China Blogs That Bridge The Divide

Virginia Newman, an intern with UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, works with Howard Tan, 17, to prepare classroom materials for a seminar in Nanchang, China.

Image Credit: Georgia Magazine

I didn’t get much sleep last night helping the ghoul of the English China blogosphere squash bugs and make last minute adjustments as she rolled out the new chinaSMACK redesign.1 As such, I’m going to keep this light and open-ended rather than try to catch up with the more serious reading and topics I’ve been neglecting.

A long-standing question I — along with my pal Elliott from CNR — mentally flop around quite often is: Just how much good or change all these non-Chinese China blogs are doing, if at all?

One of the reasons I had begun blogging for CNR was because Elliott appealed to me with the notion that we could do our part, however small, in “bridging” the gap of knowledge, understanding, and respect between China and “The West” through blogging. While growing a blog is certainly not easy, we know that it’s an example of internet technology empowering and amplifying people’s voices, and subsequently their potential influence. Blogging is as much about self-expression as it is a means for promoting messages.

Elliott’s idealism has waned since then, disillusioned with the polarized discourse that ensues online on news sites, forums, and blogs alike. On the surface, little headway seems to be made against ignorance, prejudice, or hate and the loudest voices are always from the extreme ends, drowning out everyone else, discouraging them from even bothering.

Another side of Elliott’s disillusionment is what he quoted — from someone else — as the “Japanese whaling” effect, where foreigners outside of a country generally couldn’t give a rat’s ass about that country or its people, unless it just happens to touch upon some superficial cause they ostensibly hold dear. For China, many people abroad have little interest in better understanding the Chinese beyond simply establishing their position on some issue or another.

Dead whale.

I don’t think I was ever as idealistic as Elliott. While I enthusiastically embraced the idea of using a blog to share my thoughts and hopes of bridging the gaps between China and the rest of the world (English-speaking at least), I don’t think I ever expected the visible results to be, well,  “harmonious”. I’ve been on the internet long enough to know there are quite literally all kinds of people out there and shit hits the fan any time you challenge the beliefs or presumptions some people clutch to.

Likewise, I always knew most people abroad are going to be far more interested with what’s more proximate to their lives than some land and some people an ocean away, all of which are “oh-so-different” from themselves. It goes both ways. It’s normal, natural, inevitable.

For me, the idea was never really about creating more interest and understanding in those who aren’t and don’t care to. The idea was instead to simply be there for those who are and do care to. For a blog, then, how many people and lives you can influence (for better or worse) boils down to how easily you can be discovered and how worthwhile the information and ideas you share are to those who discover you.

Bridging the “divide” between China and the rest of the world is not something a blog can do. It is only something the people involved can do, and always for themselves.

As you can imagine, working on chinaSMACK (instead of just commenting) got me thinking again about how blogs and websites like it are contributing to the interest and discourse surrounding China and Chinese society. chinaSMACK is, for anyone familiar with it, one of the most polarizing examples. Some get it and some just don’t. Or maybe those who get it don’t, and those who don’t actually do? On one hand, it shows in brutal fashion just how “human” Chinese society is, with all its faults and ugly warts. If Chinese society is human, then it is fundamentally no different from any other society. chinaSMACK, as a whole, can even be labeled as social commentary. Or, hell, performance art.

But this falls apart in the eyes of anyone who has a different conception of what is “human”. chinaSMACK then becomes a lightning rod for racism and bigotry, for reinforcing prejudices, biases, and the immortal “us versus them” dialectic. There is no new or greater understanding being fostered there. It just supplies the hateful, arrogant, and insecure with ever more ammunition to use against each other.

Maybe that’s social commentary too.

South Park: People Who Annoy You

Whatever our feelings are about chinaSMACK, let’s share and recommend some other blogs that you feel are changing how people relate to China and the Chinese, whether by creating more interest or fostering greater/deeper understanding. Those of you who follow me on Google Buzz already get glimpses of the list of China blogs I subscribe2, but with many of our readers being experienced, avid “China watchers” who usually have a vested interest in “getting” China, what’s your list? Why do you recommend them in particular as blogs that are bridging the “divide”?

  1. For the record, “pretty” or “ugly”, my official line is that anything you like was made or heavily influenced by me. Anything you don’t is all on her. []
  2. …though I often share more than just China stuff. []


66 Comments

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  1. Interesting. I’ve thought about this, too, sometimes. Honestly, I don’t read many of the China blogs. I’ll sometimes skim Danwei, Shanghaiist, and Haohao Report for headlines. And my attention seems to be frequently directed to ChinaSMACK and China Hush, but that’s about it. I used to have a great time reading CNReviews, but it’s slowed down. I guess I should check China Divide more often, too.

    !WARNING! That was a weak-ass attempt to answer your question, and the rest of this post has absolutely nothing to do with attempting to answer your question.

    Honestly, like you, I rather suspect that the English-language China blogosphere is not making that much of dent in warming international relations. Probably the most significant impact it has is on foreigners who live in China but due to language or other barriers can’t readily access “the culture.” I notice this group of people frequently draws (often incorrect) conclusions and makes generalizations based on their up-close but also closed-off (in the sense of narrow, lacking the big picture) perceptions of things they see in [specific location in] China. Thus the news-translation sites help show what does happen in China, although you might never see these events with your own eyes. For instance, once we started posting news blurbs in English on our city site, people started remarking to me, Wow! I never knew there were so many car accidents or house fires or whatever.

    I presume most people who consider themselves intelligent beings read the news from time to time in their home countries, but I know very few foreigners here who do so unless that news is translated into a language they can more easily read than Chinese.

    The next group might be people who live outside China but for whatever reason have an interest in China. Perhaps they have Chinese heritage and/or once lived in China and/or do business with China. But in many ways, distanced by time and space, they are more detached, I feel from China and its political issues, and it seems that the vast majority is not as likely to get worked up about what’s going on here as those of us who live here might.

    The third group I see is … the rest of the world. Those are people outside China with no personal connection to the country whatsoever other than consuming Chinese-made goods and a possible passing interest in its economy or environmental faux pas or the like. These are the people, I think, who are most likely to make hasty and uninformed judgments about a country and group of people that they know next to nothing about. I recently felt obligated to “speak out” in defense of China and, by extension, Chinese people and possibly the Chinese government as well, on, of all places, a *knitters’ community forum*. (They were passing around a blog post on the evils of China-produced cashmere which, incidentally, linked to an old Evan Osnos article on the subject.) The anti-China stance rampant in the thread *enraged* me to the point of thinking that who I had believed to be nice, welcome, community-oriented people–mostly North Americans and some Europeans–were actually total fear- and hate-mongers who were entirely ignorant of … a lot of things. Naturally I got flamed after posting my reaction to the discussion and didn’t feel like coming back, but that event really made me think a lot about this issue. And what I think is that people like that won’t really care to seek out information on China until it really starts to affect them. We might argue that that day has already come (what I see as fact–that China is inevitably the “next” global superpower and that when this “global economic crisis” “blows over” everybody will wake up to see that the “world order” has changed–is, apparently still up for debate or a total non-issue in America and who knows elsewhere), but until it’s literally banging on their doorstep, nobody’s going to care enough to devote a minute of their lives to educating themselves on China or Chinese culture.

    ON THE OTHER HAND, even when China has gained a foothold on exporting its culture to the rest of the world, what is it likely to be exporting? Probably the same types of things the U.S. exported as “American culture”: McDonalds, Coca Cola, Nike, and how to take advantage of everybody in order to make big bucks. So maybe the haters are right after all. Everything sucks anyway.

  2. Also, btw, what’s with that vomit-inducing photo? Is that really the best way to envision “bridging the divide?” :P

    • B-real

      Or what’s with the South Park episode pic, what is that supposed to represent?(I saw the episode) But where are you going with that Kai?

      Back to subject, I always check out chinasmack for the headlines and the stupid shit I can verify everyday in my life living in Beijing. Sometimes it get out control there and the subject get off target. But there are some delightful posters there.

      From time to time I read what the blunt bloggers has to say at shlaowai because of the fact they don’t really have a message of bridging the gap but more of their experiences in China (mostly Shanghai). Most of the stuff I can relate to but then again something there kind of irks me in the wrong the way.

      China hush is another place but again just for the head lines. Most of the time its old news and its good place to say some really horrible and un-constructive things.

      Really in my opinion these blogs mostly attract people who have direct experience with or in China. To speak for myself I wouldn’t be a frequenter of these blog site if I my experience with China wasn’t so profound and enchanting. I lived in many countries but China of all places has left a large spot of discontent in my heart and you can see that in my post else where.But as far as others go, it seems like they have had wonderful times and horrible times, and then there are some that are plain ignorant and bias and that is their right. Most of us already have our minds made up what our position is and stand by it.

      The outsiders don’t really count on blogs to determine whether they want to come to china to visit or stay, but the posters are a good metric to go off of.

  3. At least in english there are many blogs translating chinese stories and news, discussing politic, culture and economy… In french there are few china expats blogs, some of which are great, but there is am obvious lack of sites like Danwei, ChinaGeeks, ChinaHush, ChinaSMACK, Shanghaiist, china/divide…
    That is why you have to read blogs and news in english if you want decent and hot materials.
    — Woods

    • the goodies I read are

      in no particular order

      EastSouthWestNorth (zoneaeurope)

      DANWEI!! FUCK YEAH!!!!!

      Sinocism

      Digicha

      chinalawblog – why because I DO LAW

      lostlaowai

      chinayouren
      ——-
      chinese sites,

      wangtalk.com is still starting up… 说话 buddy!

      MOP

      QQ a big one source, and you can buy things too!
      better than Facebook

      KDnet which is really messed, its like an american “PTA” website

      163 net tease,

      these are Portals, more than a Bitch and Complain website,

      if you want to do that go to,

      12309.gov.cn

      and we are all china Geeks!

  4. Bin Wang

    I really enjoy ChinaSMACK. China/Divide, I think, takes a more academic approach. Sometimes, however, the first step to bridging the divide is to show that they’re not so different from us after all. ChinaSMACK’s straight up Jerry Springer-esque translations really does a good job for those who care enough to read it and not engage in the (obligatory) bashing afterward. It passes no judgment, it just translates and shares, and I think that’s pretty darn important … and enjoyable. For a guy who’s probably fairly removed from the current Chinese social and cultural scene, it’s pretty engaging.

    What I don’t enjoy are these New China Hand blogs which generally assess China, purports to be academic, but are really nothing but a forum to discuss all the areas in which China falls short of the Western measuring stick. These are people who visit China, learn nothing except how horrible China can be, and then come back home to toe the perverbial party line. Enough of that.

    But I also really enjoy China/Divide. I admit, when I first started reading, I’d engage in some fiery rhetoric vis-a-vis some folks around here that like to do the finger-waggling. But over time, I’d like to think that even the likes of stuart and I can engage in some fairly civil discourse, although we’ll often disagree about things. I suppose that’s some accomplishment right there.

    I agree with Jane in feeling need to “defend” China from outright biggotry in other areas of our lives. Also, I guess, the people who take the time to read these blogs are probably already somewhat open-minded or interested in China. Sadly, the vast majority of prejudice and biggotry that’s out there won’t be reached in these forums, they simply don’t care and are set in their views.

    • You’re right about ChinaSmack being Jerry Springer-esque. ChinaSmack may translate, but they translate only a certain type of comment. Getting a view of China through ChinaSmack is really like getting your view of USA by watching Jerry Springer.

    • Bai Ren

      Bin,
      I have switched from chinasmack being my first blog site, to China/divide perhapes because I am a student and preffer the more academic nature of its treated subjects, but I don’t really get a feel that it is more academic than the other sites, just that it doesnt do sexual exploits for weeks at a time.

      Instead of trying to catagorize what is happening in these seperate sites let us recognize them for the places of civil society that they are. Each has its own flavour, and we are drawn to one or another like cafes dependant on what we personally prefer. This context of personal pleasure/interest while axiomatic of online experiance is part of what makes sites like these battle grounds for red guards versus rednecks. The more interested, passionate and down right motivated a person is the more they will write, return and reply, and extremeism is always motivating.
      Furthermore, if china/divide is suppose to be academic then when did academia stop being about trying to understand the human condition in all its beauty and ugliness and instead become the unrepently partisan fight over ideology. This and sites like it are the civil society coffee shops of ‘ism-ites’ not ‘ologists’.
      I have the feeling that a major factor of the current divide is in individual needs to find the correctness of their ism, through universal application -that is its spread through conversion. The spread of democrasy and human rights discourses are not like christian conversion missions as those who spread it find renewed truth in the correctness of their adearence when others accept it.
      This is at the root of rednecks bashing China’s lack of freedom, and red guards uncritically defending their government and criticising the US.
      When we stop being consumers of our own habitized ideology the divide will begin to close. These sites, but being places for ideas to be bantered about release the hot air and force those of us who are neither rednecks or red guards to put forth our own ideas and grow a connected community

  5. Why exactly do you have this passive-aggressive relationship with Chinasmack? Do you hate insightful commentators like me for telling the truth instead of waffling on about nothing like you do Kai? The first step towards bridging divides is being honest about your feelings Kai. You won’t even admit to having feelings, you’re too gutless, you’d rather sit back and critique people who have enough self respect to voice their opinion instead of finding the bravery to expose your soul.

    • Sorry, not having the same feelings you do does not mean I don’t have feelings or that I’m not being honest about them. I’m pretty certain my long diatribes on chinaSMACK certainly fit the bill of having feelings, having the self-respect to voice my opinion, and having the bravery to expose my soul. After all, unlike you, I comment under my real name as opposed to being a random anonymous internet troll.

      Seriously, though, you have your moments. But please be honest enough to not misrepresent your enjoyment of trolling with self-respect or bravery.

    • Pusan, it would be nice to see a link to your content. Your link to some random silly picture doesn’t do much to display your insight.

  6. Kai, you could have entitled your piece “Middle-Wing- Nut Blues”. Your earlier piece stated the hope of the middle–essentially to serve the role of a “bridge”–is to clarify needless controversies fueled by misapprehensions.

    Nonetheless, while probably appealing to the bulk of your readers (who merely nod their heads in rapt agreement), your edgy writing style tends to provoke your wing-nut fridge something fierce. Consequently, as your detractors take the liberty of using your head (so to speak) as a soccer ball, it is difficult–based their flaming responses–to truly gauge either the effectiveness or value of your work.

    I happen to like your edginess, especially in taking the risk of reproducing the breath-taking South Park image. Keep the faith. Remember, cultures tend to crucify their prophets.

    • Mao Ruiqi, I think you’re trying too hard to second guess and figure me out, or thinking you already have. I would never have entertained the idea of titling this post as having the “blues”. I’m not sure why you think I’m glum at all.

      It’s flattering of you to think the bulk of my readers “merely nod their heads in rapt agreement” but the bulk of my self-satisfaction actually comes from the wing-nut fringe being provoked something fierce. Before you try gauging the effectiveness or value of my work (with regards to China blogging and commenting), you might want to seriously think about what my goals actually are. You might’ve jumped to some conclusions too soon.

      I’m again flattered by you liking my edginess. I didn’t really think of myself as “edgy”, just opinionated at best. As for the breath-taking South Park image, I’m not sure what’s so breath-taking about it. Finally, I’m not a prophet. I’m just another guy who learned how to type so he could troll the internet.

      Now, less about me (as flattering as it is), and more recommending of China blogs you’ve found interesting and influential.

  7. zball

    Danwei, Shanghaiist, are the top two on my list.

    For me, all China Blogs serve to bridge gap between china and other countries in a certain degree.

    As for polarized discourse, well, someone sometimes do need to find a way to vent and shoot out his/her frustration on reality. And, fiery words are always the cheapest ammunition in hands. Although most of the audience seldom speak out or flash their badges against hatred comments, they are discerning, and can judge from their own experience, .

    • somehow i don’t think “most of the audience” IS discerning. and isn’t that “frustration on reality” rooted in the very gap that some of the blogs are attempting to bridge? how does venting help that, if the way to overcome it is to reflect on where the frustration stems from? maybe i’ve misinterpreted the point of the original post, but i feel like a lot of these comments are really missing the mark.

      • zball

        The person who you find hard to rationalize with in the blogs might be the very person you are socializing with in the reality. At least few of my friends tend to enjoy provoking others through spitting irritating comments in the cyberspace.

        Also, if I can see some comments aim at “missing the mark” I believe others can do too. At least, you can feel it, aren’t you :)

        • I’ve met some of these people as well, such as the infamous Fcuk Da Lu Ren on chinaSMACK (He’s a reasonably decent nice guy in person). I can totally understand the fun of trolling people or venting one’s frustrations. I just don’t agree when I consider the overall damage to outweigh the selfish enjoyment.

  8. Don’t know if I’d attribute the lowly tag of ‘blogger’ to any of the following, but all are smart, insightful, and level-headed with oodles of China experience:

    James Fallows
    David Wolf
    Kaiser Kuo
    Jeremiah Jenne
    William Moss
    Rebecca Mackinnon
    David Bandurski
    Gady Epstein
    Brendan O’Kane

    Plenty others warrant a mention, for sure, but these guys ‘n gals really know their stuff and have the ability to see both sides of the divide without pulling China-critical punches when warranted, or descending into rants (other than for occasional infusion of humour) that pander to the anti-Beijing lobby.

    Top class, one and all.

  9. Ted

    “For me, the idea was never really about creating more interest and understanding in those who aren’t and don’t care to. The idea was instead to simply be there for those who are and do care to. For a blog, then, how many people and lives you can influence (for better or worse) boils down to how easily you can be discovered and how worthwhile the information and ideas you share are to those who discover you.”

    You know you’re blocked in the mainland right? I think two things are needed before any gap is bridged. One a site the fully translates all posts and comments from Chinese to English and vice-versa. Chinasmack at least gets halfway there. Two, the great firewall has to be dropped. Har-har funny right? Well, it is the largest barrier to communication between cultures in existence. I think its a little ridiculous to throw one’s hands up and ask “why can’t we all just have a normal conversation!” when half of those meant to be in the conversation are actively discouraged from joining.

    I would like to see conversations between westerners who don’t speak Chinese and Chinese who don’t speak Western. Specifically, the conversations that I know they would agree on but can’t have because of the language divide. Once again, stupid right… well that’s all we are missing. If you roll through ChinaSmack and look at the translated Chinese comments one really sees the similarities between the cultures. The recent China Smack post about the satellite dishes was a winner. There is a parallel between the Chinese netizen reaction there and reaction by some in the US to the health care bill.

    I don’t see the ChinaSmack posts as continuing a stereotype or polarizing people, I see it as demonstrating that we often react the same way to crazy situations.

    The flaw among most China blogs these days is that each one is trying to introduce China as a whole to “the West” as a whole. As long as this is the case we will keep seeing the same conversations play out. A different approach would be a single site that groups the select China blogs together into categories and helps an individual to drill down into the areas they find most interesting. Allow people to make their own connections in a cloud of conversations rather than sitting atop a pile and asking everyone to agree or respectfully disagree.

    Off the top of my head, blogs that have been covered above with the exception of:

    James Fallows
    Evan Osnos
    China Media Project
    Granite Studio
    Fool’s Mountain
    Inside Out China
    Image Thief
    Mutant Palm (haven’t been there in a while)
    and, generally whomever ESWN links to.

    • categories based on what? location? content? gender? age? don’t a number of the “blog aggregators” do something like that already?

      • Ted

        You have any links existing China blog aggregators? Would love to know. I’m specifically looking for marketing, design and architecture. I think I know most of the political blogs, uggh.

    • Hey Ted,

      I don’t think we’re blocked in China. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to get on without firing up a VPN.

      I don’t quite see the GFW the way you do, as such a pivotal obstacle to one-side’s participation in discourse. It certainly affects some of the content of discussion but it isn’t as all or nothing as I feel you’re suggesting.

      I do think there have been some blogs that are starting to translate English content into Chinese for Chinese readers. Off the top of my head, I know Anti-CNN does this sometimes (though its not a blog), and then most recently you have WangTalk (this could totally be a porn site) and Custer’s ChinaGeeks Chinese.

      Totally agree with you on chinaSMACK, but that’s just us.

      • Ted

        Hey, well I definitely can’t access without a VPN. maybe someone else can chime in on this.

        I don’t think the GFW the GFW leads to an all or nothing situation but I do think it has a very large impact. I think that it takes alot more for the average joe to jump outside and freely post his thoughts than you may be giving credit. Especially if those thoughts run against the mainstream or heavens forbid touch on a sensitive subject. If I think back on my former students, most were content staying inside the wall. Its easier to just go back to the cupboard and scrounge around. Yes there may be plenty within the GFW but there is a hell of alot more outside, including several of the blogs mentioned above.

        • Hey Ted, that’s weird. Where are you located? I’m in Shanghai and Stan’s in Beijing so I’m pretty sure we’re okay in at least those two areas.

          I think the language barrier is a FAR bigger barrier with a far larger impact than the GFW when it comes to the average joe freely posting his thoughts. This goes for both Chinese and foreigners in both directions. As for sensitive subjects, that really depends what you consider a sensitive subject is. In my experience (and one you can experience by proxy through websites like chinaSMACK), I think the average Zhou has quite a bit of freedom to freely post his thoughts. Of course, this also needs to be boiled down to what you consider “runs against the mainstream” or a “sensitive subject”. When it comes to online discourse, the Chinese government’s censorship and propaganda policy is more geared towards disruption instead of outright censorship, and usually only to prevent certain ideas from gaining momentum. They’re not out to quash every last bit of dissent, just aggregation and mobilization of mass support.

          There’s plenty outside of the wall, I agree, but for the average Zhou, the question is: Is it compelling enough for them to want it? Or is it mostly US who think THEY should want it? In the latter’s case, we’re just projecting, instead of truly understanding them.

          • Ted

            Interesting, I’m having trouble with the feed.

            http://chinadivide.com/feed

            I can only use this with my VPN. Well thanks for helping clear that up. I had been having the same problem with the ChinaSmack feed as well. Inside Out China and FM are still blocked for me though.

            re: disruption, you can’t have much of a conversation if posts are pulled down as they are going up. Google is a great example. What happens when we learn that out posts have been deemed sensitive? We quit talking about them. I know I’m mixing things up with censorship here, but its the same lesson and the same effect. I may have been visiting a site for months/years then all of the sudden it cuts out, e.g. Inside Out China. At that time I had no VPN and jumping from proxy to proxy was to much of a hassle, so I just dropped the site until I returned to the states. By extension, why risk posting on a foreign blog site if I think the whole thing might get shut out… better to post on a Chinese site and just make sure the conversation stays clean (whatever that means).

            Many sites I access are faster on a VPN than without, so if I’m your average user why waste my time waiting for the foreign site to load up when I can just jump to a local site and do it twice as fast.

            In my experience, the disruption efforts are pretty pervasive and, did I not have a reason to stay in touch with the outside world, I to would probably find it easier to just kick around here.

          • Hey Ted, are you subscribed and trying to click through when using your RSS reader? It’s probably because we’re using Feedburner. Any Feedburner feed (feedproxy.google.com or something) gets a reset connection in China but you can still manually visit our site, just not through the RSS feed item because it goes through a blocked URL or something. Kinda annoying, I know.

            Re: Disruption.

            I know what you mean about posts getting taken down as they’re going up and this happens on certain sensitive news items that the government censors are anticipating and have passed down instructions to internet service operators (forums, blog hosts, etc.). Obviously, I’d rather this NOT happen or be a possibility, but I just wouldn’t characterize the average Zhou as not being able to “freely” post his thoughts. I think the word here is “freely” and you’re aspiring to a greater level whereas I’m cautioning against assuming it is the opposite, that they have no freedom whatsoever. The fact is, there is a spectrum of freedom and, yes, the average Zhou generally enjoys less freedom than many people in other countries when it comes to online expression. I totally agree. But I don’t think the GFW is the “largest” barrier to communication between Chinese and non-Chinese society. My original response was just to disagree on this. I think there are tons of ways for the two societies to have a conversation and the GFW just isn’t near the top of my list of obstacles.

            You bring up the chilling effect of censorship and it certainly exists. Chinese netizens are generally quite aware of what they can freely discuss and where they might have to tread carefully or even avoid discussing. Yet, at the same time, I’m impressed and fascinated by the ways they get around it, with their puns and “nudge nudge wink wink” tricks. I happen to think it isn’t all that hard to find anti-mainstream or discussion of sensitive subjects on the Chinese internet. I think it is hard to find massive movements for certain pet causes foreigners wish upon the Chinese and part of it IS because the government manages them from coalescing and mobilizing, but another part of it is that there’s really not that much serious grass roots support for them. Of course, I’m making certain assumptions about what “anti-mainstream” or “sensitive subjects” you may be referring to. But even absent those, I actually think the internet has giving the average Zhou more freedom than less overall. This fluctuates, and the trend can be seen as going up or down depending on how you wide or narrow you set the time sliders, but the “general” trend has been promising in my opinion.

            Totally understand the frustration of a site suddenly becoming inaccessible. However, I think you’re overestimating the average Zhou’s interest in posting on a foreign site. Again, the reason is because of language more than anything else. That’s what I think is the “largest” barrier. Few people enjoy hanging out some place amongst some people where they can’t feel secure in their knowledge of what everyone is talking about. I actually think the average Zhou feel MORE free to talk about certain things amongst their own, on their own websites, where they have an idea of what to expect and what tricks they could use to share their thoughts with others there.

            At this point, where you’re talking about site speed, I feel like we may be thinking of different things or talking towards different directions. I’m thinking, are you sure there would be substantially more Chinese engagement with foreign websites without the GFW, without the blocks, without the slower access speed?

            Of course, there would be more, but I still think the overwhelming amount of average Zhous would overwhelmingly still kick it around homegrown sites.

        • Bai Ren

          Ted
          I have been able to access this site and chinasmack from shanghai and beijing this past week. only one I havent gotten without a vpn or proxy is chinadigitaltimes. where are you logging in from?

          • Ted

            Bai Ren: Got it figured out with some help from Kai, it was a problem with my RSS. Thanks though.

            @ Kai, Appreciate your thoughts, I think we’re pretty much on the same page.

    • Mutant Palm hasn’t had a single update in over a year. Glad to see someone putting down Inside Out China, though.

  10. Dan

    Don’t be so negative. The divide is, in many instances, smaller than you may think.

    I say this in the context of my own blog, China Law Blog, which at least one commenter has already mentioned. I hear again and again from Chinese lawyers and Chinese law students how much they appreciate a lawyer giving a day to day practical look at China’s business laws. And while I am not going to claim that China’s business laws are THE place to bridge the divide, I will claim (with apologies to Deng Xiaoping) that we bridge the divide by crossing it one feeling the stones and crossing it one step at a time.

    I have to say though that I found the Japanese whaling analogy particularly funny and apt since my firm is working on Peter Bethune’s defense right now!

  11. I keep my China blog list at http://www.east-west-connect.com/china-blogs . Those are just my favourites, nothing comprehensive. I just pick blogs that have unique content and provide a balanced perspective on China.

    I guess a lot of foreigners read the English blogs to get a view into China. For me, that’s only part of it. I read Chinese so I’m reading the English blogs to see how foreigners are viewing China. At least, that’s the case for the blogs that contain general news and political/social commentary.

    I wouldn’t mind guest-posting on a blog or two either…should get around to that.

  12. friendo

    I don’t believe there ever has been, once in human history, a situation where people that come into contact with the West don’t grow to hate them increasingly.

    I can give you a list of examples and various peoples/cultures that have all grown from curiosity and friendliness, to distrust, to outright hatred.

    I think China and the Chinese people, especially Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, Taiwanese and Hong Kongers who have unfettered access to the West’s abominable media, are transitioning from the first phase to the second.

    • “I don’t believe there ever has been … a situation where people that come into contact with the West don’t grow to hate them increasingly.”

      A tall order, I realise, but anyone care to suggest a blog that can bridge this divide?

      If not, I humbly recommend some shock therapy over at foundinchina.

  13. ADM

    Hi Kai,

    I’m new to this game, but the China blogs I check in with daily (and most of these are newer):

    ** Asia Health Care Blog/China Health Care Blog.
    ** Silicon Hutong (David Wolf’s site)
    ** Imagethief (Will Moss’ site, because it’s so precious in its hilarity).
    ** Letter from China (Evan Osnos).
    ** View to China (Geraldine Johns-Putra’s new blawg).
    ** China Law Blog (because of the breadth of issues it covers).
    ** The China Beat (scholarly academic discourse, and lots of book reviews, which I really dig).
    ** Shanghaiist (short, sharp, shock).
    ** Hurting the Feelings of the Chinese People (have you ever seen it?).
    ** china/divide.

    These ten are enough fun for an afternoon and then some! Not to mention fueling you up with China knowledge aplenty.

    I wish more people here would just list the blogs they love rather than writing their own “post-length” comments to your original. This is a comments section, and not a posts section. Jeez…

    Curious: would limiting the length of the comment field prevent ranters from ranting on? Would it somehow compel them to either concisely structure their arguments/rebuttals or perhaps force them to demonstrate a measure of consideration for the rest of the audience who are plainly here to learn from those more experienced than themselves? Just a suggestion…

    This would also avoid the need for us to sift through reams of copy about how angry someone was that the poster in question (in this case Kai) didn’t properly acknowledge what the commenter wrote about what they ate for breakfast four posts ago or some other claptrap.

    Know what I mean?

  14. When will mankind finally wake up and realize that all blogs are inferior to ChinaGeeks?

  15. “the ghoul of the English China blogosphere…”

    So you know what she looks like? But she’s so hot in her photo!

  16. Honestly? I tend to view certain blogs like a neighborhood bar or barber shop – depending on the place and the vistor’s taste, either it is going to be “loud and lively” or “quiet and dull”. On the other end, there are going to be forums sponsored by a national or corporate entity, which come off like a McDonald’s or KFC – but sometimes you can catch a glimpse of how things are doing when the morning coffee kvatch rolls in.

    Let’s face it – the theme song from Cheers does come into play…

    “Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
    Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

    Wouldn’t you like to get away?

    Sometimes you want to go

    Where everybody knows your name,
    and they’re always glad you came.
    You wanna be where you can see,
    our troubles are all the same
    You wanna be where everybody knows
    Your name.

    You wanna go where people know,
    people are all the same,
    You wanna go where everybody knows
    your name.”

    • Bai Ren

      Preach it brother. These blog sites are the bowling alleys of america while the internet cafes are like highways and parkeing lots where the individuals of civil society get ready to enter their chosen domains to interact

  17. For Spanish readers we´ve started Zai China (http://zaichina.net). Someone had to do something in this language :)

  18. King Tubby

    What is this people??? Just hit up Chinasmack and got this message: 502 Bad Gateway
    GreatFire Wall/6.6.6

  19. lolz

    I found most of the Chinese related websites which I read today, including this one and ChinaSmack, from Roland Soong’s EastSouthWestNorth blog.

    I think there are tons of China-related blogs by expats and China watchers but not enough aggregate blogs like ESWN for us to discover what’s out there.

    • I’m not sure ESWN is an “aggregate” blog though he does aggregate coverage on certain things at times. Frankly, ESWN is the less sexy (design-wise), more prolific “translation blog” precursor to chinaSMACK with a liberal dose of Hong Kong and Taiwan statistics thrown in. I think of “aggregate blogs” being something like China Digital Times.

      I’m starting to think of how each major China blog would be related to each other. chinaSMACK could be the hip and cool teenage daughter. Would that make ESWN the somewhat cool accountant of a father…or would that be Danwei and ESWN would be the grandfather?

  20. Maybe most of the time spend on the net is totally a waste because no initial change can be seen. There will always be trolls, and they seem to have the most free time to spend hammering out there 24/7. Maybe we blog, comment for our own egos, to vent our opinions.

    However, each opinion is a reflection of the world, as it is. I don’t go online to look for what is the one right answer. It’s more as to see if what I perceive as the color ‘blue’ is seen as ‘blue’ by others. Some may call it ‘pink’, others ‘red’ etc. And most of the times I can’t be convinced otherwise but well-researched opinions based on a solid, comprehensible facts like yours often are, show me a side that I may not have considered.

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where we’re from, all we can do is to say what we believe in, and in China that maybe takes a little more courage. For those who take it, it will be of value.

    About China-related sites, I have none that aren’t already mentioned.
    Imo ChinaSmack & Co. may initially be about the stuff you don’t usually see/read about China but not less fascinating is the reflection on the English speaking community. Different circumstances but we’re not all that different.

Continuing the Discussion