Beijing's alarm has been reflected in an increasingly hostile drumbeat of criticism in state media.
In May, authorities started accusing many top microbloggers of spreading rumors and warned the public to be wary of online information. A recent editorial by state news agency Xinhua accused some of promoting Western values and an editorial last week in the nationalist Global Times newspaper said online opinion makers should uphold the Communist Party's rule or be silenced.
Some experts, however, say too much success at silencing debate could be to Beijing's detriment.
"It will be even more difficult for the authorities to read public opinion," said Wen Yunchao, who studies China's Internet as a visiting scholar at Columbia University. "Then you will have strong undercurrents."
Meanwhile, government agencies and state-run media are devising new ways to drown out competing voices.
This month, Beijing worked with major Internet companies to launch a Web site — py.qianlong.com — dedicated to refuting online rumors. The site tackles everything from the political to the mundane, including whether one should snack between meals.
In early August, the party-run People's Daily said a large number of state media with national influence — such as People's Daily, Xinhua and CCTV — as well as party newspapers at provincial and municipal levels had formed "a national microblogging team" to guide public opinion on breaking news and sensitive issues. They claimed to be taking back the Internet's "microphone."
Yang, the political scientist, said even state news organizations must adapt to survive in an era of social media.
"They cannot be propagandists, or they will have no followers," said Yang.
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