The purpose of this paper is to use Weibo as a window to examine the Chinese netizens’ online attitudes and responses to two sets of population policy: the Selective Two-Child Policy (Phase 2) and the Universal Two-Child Policy. The population policy change from the rigid One-Child Policy to the Selective Two-Child Policy then to the Universal Two-Child Policy aroused great attention of the Chinese people.
This research uses the crawler technique to extract data on the Sina Weibo platform. Through opinion mining of Weibo posts on two sets of population policy, the Weibo users’ online opinions on the Two-Child Policy are analyzed from two perspectives: their attention intensity and sentiment tendency. The research also use the State Bureau of Statistics of China’s national population data between 2011 and 2016 to examine the Chinese people’s actual birth behaviors after implementing the two different sets of the Two-Child Policy.
The research findings indicate that the Selective Two-Child Policy (Phase 2) and the Universal Two-Child Policy are good examples of thematic public sphere of Weibo. Weibo posts on the two sets of the Two-Child Policy have undergone different opinion cycles. People from economically developed regions and populous regions have paid more attention to both sets of Two-Child Policy than their counterparts in the less developed and less populated regions. Men pay more attention to the Two-Child Policy than women do. Despite people’s huge attention to the new population policy, the population growth after the policy is not sustainable.
The new population policy alone is difficult to boost China’s population within a short period of time. The Chinese Government must provide its people with enough incentives and supporting welfare to make the population growth happen.
These findings have important implications for understanding the dynamics of online opinion formation and changing population policy in China.
Disclosure statement: no potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the authors. Funding: this work was supported by the National Social Sciences Foundation of China under Grant No. 14BXW026.
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