One of the biggest immediate differences between mainland Chinese Internet practices and those here in the US, is the use of Bulletin Board Systems. A great place to start is this post at ESWN, which provides a “general comparative analysis” of news media in China, Hong Kong, and the US, and highlighting the relationship of China’s BBS to mainstream media. Excerpts:
What appears as news in mainstream media is usually formulaic and subject to official censorship and unofficial self-censorship…If you read one newspaper, you’ve read them all…
With the arrival of the Internet, bulletin board systems proliferated and [mainstream media workers]
gravitated to those forums (such as Yannan, Xici Hutong, Tianya Club, etc) in which they can express and exchange their ideas and opinions with like-minded people. Again, they are not advocating to topple the government, but they are just relating how they were kept away from the mining disaster victims or some such…All the while, they continue to work at mainstream media organizations, but their spare time is for them to use.
In China, the non-mainstream media sector (related to current news and commentary) is in fact
dominated by the mainstream media workers in exile on their spare time… So
the Chinese non-mainstream media scene on current news and commentary is
dominated by the media elite who are continuing to build their authority and
reputation, in the manner of American and Hong Kong mainstream opinion
What happens with a major breaking event?…You may only see the short official Xinhua version in
every single newspaper… You do not go to the bloggers either. Instead, you go to BBS’s/forums such as Yannan, Tianya Club, and others like them, and you may find dozens of long comments.