Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Communication

Content Description

1 online resource (vi, 159 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Teresa M Harrison

Committee Members

Masahiro Yamamoto, Fan Yang, Alyssa Morey


China, Citizen engagement, E-government, Police, Social Media, Weibo, Police-community relations, Police and mass media, Internet in public administration, Social media, Political participation, Internet

Subject Categories

Communication | Library and Information Science | Public Administration


This dissertation systematically examined the Beijing Police Department (BPD) daily use of social media and citizens’ comments it received. Previous studies in the field of e-government and political communication in the Chinese context focused only on the measurement of quantitative indicators of government use of social media or a single event. This dissertation incorporates theoretical frameworks of e-government, public relations, and the public sphere to provide a detailed picture of citizen and government interaction in the Chinese context. Using the BPD as my case study, I not only explored government’s daily activities and engagement strategies but also examined the nuances and contextual information of citizens’ comments and their criticisms of the government through thematic analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). The findings of this research showed that besides dealing with crime and enforcing law, the Weibo administrators of the BPD also act as educators, especially for the city’s newcomers. This study also uncovers the dilemma faced by the BPD in trying to juggle the responsibilities of promoting national ideological propaganda, experimenting with engagement strategies, and building trusting relationships with citizens. The qualitative analysis of citizens’ comments and criticisms indicates that citizens seem to be passionate about sharing, discussing social issues, initiating their own discussion topics, and connecting with each other in the space of the comment section, which forms a special public sphere. This dissertation has theoretical and methodological implications for the study of government use of social media and research on citizen interactions. It also offers empirical evidence for the police department to improve citizen engagement strategies and build trust with citizens on social media.