Bad Editing

This is good for a laugh. God bless the Global Times.

I just clicked through nearly all the blogs in the “Pearls of the Orient” section over on the left and see that our entire blogosphere is all but dead. How did a once thriving community dry up like this? This China blog seems to be doing the best job of staying current. Most of us seem to be putting up one post every few weeks at best. It’s sad to see what a sorry state we’re in. And I’m the worst culprit of all.

Update: It’s been pointed out to me that this blog, new to my blogroll, also updates frequently.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 13 Comments

Perhaps the Global Times was attempting a historical witticism: Pope Gregory the First on a bad day.

As for the quiescence of the sino-blogosphere, it feels like one of the phases in the I Ching.

July 29, 2012 @ 9:27 am | Comment

@Richard. JR is more regular in his posting than an atomic clock.
He has about one off week per year and then he falls back with a column on the Krazy Kat Kult he is attempting to spread in the virtual world.

That aside, devoting ones blog expression to China matters 24/7 is a recipe for lunacy and incarceration in an asylum. Blogging or posting has to remain a pleasurable activity, and that can only be maintained by scribbling about a host of other matters. An all-China diet makes Jack a very dull and boring lad indeed.

July 29, 2012 @ 10:36 am | Comment

I hear you, KT, but back in the day, before Facebook and Twitter, I and my co-bloggers used to put up as many as five new posts a day and my site traffic was five times what it is now, I miss the good old days, when you spread the news via blogs and not social media.

July 29, 2012 @ 11:50 am | Comment

Richard. I wouldn’t go near social media with a barge pole, and fb etc don’t provide any depth, detail or analysis when it comes to current affairs, China, etc.

More to the point, folk are probably all China-ed out. Very few surprises whatever the Sino-topic, and you could probably write an op piece and put it on hold until the corresponding PRC govt, media, social or political event took place. With the exception of the Bo/Gu mini-series, China is by now totally predictable.

Break the mold. Put up a piece on something totally unrelated.

And pls, no more James Fallows. He doesn’t inform….mostly empty verbiage and over-inflated reputation.

Respectfully, and I wonder what other folk think about Fallows and his China punditry.

July 29, 2012 @ 1:27 pm | Comment

Thanks for the link, Richard – even if only one-fifth of former traffic, it seems to be quite a generator. Maybe China has become a too unpleasant topic, in many bloggers’ view, to be thought about and written about several times a week. But if it’s nothing to blog about, I’m wondering why it should be something to tweet about. Besides, I seem to remember that Foarp once wrote that the foreign Chinese blogosphere took its first blow when censorship on blogs stifled most commenting among foreigners within China.

KT, there’s no kat kult going on here – it wasn’t even my idea to allow them into the house. But they are nice, photogenic animals, and you don’t need to walk them. Besides, they keep the mouse population down.

I read U.S. News & World Report when I was a teenager, and I understand that Fallows is also a radioman. It might be a mistake to judge a journalist only by what he’s posting on a freely accessible blog. Besides, once in a while, he discusses real issues.

Print media continue to matter, and I guess there’ll either be a trend to a more “walled” internet (in terms of online subscriptions, to sustain the real press), or the “Global Times” will become a (relative) quality paper.

July 29, 2012 @ 2:29 pm | Comment

@Richard – We’ve discussed this a lot of times, so I’ll say it again – the problem is not social media,the problem is censorship. Blogs are for communicating with people you don’t know, but the China blogs cannot reach their prime audience (China expats and people living in China) because people cannot accidentally find them through e.g. Google/Baidu searches (which is how most people will come to a blog) as they are almost all blocked. Sure, tech-savvy people know how to use a VPN, but not everyone is willing to pay for one, and you still have to load the thing up.

Look at e.g.,the Taiwan blogs for an example of a blogging community that is still going strong.

July 29, 2012 @ 6:58 pm | Comment

@Foarp: when looking at my blog’s traffic statistics from 2009 to 2012 (every year’s first six month, January to June), there was an increase in traffic of 42 per cent in 2010 (on 2009, an increase of 22 per cent in 2011 (on 2010), and a decrease of 18 per cent during the first half of 2012 (on 2011). From my incomplete observations, WordPress was unblocked in March 2009, and blocked (again) in June 2009. It was unblocked once again in August 2010, and blocked again in November 2010. Even at times when unblocked, most people who commented did so from outside China, or from Hong Kong. And the two people who regularly read in mainland China, and commented from there, had to use a VPN most of the time.

So it seems to me that the firewall can’t be the only explanation for a loss of 18 per cent in traffic from 2011 to 2012. Above all, I only started blogging when free access from China had become an exception, rather than the rule.

July 29, 2012 @ 9:23 pm | Comment

Tis was raining today and last week too

Song of the Article

Rain Watcher
-Wang Wen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b39GOWIsRL0&feature=share

in Dalian
五毛党

July 29, 2012 @ 11:43 pm | Comment

KT, no need to knock James Fallows, one of my favorite commentators on China. You don’t like him, don’t read him. Respect my right to cite him as a valuable source of insight.

Gil, we have discussed whether blogging has a future, and you rightly argued that there are things blogs can do that social media cannot. Very, very true. Good blogging goes into depth, and it can tell stories and paint pictures with words that no other medium can.

My point here is that our blogosphere seems to be on life support. ESWN, once one of the most prolific bloggers, used to put up multiple posts every day. China Geeks was updated regularly. Until yesterday you hadn’t put up a new post for nearly two months. One of my once-favorite blogs has dried up completely. This one’s posts are down to a trickle.

This affects my own blogging. Many, many of my posts in the past were discussions of other blog posts on China. There was always a lot to choose from, but not anymore. People seem to be doing different things. The Taiwan blogs are going strong because they have a cause. I put up the most posts when I had a cause, too, namely that the CCP was mainly a bad institution. My attitude toward this is now more nuanced, and I realize that posting every bad thing the CCP does (which I used to do) gives an incomplete picture. With the blogs in relative silence, material for good blogging on China seems slender, especially for me in the US, where obviously I can’t chronicle my daily experiences in China as I used to.

I’ll keep plugging along, but I miss the days when these blogs interacted with each other and were part of a robust community. Now these conversations have shifted to Twitter and Facebook. These may be limited media, but that’s the bottom line — old-time bloggers do most of their writing and link sharing over there, and that trend is growing. A real shame, but that’s progress, I guess.

Once exception is this relatively new blog, which somehow manages to put up fresh new content that’s really great. I don’t know how they do it. Who has the time?

July 30, 2012 @ 2:11 am | Comment

I actually haven’t been disappointed with the China blogosphere over the recent months. I find that whenever my RSS feed is empty, I can check twitter, and my favorite China bloggers usually have references and links to a dozen different articles by individuals of whom I’ve never heard before.

I’m actually glad that there aren’t three new posts everyday from all of my favorite bloggers, because I would have no time for anything other than reading China blogs every day. For me, one or two a week is perfect.

Of course, the landscape changes. While ESWN used to be the heart of things, times have changed. There are new blogs out there, and some of them are of excellent quality. I love China Digital Times as my core news source for China news.

July 30, 2012 @ 2:44 am | Comment

@Joe Lemien – Here’s the thing: CDT used to be distrusted as pure propaganda whilst ESWN used to be considered fairly reliable – but now the roles have reversed a bit. I still don’t trust CDT entirely though.

@Richard – A lot of fair points there, to which I’ll add one more: we (or at least, I) have gotten quite cynical in the past few years. Looking back on my post on the protests at the torch relay through in London in 2008, I was struck by the thought that, yes, I had been genuinely angry at the time, and I had wanted the whole world to know it.

No more. Even the self immolations in Tibet don’t seem to draw much comment. Whilst, philosophically speaking I can condemn both the immolators and the people they are protesting against, I cannot raise any genuine ire about it, because it just seems both pointless and part of a seemingly never-ending cycle.

It is instructive to look at what websites are doing alright – The China Daily Show, ChinaSMACK – both awesome websites, but both feeding to a degree on cynicism on the direction in which China’s going. Again, no criticism of either site (if you want to see passion, go see ChinaSMACK’s translation of Li Chengpeng’s essay on the floods in BJ) but as a group the China bloggers have become incapable of working up much in the way of either anger or enthusiasm about goings on in China. We (or, again, at least I) no longer get angry, we no longer believe that things are going to change any time soon.

I’ve also given up believing that it’s possible to change the minds of people with opposing views when they believe in those views as articles of faith, or that there’s much that can be learned from discussion with them. The back-and-forth that happened on blogs like Fools Mountain now seems titanically pointless, simply because it now seems silly to believe that the minds of dyed-in-the-wool fenqing can be changed or there is anything to learn from them that cannot be gleaned from the pages of China Daily. Hidden Harmonies still posts most days, but it’s always the same old dross.

After the Bo Xilai scandal, which made headlines around the world but which only lead to mostly humorous and ribald (and spot-on) commentary on the China blogs, I wonder if anything could really shock the sino-blogosphere any more. I remember being both bewildered and angry by the things that happened during the 2003 SARS epidemic, but if the same thing were to happen again, almost ten years later, I doubt I would be all that surprised or inspired to write much about it.

July 30, 2012 @ 5:44 am | Comment

PS – Here’s the link to that Li Chengpeng piece, definitly worth reading:

http://www.chinasmack.com/2012/bloggers/li-chengpeng-beijing-rainstorm-reveals-humanity-and-truth.html

July 30, 2012 @ 5:49 am | Comment

After the Bo Xilai scandal, which made headlines around the world but which only lead to mostly humorous and ribald (and spot-on) commentary on the China blogs, I wonder if anything could really shock the sino-blogosphere any more. I remember being both bewildered and angry by the things that happened during the 2003 SARS epidemic, but if the same thing were to happen again, almost ten years later, I doubt I would be all that surprised or inspired to write much about it.

Again, I really think the big death knell for the China blogosphere isn’t so much the cynicism but rather the shift of focus to Weibo. Like it or not, Weibo is the Chinese internet gestalt right now. And on Weibo, the most popular topics aren’t perceived injustices, but rather things which are “hot”–easily digestible soundbites that fit prevailing thoughtcurrents in Chinese social media. Serious blogging doesn’t fit well into this model–and it’s pain that’s not just felt by China blogs, but blogs everywhere–I remember a recent article about how the average HuffPo article is built for generating traffic rather than quality journalism.

That doesn’t mean mass action through the internet won’t happen, though. What it requires will be an event which all Chinese netizens feel as if they are direct participants in. Bo Xilai, Chen Guangcheng, Ai Weiwei, demolitions–they’re all construed as “other people’s problems.” The environment and corruption are too vague. Even localized disasters and incompetence, like flooding and earthquakes, are not that big of a deal. And inflation is far too much of a chronic and non-acute problem to truly go “viral”.

The true acid test will be when a national, acute issue pops up–such as nasty weather causing a massive shortage in Spring Festival train/airplane/bus tickets. Then I can see something that could shock the blogosphere/social media into action.

July 30, 2012 @ 6:42 am | Comment

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