on Sina Weibo -- the most prominent Chinese microblogging platform over the 2009-2013 period. In Qin, Strömberg and Wu (2016), we estimate that this data contains around 95% of all posts on Sina Weibo, 2009-2011. We find millions of posts covering sensitive collective-action events such as protests, strikes and explicit criticism of political leaders.

To test whether conflicts, strikes and drug quality increases with the use of Sina Weibo, we will apply a difference-in-difference design using monthly data in a panel of Chinese cities. This design is possible because of the staggered diffusion of Sina Weibo.

Using the micro-blog data, we can predict strikes and protests one day in advance and corruption charges one year in advance. To construct a proxy for corruption, we use predicted corruption charges based on micro blogs across locations and time. One can similarly construct proxies for other outcomes. The project will develop this method further and characterize the measurement error.

Last updated on 2017-04-10 at 12:40