Chinese President Xi Jinping rounded off 2015 by posting his first message on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, in the form of a new year’s greeting to the People’s Liberation Army. His post received 52,000 comments, mostly fawning messages of support featuring thumbs-up and smiling emoticons. This short message symbolizes the official taming of Weibo, whose early promise as a freewheeling platform for criticism and debate has been choked off by censorship, intimidation, a raft of new legislation, and a virtual army of commentators, known as the “fifty-cent party,” paid to influence online opinion.

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