Coming Soon: the Bozhu Interviews

A blogmaster (博主, bózhǔ) is just a blogmaster (博客的主人, bókè de zhǔrén), explains the Baidu Encyclopedia (百度百科). This is almost certainly correct, even if I prefer to be just a blogger.

Among all China blogs – commonly referred to as the China blogosphere when people are talking about those in English – there is probably only a handful (maybe two) which will be familiar to most China bloggers. That’s not going to change, and I don’t quite share the feelings of a commenter who once wrote:

God, I hate [in your mind, add the name of a well-known China blog here – JR] and would like to off-with-prejudice a certain cross-site mafia which exists.

If I wanted my blog to be as popular as the one originally mentioned in the quote above,  the least I’d owe my readers would be my real name. God forbid. Secondly, all kinds of trolls would happen upon what is intended to be a beautiful blog after all. And thirdly, even if I’m a prolific blogger, I have to keep to certain time limits, and I wouldn’t want to waste my breaks and spare time on moderating people who keep bitching at each other (or at me).

But that doesn’t mean that I find the situation entirely gratifying. The commenter quoted above had a point in that some inbreedinglinking certainly helped the big China blogs to become big.

Therefore, I feel that once in a while, just like some of the really big ones do, the SMB (small- and medium-sized bloggers), too, should treat each other as if they were celebrities. You know, talking to each other, referring to each other (rather than only to the queens of the blogosphere), quoting each other, and interviewing each other.

The Confucian Cable Tree: Microphones give better Face to SMB

The Confucian Cable Tree: Microphones give better Face to SMB

Now, JR has been always very generous with links and referrals to other SMB. But he has also felt that this still wasn’t good enough.

So, this week marks the beginning of an intermittent run of interviews with other bloggers, who write about China, or about what China thinks is Chinese (i. e. Taiwan, Turkey, or the United Kingdom and its former colonies, etc).

The first interview partner is an obvious choice. MyLaowai has inspired JR to start blogging himself, and has favorably replied to a request for an interview which should be online shortly.

Stay tuned.

12 Responses to “Coming Soon: the Bozhu Interviews”

  1. JR. I don’t mind being attributed to that indented quote, and I stand by what I wrote. Hope to name names and generally be a bit obnoxious in that regard some time in the future

    The interviews are a fabulous idea and I look forward to reading them.

    My interests are drifting a lot, since I would like more attention being paid to Sino-economic and enviromental issues, as they will determine the future trajectory of China in the last instance.

    A lot of commentary on the common blogs is becoming pretty repetitive to my mind. Perception wars

    Economic analysis is far more time consuming and can involve skill sets which not all of us (me in particular) simply don’t have.

    That said, I admire the manner in which you routinely turn out analysis and commentary.

    Responsibility Anonymity is an absolute prerequisite. (Stuff I write on music and film is as much for my benefit as for my miniscule number of readers).

    Other than that, I owe you a decent response to your thoughtful medium/message post.


    SMBs – love it.


  2. The penny just dropped. My Loawai is certainly an extremely courageous first choice.

    And while promoting SMBs, I strongly recommend not so much for the text which I skim, but for the excellent photography.

    Kai Pan is definitely a worthwhile interview subject. Have a high regard for him.


  3. (Stuff I write on music and film is as much for my benefit as for my miniscule number of readers)
    This won’t keep my questions from coming to you, sooner or later. I have a number of other questions about your blog, too.

    I would like more attention being paid to Sino-economic and enviromental issues, as they will determine the future trajectory of China in the last instance.
    I’m no expert either, but I do know a good deal about (business) administration, and one can’t think about SMEs without considering the environment they operate in. I think we had an argument about China’s future trajectory, and what drives it, before. “It’s the economy”, but not only that. I seem to understand that political volition matters, too – both in China, and elsewhere.
    But I agree that simply focusing on volition can easily lead to perception wars, and to repetition. Besides, whoever keeps discussing the superstructure and leaves the base out of the account, does so at his own risk.

    And yes, I like the term “SMB”, too. Besides, it rhymes to cable tree.


  4. For what it’s worth, the China Blog Awards were very good at shining a little light on the smaller blogs. I don’t know of a single small blog that didn’t see some benefit from that. As for referencing one another, I’ve noticed that it is the smaller, newer blogs that are the best at doing that. Kudos to them. Us older folks could draw some lessons from them.


  5. Smaller and newer blogs probably read more, than us elders…


  6. A preliminary comment: I am becoming more committed to the idea of free ranging blogs simply because one can write about ones enthusiasms… (and yes, I have a lot of high art tastes/jazz and Italian opera than the garage trash I scribble about) and movies (Japanese in particular). I feel that the need to constrain oneself to China matters ends up – a least in the commentary, but not reporting/translating matters, in the cul de sac of repetition. Look how Custers site has deteriorated. There is still some hope for PK, maybe. God, I find more fun scrolling through Chinasmack of late, plus some of the sites on Loawai Times blog roll.

    Anyway, like others, I have to devote my internet time to three different activities, so why not go with ones enthusiams.

    To the base/superstructure argument. I would be the last to ignore the determining nature of political direction in the chinese economy. My point about the economy being determinate in the last instance is this. Beijing has structured its economy in such a manner – favouring its SOEs with sweet heart loans, massive and generally useless excess of public infrastructure as an employment creation mechanism, focus of trade driven export, etc. – all of which play out at the provincial level. Net result: even greater dependency on provincial land sales to service debts in ever more creative ways.

    Try this really wothwhile read:

    My point. Sooner or later (timing I will come to) China will hit the wall of economics 101. Excessive debt and the model of economic development followed to date will play out in the economy.

    All the discussions in the world about the primary of Human Rights issues will amount to so much verbiage when the game of hide the black hole of company, bank, rail corporations, and other forms of debt IS EXHAUSTED. The economy is the determining factor in the last instance.

    As for the internet mafia idea I mentioned: now that is an enthusiasm worthy of a lot of key board activity.

    Finally, my prediction. The strong signs of an impending very hard economic landing will coincide with the London Games in 12, when I also predict China will get a crap gold medal count.

    I suspect that you or FOARP will counter with the suggestion that will also be the time when Beijing ramps up its nationalist rhetoric vis a vis or or other of its near neighbours ie sabre rattling for domestic consumption. I just don’t see it . Aside from a few tenured nitwits at Fudan uni, the generality of folk in china are not particularly nationalistic. (The PLA however is a moot point.)

    God, I sound like a self important prat here, but what the hell.


  7. KT: It’s nice to see that more than a year after Victor Shih of Northwestern University put this to the international press, the English-speaking media are awakening to these grim financial arrangements, too. It seems that back then, it was mostly the Chinese-language media (BBC Chinese, Deutsche Welle Chinese, etc.) were interested in this story. Same when it comes to Huang Yasheng of the MIT – several posts here. He pointed out in an interview with Nanfang Daily that

    India’s investment only amounted to 50% of China’s[…], but still created still economic growth that amounted to 80% of China’s economic growth.

    And now, two days ago, Reuters begins to point out that

    China is also vulnerable to a global downturn, and would need every piece of its economy performing well to avoid a serious slump.

    Just as MyLaowai says, there are articles about China that have not done any homework, are typically written by people who have not lived in China for an extended period, and tend to quote existing stock phrases without understanding.
    Seems that too many articles are written by interns who came in fresh from university, without a previous trip abroad.

    Which isn’t something I’d target at you. I think your comment makes sense, and you definitely have a point in that not all Chinese people are nationalists – in fact, the nationalists are only the most perceptible bunch of people. But that doesn’t mean that the propaganda department can’t condition people of more moderate tempers. The propagandists turned the table quite successfully in 2008 – people who themselves rather resented the Olympic Games as an unnecessary luxury previously, would become ardent supporters of the games, and defend them against “hostile foreigners”, once the Great Firewall was partly removed, and the poor innocent Chinese souls exposed to the “foreign hatred” or “twisted coverage by foreign media”. The CCP is good at creating perceptions, and they know how to manipulate hurt Chinese feelings. They also know how to create a siege mentality – not only among the usual suspects, but among those who’d otherwise try to keep a sound distance between the CCP and themselves, and among otherwise moderate people.

    But that aside, while some of the aftermath of impending financial defaults within China (after all, the creditor-debtor relations are mostly a domestic affair) will be ugly and even dramatic (and it’s easy to excite the Chinese public, both willingly and unwillingly, isn’t it?), it still won’t spell comprehensive economic collapse. The real structural problem in my view is the one which Huang Yasheng and the Reuters article you linked to describe: the misallocation of capital. That however is a malfunction China has lived with for decades, and will continue to live with. These have been seemingly golden decades – but never as golden for the average Chinese as our media kept suggesting. The future isn’t as bleak as they like to suggest now, either. The crux will be if the center, i. e. Beijing, will manage to turn the coastal provinces into investors, and consumers, in their domestic relationship with the hinterland which still has quite a potential to grow economically, as export keeps dwindling. I have my doubts about their ability to tap this potential for growth from within China – but it is an option, and could be a way out of the current economic straits.

    If they managed to do that, it could be a turn to a more sustainable pattern of growth than what we’ve seen so far.

    Import substitution could be on the cards, too. There has been some public discussion in China about leaving the WTO more recently (leaving may be a prerequisite for the protectionism import substitution would require). The pressure that would stem from having to do your own R&D, rather than simply importing it, could help innovation. So, there is an underlying rationale underneath the “we-are-victims” talk here, too. Foreign bad, Chinese good is essential artwork for anything you wish to sell in a Chinese debate. But that doesn’t mean that a protectionist position in itself couldn’t make any sense.


  8. JR Long reply and many thanks. As I don’t have any translation skills, I am in no position of strength to comment on the relationship between CCP propaganda outlets and Chinese nationalism.

    I was focussing on the the manner in which provincial revenue was raised and then spent on poor quality and/or useless infrastructure or face projects.

    That link I provided was a good update on Victor Shih’s initial provincial govt debt argument. I have linked his calculations in so many posts (chinadivide, previous blog) that I’ve have lost count. As well as John Lee’s very similar arguments about the structural constraints within the Chinese economy that prevent the possible recalibrations which you just described. Plus mention of the grey economy which plays such a big role for domestic business enterprises (mostly SMEs). Perhaps I should have been more systematic in my discussions, but I lack the writing discipline.

    My 2012 prediction of a hard landing should not be equated with the idea of a total collapse, complete social chaos or some such similar armageddon scenario.

    Rather, bad loans will have to be written off in a very significant way, combined with large scale business closures and a spike in unemployment, etc, but families will still have dinner together and children will continue to do tons of homework.

    One thing is certain: the pharaonic attachment to gigantic building and/or infrastructure projects will take a very big hit, and I think that aware Chinese commentators are already mentally preparing themselves for this eventuality. Think about a lot of the social media comments which followed the Wenzhou train crash.

    I have yet to find a good article which describes what a hard landing would mean in very practical terms.

    Hegel: China ‘vegetating in the teeth of time”.



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