Blogging The Bloggers: There Are Aggregators, And Then There Are These Guys [UPDATE]
Peeping weekly at the best (and worst) that was, is, and will be on the China blogosphere.
This unpaid internship at BJC is becoming a tricky business, especially as one now has to negotiate the new raft of advertising taken aboard. I was invited to join Fall of the Third Reich Tours, no doubt with Doyen historian Antony Beevor acting as tour guide. I can just see it now. At the end of the tour, Mr. Beevor ushering everybody into the memorabilia shop to buy SS keepsakes, and then quietly trousering his commission. We also get to Meet Chinese Lady to warm up you soul. Obviously, the copy writer here was referring to Gay Chevara’s East-West experiences in the lust department.
After dissing the guy’s idea of sartorial style, one can only recommend Patrick Chovanec’s mid-December 2012 analysis of the clash of the economic titans over auditing requirements being enforced by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Chinese firms listed on the US stock market. Chovanec brings all the threads together in a detailed and elegantly written manner. And his conclusion – ” … each action (the SEC) takes brings the United States and China one step closer towards an ugly financial divorce” – shifts the focus away from all those military war games op pieces which clutter The Diplomat and its accompanying discussions, which basically boil down to mine is bigger than yours. Now, if you’ve just visited your local Chinese press stand and purchased every glossy military hardware magazine on offer and still haven’t got decent high, try the China Defence Blog.
Sites which function as aggregators or news vacuum cleaners have their uses, I suppose. They are always selective, induce no flame wars and are the last resort of the lazy or those without access to Google News. However, they should be avoided, since you would have missed Links: The International Journal of Socialist Renewal and got to read Paul Le Blancs keynote address on Lenin’s Thought in the Twenty-First Century at a conference held at Wuhan University in October last year. It’s a name-dropping and very long Cooks Tour of commie thought leaders which will challenge your very conditions of existence. Note to the organizers: why no mention that Rosa Luxemburg (the subject of their 2006 conference) was viewed by her contemporary and straight-laced co-revolutionists as a woman who gave fooling around a bad name? Better still, this journal offered you the opportunity to join the The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network’s solidarity brigade to Venezuela – i.e. help reelect Chavez and his life support device – at a mere $4,500 for two weeks.
Anyway, back to the normal world, two relative newcomers and a fixture come to mind.
The mission statements provided by The China Hotline and SinoScoop make similar claims. The former goes for an agricultural metaphor, aiming to “separate the wheat from the chaff,” while the latter seeks to ”cut through the cacophony of China news by highlighting the most important items related to the PRC,” and then present within context. I would opt for the latter since it provides some very handy maps of China and has links to the central organs of PRC government and its ministries. This is very useful stuff and recalls those two tremendous organisational charts found on the front and back inside covers of Craig McGregor’s The Party. Probably a good bookend site would be China Vitae, which contains a database and mugshots of some 4,000 Chinese leader types.
However, the above are lite-on news gatherers when compared to Sinoscism: A China Newsletter, run by Bill Bishop, an individual who claims to be some sort of consultant and venture capitalist with OPM. Not one to hide his light under a bushel, you can read his CV here. However, it is his Disclosures which capture one’s attention. Five densely scripted paragraphs of weasel words which translate into “if you read my newsletter and your finances go pear-shaped, don’t look at me.” Reading this document is a bit like swimming through wet cement, and I’m sure there’s even an “out” clause should one of his cakes be discovered to contain something foreign and nasty. Moreover, he “was named by Foreign Policy Magazine as one of the top 100 foreign policy ‘Twitterati’ and by Danwei as Twitter ‘Model Worker of the Year’ for 2012.” More likely, two prime candidates of the old world order who should lead the parade when the tumbrels roll and the crowd jeer. CORRECTION: Bishop doesn’t claim to be a “venture capitalist with OPM,” and the cakes are, of course, his wife’s. They would never contain anything foreign or nasty.
Getting over the class wars, a google search is always more satisfying, especially when you encounter Mark Zuckerberg spouting the Party line:
The main similarity is a fanatical insistence that people should have only one persona that follows them online and off. “You have one identity,” Mr. Zuckerberg told author David Kirkpatrick a few years back. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”
This is creepy stuff from the fb Toad who has reversed the natural order of things. Doing some very loose sociology, the idea of agency implies that individuals have the freedom to act independently and, if they wish, the ability to adopt a number of personas in their lives. A good dad and loving partner at home, a right bastard at work, and something else again on the net. Zuckerberg and the Party would like to limit personal freedoms/HRs by imposing real-life identity, digital regulation and something we may as well call corporate Stalinism. Life is fraught enough already without this new imposition. These are no-fun guys who want to tame the Wild West and rein in individual egos and personal conceits.
In the world of blog conceits, few have exceeded the ambitions of General Yan Xishan, who was obviously a Beijing resident due to his references to the Juicy Pants army. He riffed on the Wiki entry of the real “Yan Xishan, (8 October 1883 – 22 July 1960) … a Chinese warlord who served in the government of the Republic of China. Yan effectively controlled the province of Shanxi from the 1911 Xinhai Revolution to the 1949 Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War.”
Unlike the real Yan Xishan who displayed reforming, modernizing tendencies, The Blogging “Model Governor” was a gross creation who spent a lot of me-time on his giant kang surrounded by his harem and empty liquor bottles. At one point in the blog before it was discontinued, The General’s Internet persona mentioned his attempt to subvert the world of historical fact, after Wiki fact-checkers blocked him from writing his caricature into the original entry. Great past fun.
My Laowai, another blog claiming to have some relationship to the past, made its appearance in April 2007. It began on a semi-serious and satirical note, but soon devolved into a racist screed that just continues and continues. Obviously, it provides a venting space for embittered expats dealing with continuous staffing and logistics problems, as well as more general complaints about quality of life issues in China. Not worth a link, since there are far better sites on lifestyle issues available, namely China Dialogue. The London editor is Isabel Hilton, who also writes for The Guardian, while the Beijing Branch consists of some of China’s leading environmental investigators. Its real value resides in the fact that its reports come in both English and Mandarin. Thinking of pissing off back home because you’re concerned about tomatoes with the same steroid count as a Bulgarian Weigh Lifting Team, try this read on China’s questionable organic food boom. Finally, Isidor’s Fugue excels again with some tremendous photos of a recent trip to Malaysia.