Before the Internet age, it used to be relatively straightforward for authoritarian regimes to dictate popular news consumption: just control all the major newspapers, as China’s ruling Communist Party has done since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. But the advent of the Internet, particularly the rise of the social web, has broken that monopoly. Stiff online competition for the attention of China’s more than 600 million Internet users has become a major challenge for state media and its traditionally stolid reporting style.

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