Another factor is that China's massive Internet-savvy population consists mostly of young people who go online for online games, e-commerce and social networking. Each day, tens of millions of people use micro-blogging services such as Weibo to share information. Among them are celebrity bloggers like Xue--- business tycoons, movie stars, writers and commentators--- who have millions of "followers," giving them enormous influence in shaping the opinions of such a large and mobile population -- a real worry for the Beijing government anxious to avoid an erosion of its control.
As a result -- no doubt influenced by the online whistle blowers exposing official malfeasance -- the new administration of President Xi Jinping is pursuing an anti-corruption campaign, vowing to target those who put the party and state in jeopardy.
"Xi was forced to accelerate the drive by a steady drum beat of Internet revelations that forced the regime to sack and try a series of mid-level officials to demonstrate to a deeply cynical public that it was willing to act against rampant corruption and arrogance of power," said Andrew Wedeman, author of "Double Paradox: Rapid Growth and Rising Corruption in China."
"The contradictory response to the media, bloggers and whistle blowers reflects the regime's fear that it might be losing control of the campaign," Wedeman said. "It cannot afford to let the Internet keep driving the campaign. It cannot lose control over the choice of targets."
Yet even advocates for change accept not all accusations made online are accurate.
"You have a need to regulate the Internet," said Bequelin. "There are a lot of unsavory things happening in China, such as unscrupulous PR companies mounting campaigns against another company just to offer their service to put an end to it. But the best disinfectant is sunlight. If you have a free press, then these rumors just get dragged out naturally."
Because many Chinese citizens do not trust the state-run media to expose any wrongdoings of the party, Bequelin said, they turn to Weibo.
Meantime, the authorities are trying to assuage concerns that the drive against rumor-mongering could muzzle legitimate whistleblowers.
A recent Xinhua report quoted Sun Jungong, a spokesman for China's Supreme Court, pledging that "netizens who help expose corruption online will not face charges, even if their posts are not 100% accurate."
Still, the campaign may be intimidating some bloggers.
"When posting on Weibo, some bloggers joke about it by adding words like 'be kind to me, don't forward more than 500 times'," said a Chinese journalist who requested anonymity. "Others are having fun forwarding nonsensical messages, press releases or Weibo postings from government accounts more than 500 times."
"At some point, the government will need to declare victory and pull back," said Wedeman, a professor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln who has focused on the issue of corruption in China.
"So long as it cannot control the flow of rumors and charges on the Internet, it cannot begin to draw the campaign to a close without looking like it is sweeping things under the rug."