Blogging The Bloggers: Another New Year, Same Old Mug’s Game
Peeping weekly at the best (and worst) that was, is, and will be on the China blogosphere.
Aside from family animosities, hangovers and relief in seeing in another year relatively unscathed, there is little worth celebrating in the Sino-English gulag. Drawing up lists of the best and worst sites is a fool’s errand. Ditto content. It is as if this digital corner has been leached of enthusiasm and experiment. Site lords and their communities are sticking to their respective mission statements like grim death. Quite a lot of shared content with different top and bottom commentary. All in all, a pretty depressing picture. I also suspect that many folk simply overestimate the importance of the China English digital world. You could mount a strong argument that it runs a poor second, when compared to the Farsi (Iranian/Persian) English inter-tubes which are bursting with health, despite the best efforts by Ahmadinajad and his turbaned pals.
Why so? Content fatigue. Or more likely, you can write the commentary and then wait for the right news report to present itself. Also, expat folk marry, return home and get a life. Chinese contributors enter the SOE world of work, and also get a life (marriage and mortgage). Whatever. The above situation cannot be explained away as a technical issue. WordPress is ever-expanding as a publishing platform, free to use and, as a multimedia median, has its best years in front of it. It requires few technical skills, and you get a major high after hitting the launch button, i.e. being able to see your misguided opinions and obsessions in instant print. And this optimism about online scribbling comes from a digital immigrant.
If there are any new, interesting or quirky sites lurking in the background, please advise. BTW. Hating on African music and black folk generally is despicable, and for the initiated, there is another side to Japanese culture.
Having mentioned two of the Amigoes, let’s focus on the third, namely Stan at China Hearsay who has been writing on China Law, Business and Economics for eons, and from a neo-liberal and legalistic framework. He dissects corporate behaviour with the skill of a mortuary technician, and is not above a bit of jeering, having described the HH posse as “chemically imbalanced.” Surprised to note that Stan wished his readers Merry Christmas. This is a bit rich, coming from a guy who prides himself on being a militant atheist who positively enjoys kicking the Christers. However, Stan’s attention to the legal niceties is beyond the point when you get reads like this from Spiegel Online.
If you have a strong constitution and the ability to digest a continuous diet of official ChiCom moral uplift, Just Recently’s Weblog should be a mainstay. JR, aficiando of shortwave radio, cold war warrior and gentleman farmer, provides diverse translations of various official Chinese media as well as discussions dealing with its pre-Commie past, all of which are beyond my pay scale. Up there with China Media Watch, but marred by his secret agenda of wanting to attract followers to his crazed Kat Kult. Bizarre stuff from a serious voice on China’s domestic political affairs.
Another schizophrenic site is SinoMondiale and its little brother site Sino-NK, run by Adam Cathcart, an academic who abuses his sabbatical leave arrangements to play cello in various classical formulas around the world including China. SinoMondiale is an eclectic mix of comment on diplomatic policy, sorties into deep Cold War history and comprehensive lists of academic references for those folk seeking to complete PhDs with the minimum of effort. Tremendous photography and examples of poster art. These sites obviously attract the erudite. How else would one become aware of North Korean Economy Watch, a dedicated site which should assist you in organizing your pension plan? Similarly, there is china Avant-garde, where Paul Manfredi focuses on the aesthetics of modern Chinese film, art and poetry and, you guessed it, more on Mo Yan and fatso Ai Weiwei. If you’re going AA on tabloid titillation, begin with the above.
Every now and then one comes across a subject so sensitive that one treads very carefully, and here I refer to the practice of racial miscegenation, which I should add was made respectable by the Portuguese in Brazil and elsewhere. (Not to be outdone in the colonial world, the British offered cricket and sanitary engineering, while the French provided scholarships to their institutes of higher learning.) It is easy over time to work out which of the expat bloglords married locally to Shanghai/Beijing material girls and, reading between the lines, most of these alliances appear to be a success. While this has really pissed off the truly rabid end of the FQ set, aka Mongol Warrior, they shouldn’t feel so aggrieved, judging by this list of sites devoted to Western women who took up with Chinese guys. I was about to explore in detail, but that deep tongue wedding photo at the top of the fold was a complete turn off.
Living out in the piney woods, I’m totally cut off from all the behind the scenes agendas, perceived slights, jealousies etc. which swirl round the tabloid end of the market. A good guess is that it is probably a mix of Dallas and The Bold and the Beautiful. With this in mind, some belated due diligence on The General was called for. His twitter playground follows a mix of potential news sources, Beijing arty types and serious big cheese weblords, but I couldn’t make rhyme or reason out of his tweets. However, if it helps a guy feel crucial, what the heck. His CV is here, and it goes without saying that The General leads a dashing social life.
All this frenetic energy, broken I suppose by long bouts in sports bars watching NBA, has to amount to something, so I turned to the unpaid analytics of Alexa.com. BJC is ranked 172,523 globally and 71,318 in China, and surprise, surprise, it is big in Macao (14.5% of its total readership), probably drawing in the croupier-working girl set. Furthermore,
Compared with the overall internet population, the site’s users are disproportionally college-educated, and they tend to be childless men under the age of 35. Visitors to this site view 2.0 unique pages each day on average. The time spent in a typical visit to this site is approximately three minutes, with 73 seconds spent on each pageview…
To translate, BJC has captured a significant market share of under 35 bare branches, who have both very short attention spans and college degrees: the latter simply indicating the fact that they can spell their names correctly.
Finally, I come to the Shaun Rein-Joseph Goebbels Award for 2012. Some background. Shaun is a major league “thought leader” with a virtual office staffed by a rotating menagerie of unpaid interns, and author of a heavy tome on Chinese economic and cultural trends. A twitter island unto himself, he only follows Bill Bishop/Sinocism, a hard news site. The rest of you can plain sod off. He is also a great believer in the say-it-loud-and-often-enough school of modern mass communications.
The panel didn’t even have to form a sub-committee to arrive at a worthy recipient. Godfree Roberts, Amherst PhD, literally blitzed the field. While you have to admire the guy’s entrepreneurial vision, he has a second string to his bow, namely that of commenter on Chinese affairs. Sinostand and Seeing Red in China are but a few of the sites which have benefited from his insights. Try this example or the comment he left on this site:
The Steering Committee og 8-9 engineers is extremely honest and remarkably honest. They’ve produced a country that is increasingly prosperous, confident, and supportive (85%, according to Pew, Edelman,,and Harvard) of their government.
It’s the USA that has the corruption problem, as it’s retrogression so clearly demonstrates. What else could explain its failure? Bad luck?
Such single-mindedness and dedication. If I could devote a similar time and effort to my card cheating skills, 2013 would be the Year of the Bank Account.