The China-Related Blogosphere: a Deserted Playground

It resembles an experience in a summer camp: you wake up at night and everyone seems to be asleep, just as you feel in the mood for a deck of cards.

I have read a number of posts during the past five years of blogging which said that the English-language Chinese blogosphere was dead. Those who have written this in the past may not write it anymore, because they don’t blog anymore – not about China, anyway. This would seem to suggest that the sphere is now dead and that therefore, there’s nobody who can say so now. The dead can’t know that they are dead.

Can you blog about China without being there? Proably - but it will become a different kind of blogging.

Can you blog about China without being there? Proably – but it will have to be a different kind of blogging.

EastSouthWestNorth, the arch bridge blog from Hong Kong, isn’t dead – there are still updates about Chinese sources at its top. But the last entry was in December last year, about Nobel Prize for Literature laureate Mo Yan.

The China Beat came to an end in July last year, and I didn’t even notice. Chinageeks most recent post dates back to February this year.

MyLaowai, once a great blog that pioneered a rather irreverent perspective on China, is only a shadow of its own past. Few posts, fewer comments, and the ones that do appear there keep me from commenting – it’s not my kind of company.

Generally, those who keep posting usually get rather few comments – that even seems to be true for Beijing Cream, kind of a tabloid for big and small news from China. King Tubby, a man with a blog of his own, but not that much about China, revived the idea – or illusion – of an existing sphere in December last year, but it wouldn’t last. (Some of the comments his posts caught may or may not be an indication why it wouldn’t.)

I realized how calm the sphere has become when I looked at the list of bloggers I interviewed and that I wanted to interview in this BoZhu series. Most who I asked had agreed to an interview and saw it through, nobody flatly declined, and in a few cases, it didn’t come to pass.

I don’t think the sphere is dead. But it is hibernating. It will come back to life once in a while, when something “big” happens in China, but it will never be as lively as it was around 2008. One blogger, Foarp, suggested that the sphere lost much of its activity between 2006 and 2008, when China began to comprehensively block the foreign blogs.

And then, there’s Twitter. To quite an extent, it seems to have replaced blogging – when it comes to the sphere, anyway. It is microblogging where the division between the sphere and its topic – China – becomes most apparent.

It wouldn’t need to be so, C. A. Yeung suggested in an interview in 2011. The difference between the two groups of bloggers could be bridged.

I’d happily participate in bridging the gap if this was still a sphere of blogs in the first place. But nothing on Twitter or Sina Weibo seems to last, most of it looks both chaotic and boring, and I doubt that I’ll ever become a microblogger in this life. Next life, something still hipper (and still more boring) will have replaced the microblogs.But I’m wondering: are there still active English-language Chinese blogs?

If so, please drop me a link. My kind of blogging doesn’t depend on “company”, but once in a while, it would be refreshing to read different perspectives, and to have discussions there.

38 Responses to “The China-Related Blogosphere: a Deserted Playground”

  1. Interesting observations. I mostly miss FOARPs regular posts, he’s a very talented writer and a highly cognitive mind. Will he ever stage a comeback?

    I wonder why you forgot to mention the Peking Duck. It’s true that he hasn’t updated for around 3 weeks, but he’s still alive and kicking.

    As for the Taiwan blogosphere, I believe it’s in transition. Old CSB-era bloggers are dying out, but there are many new ones, especially Europeans, who are filling the gap in recent years. I’m planning to write about that in the near future.

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  2. I’m thinking of the Peking Duck as a blog from the interface between America (or the West) and China, mostly. And apart from the Maoist era (the famine, cultural revolution etc.), it seems to me that stuff on America draws more comments than anything else. So yes, the Peking Duck is alive and kicking, but with a set of topic that makes it much less “Chinese” than what it was before. It seems to me that the commenting is what keeps it going most of the time.

    i have a strong feeling that Foarp will start a blog about Poland once he returns to England, moves on to Finland, or whatever. He only started his blog about China when he was back from China.

    What are CSB blogs? I’m looking forward to your post about the Taiwan blogosphere. Looking at the blogroll at Echo Taiwan (and Echo Taiwan itself), it looks as if it has slowed down, too.

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  3. Timely stuff. Peking Duck’s general menu of GFL and CR retreads is plain boring and one is better served by reading the various histories now available to all and sundry with a library card or an Amazon account. Richard is a pretty good sort in the moderation department, even though I and others have sorely tested his patience on various occasions. However, I remain deeply suspicious of his regular claims regarding his affection for Beijing, the Chinese people, etc, in contrast to its evil Government. It’s just not convincing – walking both sides of the street at the same – to quote. Also, PD is far too reliant on cut and pastes from the usual “authoritative” suspects, most of whom have some relationship with the weblord.

    The Snowden thread is just fabulous, but I suspect my rants there have worn out their welcome and are generally loathed by a lot of readers, so will be giving the site a miss for a while.

    BJC has found its true niche…..something like News of the World with a focus on accidents, disgraceful public behaviour and the most shit awful posts on music of little interest to anyone residing outside Beijing. Thinks its edgy, but is just mindless aural drivel for juveniles wearing those silly American caps.

    The only site I consistently enjoy at the moment is Tea Leaf Nation.

    Another thing which concerns me is the ***lack of libertarian spirit*** and general lack humour on the part of the commenting communities. Leaden prose, little wit and too much earnestness. This is not to say that good research is not appreciated, but an hour daily on google news reader usually fulfils that requirement.

    It could just boil down to one’s view of what purpose does a blog and the comments section serve. Topic wise it is far more satisfying writing about subjects which one enjoys – provides pleasure – even if one isn’t a Ph D on the content. ie my various Japanese stuff. (On musical matters, I claim post-doctoral expertise, however. )

    In terms of commenting, particularly in relation to topics posted on PD and ChinaGeeks for example, I think a warfare analogy is really the order of the day. Forget moderation, take no prisoners and eat the wounded. Its only words in the ether. Your life, marriage and career are not at stake.

    Finally, the Twitter disease. While Weibo provides evidence that some Chinese have the ability to break out of their cultural mould, the western version is a plain dead loss. By way of evidence, just look at the communities and tweets by the likes of Will Moss, Bill Bishop and the rest of the self-appointed big cheeses, which I have done. Talk about an echo chamber of the crucial and self-inflated. A medium strictly for wankers.

    Thanks for the platform, JR.

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  4. Apol. I forgot to add. The ****absolute pre-requisite**** for a really good blog piece is the provision of really good reading/evidentiary LINKS. Six at a minimum and throw in some visuals to sharpen the senses of your readers. This is where a wordpress blog comes into its own, and it also allows one to link in sites which one normally doesn’t encounter, which it to say there are millions of other excellent information sources and great blogs beyond the small well which is the Chinese English blog world.

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  5. ‘”CSB-era blogs” is short for “Chen Sui-bian era blogs”, usually started during the first bigger increase of English teachers in Taiwan (2004-2006), which was coincidentally also one of the heights of personal blogging, especially on Blogspot. There are a lot of blogs like this one: Highly green, and very… dead. More about this in my post🙂

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  6. I found Richard‘s approach rather off-putting, KT – the first line informed the reader that Snowden was a high-school dropout, and later on in his post he endorsed an article which called Snowden a grandiose narcissist. My disapproval (to put it moderately) of such an approach actually prompted me to put the Peking Duck aside for a while – I had written a number of comments, argued for a while and thought that before things might get nasty, I’d better opt out. (Btw, that may be another reason why I didn’t mention PD, MKL – no grudges, but part of a temporary loosening-up exercise.

    I have nothing against cut and pastes from the usual “authoritative” suspects, however – both the links within the post itself, and the commenting section, provided me with an idea of how “liberals” may react when “their” president appears to be under attack. I don’t think that their reactions would have been similar if Snowden had stunned the Bush-jr. administration instead.

    In fact, I believe that even a good president needs support for doing the right thing. Obama wouldn’t be able to pardon Snowden without killing himself and any potential Democrat nominee in the 2014 congressional and 2016 presidential elections at the same time – but if not even some of the grassroots hold politics accountable to certain civil rights, politicians can’t make a difference.

    Topic wise it is far more satisfying writing about subjects which one enjoys – provides pleasure – even if one isn’t a Ph D on the content.

    I agree. That said, I believe that both your and my blog set out from things we are very familiar with. Most accidental readers aren’t, and they won’t read elsewhere just to get to understand what you or I are writing about. This makes good reading for people who are familiar with the topics, but that will be that. MKL takes a different approach in that he wants to introduce Taiwan, rather than writing for people with previous knowledge.

    I might take a look at Tea Leaf Nation later today, but now I’m off to some gardening. Best time of the day for watering. This has been a great summer so far – temperatures rarely beyond 25 degrees c., a good mix of sun and clouds, and sufficient rain. But some of the saplings always need some extra water and manuring.

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  7. I’m not dead, I’m pining for the fjords . . .

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  8. The fjords? That would be Norway, wouldn’t it?

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  9. It’s not fair that FOARP reads your blog, but doesn’t write his. And it’s about time that he visits Taiwan again. I have so many requests, but he’s elusive. I guess Poland is treating him too well😉

    I’m happy for him, nevertheless… I want updates. So how do we solve this in a civilized way, Justrecently?

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  10. Yeah, Foarp could transcribe the Monty-Python dialog, for example – I don’t get what they are talking about.😉

    So how do we solve this in a civilized way, Justrecently?

    That won’t be easy, MKL. Forget moderation, take no prisoners and eat the wounded, says KT. How shall we reconcile these conflicts of goals?

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  11. Aw JR. You were quoted in the HH echo chamber. And for that crime, you are condemned to an additional day of gardening. Also, generally misinterpreted by that archipelago of wisdom as per usual, I should add.

    (Given my latest example of musical wisdom, it’s a wonder there isn’t a petition going round to have me removed from the web for good. Even FOARP could rightfully jeer and probably get away with it.)

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  12. KT, you are really into sowing discord, aren’t you? I’ve seen that post, but whoever wastes time there has only himself to blame.

    Want to really embarrass visitors. James Chance @ Lydia Lunch
    It depends on the time of day.

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  13. That may be a flippant post and the “music” perfectly execrable, but I’m dead serious about gay/trannie rights. And I come at this manifesto, after years working in medical education in the human sexuality department, and for a significant medical department in a major uni.

    While my weakness may be Japanese surfing babes, there are other folks who have different strokes, and really, who gives a rats about peoples sexual orientations.

    This is one HR issue never mentioned in the blog world we inhabit. Oh, and everybody professes to be so bloody liberal, while getting all exercised by Shanghai material girls.

    Furthermore, Richard Burger’s book didn’t produce any news flashes, both for myself and my past students. But the dude is in the process of milking it for every headline possible. Acceptable empirical stuff which is sort of expected after about 12 months research. Equivalent to a good third year thesis in a second tier university.

    Which just goes to show how little serious reading is really undertaken by most of the denizens of the Sino-English blog world.

    (Just wait for my next post on Africa which will centred around this subject.)

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  14. Never noticed that the song had something to do with gay/trannie rights, KT – the cultural and language barrier between German and English apparently blinded me (just as is the case with Foarp’s Monty-Python video).

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  15. Nice to see you again, Foarp.

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  16. Fuckit. Next try.

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  17. That’s what you mean?

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  18. That’s a ranga. And if you want a distasteful explanation, google it. Urban dictionary.
    What’s happening here. I introduce an important issue, and the substance is passed over for CS-type monosyllabic responses.

    And I don’t want to hear any more complaints about the inability of Monty Python to translate across cultures. It was amusing in its day – gaggles of middle class teenagers with long hair and hippie threads gathered around the TV smoking pot – but it has long been consigned to comedy marginalia.

    FOARP. MP and Oasis. This is 2013 for heavens sake.

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  19. Dear King, there is no Problem whatsoever with red hair and redcoats. At the very least, the Military marches were quite acceptable to the ear, compared to the spiritual pollution celebrated in some rather questionable quarters of the Internet.

    Just to make sure:


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  20. @TAIDE. Your choice of movie was serendipitous, since an usher tried to throw our group booking at the opening night of Kubrick’s okay flick out of the theatre for smoking dope. Told the scumbag to take a walk and don’t even think about impinging on our human rights. True.

    Re: my attempt to spiritually pollute the blog world. I hope you don’t think that I’m just another effete and sexually questionable pseudo intellectual. That simply does not square with the fact that today I was promoted to team leader of a fire brigade strike force, which sort of means that I am a Maximum Leader/El Jefe of a fire crew. Very true.

    Think of all the claims to fame made by other web lords and commenters. No competition. They should acknowledge their position in the Great Chain of Being and stick to kitchen duties: washing dishes, baking cakes, etc.

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  21. @Taide – Never been to Gib, but I’d love to go see the apes of The Rock. Barry Lyndon’s a great movie – maybe Kubrick’s finest actually, although I prefer the rendition of the Hohenfriedberger Marsch in the same film.

    @MKL – Probably best way is to have Ms. FOARP (who has now agreed to become Mrs. FOARP) kidnapped and renditioned to la Ilha Formosa. True, I don’t blog as much I used to, but it’s for a very different reason to my previous post-drought in 2010 (which was work-induced), in that I’m too busy having a nice time of things visiting ‘Palaces’ (they’re not really Palaces, but this is what they are called in Polish) looking for a place to hold the necessary ceremony. Right now the palace situated in a town formerly known as “Blüchersruh” is leading the pack, but we still have a few more to see.

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  22. If Taide doesn’t reply today, I’ll decide that he’s been intimidated by your post and washing dishes all day long, KT..

    Congratulations, Foarp, for granting yourself a constitution. On a different topic, I seem to remember that we’ve discussed the Hohenfriedberger Marsch before. (It might not be a good idea to play it during Mrs Foarp’s and your ceremony in Wroclaw, though.)

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  23. A weed-smoking, Kubrick-esteeming Australian firefighter? Maybe Down Under is more European than I thought. I used to associate it with bulimic anorexic models and surfers, but that’s an idea distant family people brought to me.

    I originally wanted to reply with a scene from Sex and the City which plays in a firefighting station, but youtube bars juveniles (unless they “register”).

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  24. Brutal. Thank God for the GDR between Poland and us back then, Taide. This album could have led to a war if they had become aware.

    My Granny loved Heino. She gave me one of his albums as a birthday present when I was a child, and I managed to feign happiness.

    Oh, and no bad words for Blücher, Taide? That’s what I call self-restraint.

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  25. Housekeeping:

    A very big congratulations FOARP.

    Heino. Brilliant guitar intro and then it goes south in a dreadful hurry.

    @taide. You should broaden your horizons with some travel. Australia has quite the best coffee shops and resturaunts in the world esp. Melbourne. Every summer we are inundated/ polluted with European travellers who make asses of themselves on alcohol and leer at our beach babes. A disgusting spectacle as they are all in the throes of sun burn.

    JR and I do share a commonality as we are both gentleman farmers tilling the land and producing honest produce for the heimat dining table. Well, sort of in my case.

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  26. Sun burn is the only difference between Europeans who travel to Australia, and Australians. Like Foarp, you are still a subject of Her Majesty. Foarp, are the rites going to be Catholic?

    King, why should I travel to Australia while there are so great documentaries in Germany? Also, you can find many Australian backpackers coming out of Sukhumvit Road.

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  27. Ich fahr sowieso lieber nach Delmenhorst. Next door, und einfach hinter Huchting übern Graben.

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  28. @ taide. Lets be very clear here. I issue my own passports and I run my own Absolutist State. So forget all about QE11 and the great unwashed who live in England, okay.

    We always export our riff raff overseas.

    And guys, please spare me anymore of your youtube clips.

    I have real, dead serious musical standards.

    And some koala advice. Don’t cuddle the bastards. They are liable to scratch and then urinate on you.

    And on a nice note, I suspect that FOARP is a romantic at heart. And that is probably a good thing in this new and rather desperate century.

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  29. Expect tons of expertise on these pages, KT, but don’t expect taste. My favorite dishes, since ancient times, have been lobscouse, fried potatoes and dried beans. Same with music. I can’t usually tell why I like a tune, or why I don’t, and no apologies for my choices. Maybe I’m a barbarian – but a barbarian with a humane heart.

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  30. @Taide – As a good boy raised in the C. of E., I am of course fairly averse to organised religion of any kind. I will bow neither to Canterbury nor to Rome – plus a registry office wedding is much cheaper and involves much less paper work!

    I used to think there were only two German bands worth listening to. Then I discovered that, despite appearances to the contrary, Ultravox aren’t German.

    Kraftwerk are still good though.

    @JR – Yes, I think the tune might only be mildly better received than the Horst Wessel song – or the Internationale for that matter. Unfortunate that this is the case since it holds none of the ideological baggage of either song.

    @KT – I always thought that a streak of romanticism was part and parcel of an abiding enjoyment of travel.

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  31. “I have real, dead serious musical standards.”

    El Supremo, does Supremo have rum at least for THIS vessel?

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  32. “plus a registry office wedding is much cheaper and involves much less paper work!”

    Wise decision. I only went by this rule on my SECOND try. Advice: Buddhist ceremonies CAN be cheaper and more Relaxing than monotheistic ones. Wish you a happy marriage.

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  33. Ultravox, nice memories. Concerts and the daughter of a British garrison officer who gave me a transparent vinyl record. But that was when I was sixteen. and I grew up since, and got past Ultravox.

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