China’s rapid modernization has generated a vibrant online community over the past 20 years. While there is an established body of work on the impact of traditional media on political opinion in China, the patterns and political impact of media engagement among tens of millions of Chinese ‘netizens’ remain under-researched. Using data from the 2015 Chinese Netizens Attitudes Survey, this paper attempts to ameliorate this issue. The results of latent class analysis suggested that most Chinese netizens tend to be active followers of social media and to display low levels of interest in state media. We found that respondents in the online survey were overall much more critical of political institutions on different levels comparing to existing findings based on offline surveys. Those netizens who were strongly attached to social media appeared to be significantly less likely to advocate authoritarian, collectivist, and nationalistic values and to display much lower levels of political trust, whereas the opposite was true of those who were strongly attached to state media. These findings suggest that social media serves as an incubator for critical political reviews and liberal values in China’s online communities, challenging the influence of traditional state-sanctioned media.