English language “China” blogs

If you look here, there are many China blogs out there and the list is only growing. Occassionally, I will browse china.alltop.com to get a sense of what the English language “China” blogs are buzzing about. Recently, I came across this comment on reddit.com:

For true Chinese perspective, not western expat hacks:

Ronald’s one-man show ESWN.
If you are into political commentaries: Hidden Harmonies.
Of course everybody knows the tabloid site ChinaSMACK.

The feeling I get from reading the English language “China” blogs are that they are mostly written by Western expats.


This comment resonated with me. A lot of the English language “China” blogs are extension of the typical Western media narrative. Of course, there are great blogs like the China Law Blog which offers a generally honest and on the grounds view of business law in China. It is rare to find something of that caliber. (Updated February 26, 2011: After seeing personal attacks against Shaun Rein with some of the unsavory characters from the China blogsphere, let’s say I am very disappointed with the China Law Blog. See comments here.)

We’d like to beef up our blogroll. What “China” blogs do you follow and what makes you think they are “great?”

42 thoughts on “English language “China” blogs

  1. Stan Abrams at China Hearsay seems to have very good understanding of China. I believe he is fair. When he criticizes China, he seems to have good intention. I read his blog quite often.

  2. I’ve had exchanges with Kai Pan over at ChinaDivide (where Stan Abrams is also a co-founder). Kai is a really sharp guy. Haven’t had any meaningful exchange with Stan Abrams, except I notice recently he dissing this blog as “nationalists” with brains “chemically imbalanced.” Ouch! What a retarded jerk.

    It appears chinadivide.com has shut down?

    Regarding China Hearsay, I haven’t read anything that’s all that interesting. Fundamentally, the view is still Western. I agree he is fairer compared to the typical Western media. Of few articles I did read, I still feel he is paying credence to the basic narrative.

    This is what I mean. I just headed over there and noticed he weighed in on the Kristof stunt (a day after my post).

    Sure, he adds nuance there. BUT, there is definitely no challenge to the Western media narrative about censorship as relates to China. He is indirectly agreeing with that narrative, despite the fact he didn’t like what Kristof did.

    On one hand, he will chip away at the ignorance. On the other hand, he will reinforce the deep-rooted (and in my view, very bigoted) views at the same time.

    It takes a “Chinese” perspective to confront the latter.

  3. One more thing – I see less of this phenomenon with the China Law Blog for some reason. Maybe Dan Harris is much more self conscious about writing only topics he has personal experience with. Or maybe he can write with a much more respectful tone. Maybe there’s less ideology and politics. Well, a combination of these I guess.

    For those reasons, I think they make for a great bridge between China and the West, though from a Western perspective.

  4. Chemically imbalanced? Damn…

    According to wikipedia:

    Chemical imbalance is a discredited overly simplistic model about the cause of mental illness. Other causes that are debated include psychological and social causes.

    The clinical results seem to include a host of mental issues including “depression” and “schizophrenia.”

    I wish Dr. Stan would have been more specific. Hard for me to fill a prescription with a mere complaint of “chemical imbalance” of my brain…

  5. I am a European exchange student in China until next summer, and apart from student life, I try to show the real (everyday) China rather than the biased, distorted version of China that emerges out of everyday western media reports. You may be interested; just click on my website mentioned at this comment.

    Editor: link is http://dailychina.web-log.nl/

  6. @YinYang
    I’ll check out China Law Blog sometimes. Didn’t know that blog. Thanks. I am interested in reading blogs that promote understanding, friendship between the West and China.

    The minute I see the title says “Egypt, China and Revolution”, I see the bad intention behind it. Maybe it’s just me, who has been living in “the West” for too long.

  7. @Martin, I like your blog. It is revealing and insightful. In many ways, your blog is much more useful than ours. What are your plans after summer?

  8. Regarding Egypt, Tunisia, etc.

    I think there is a nuance to the protests in these nations that many have missed.

    There was a great article on how Al Jazeera deserved much of the credit in fueling the mentality behind these protests. How? Al Jazeera was largely responsible for creating the notion of “the Arab’s struggle”, which is an idea of the Arab people struggling against all sort of injustice, such as their dictators, the issue of Israel, etc.

    Al Jazeera was highly critical of the dictators in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, and how the Western nations supported these dictatorships.

    And the result was that the “Arab’s struggle” eventually coalesced the sense of common injustice in many of these nations, and turned them against their ruling governments.

    *In China, there is simply no such equal prevailing mentality.

    Sure, there are senses of social/economic/political injustice among segments of the population, but so there are among most nations, including France, England, and even US.

    For most Chinese, the fight against “injustice” is not as deep rooted and pessimistic as the people in Egypt, Tunisia.

    Chinese are overwhelmingly optimistic about their government, and confident in their own future and their ability to overcome problems. (as many polls have shown).

    For the Chinese people, the injustice has not come to the point of requiring a “Struggle”.

  9. Hi yinyang,

    I’ve only recently come across Hidden Harmonies, and so far it’s been an informative read. If you’re looking to beef up you’re blog roll may I request that you consider a China blog that I have recently been developing called China Marketing Lab (www.chinamarketinglab.com). CML is a niche blog dedicated to exploring the latest marketing trends in China.

    As your post suggests, a lot of English language blogs are written by expats. I too, am writing CML as an expat living and working in China, but I intend to stick to current marketing and communications subject matter only, and not current affairs. Feel free to drop by CML and let me know what you think.

  10. Regarding Stan Abram’s “nationalist” characture – isn’t Allen Taiwanese? Such generalization offends those who are not from mainland China, never been citizen of PRC a day in their lives.

    Or does Stan think one’s ancestry somehow makes their opinion less valid than his?

  11. @Charles Liu #10,

    It’s a funny thing. When people call me illogical, deranged, stupid, nationalistic … it means I’ve got them cornered: they have nothing to say except to call me names.

    Imagine this: a pro-lifer and a pro-choicer gets into an argument, and one eventually start calling the other illogical, deranged, stupid, liberal, religious, conservative, whatever – does that make sense? Politics in general has little to do with logic – as in math … There are no correlations of each group to logic, intelligence, etc. in general So stop calling each other cliche names. It just shows your ignorance.

  12. @Martin,

    I agree with Allen. I think you have a great blog. Hope you will keep it up.

    @Troy H,

    Thanks for the compliments. I thought I give you a heads up about Shaun Rein of the China Market Research Group. I took a quick read of your blog, and I think you are looking at interesting topics. I read your Manifesto, and I like it.

    You guys should look us up if you end up visiting the San Francisco Bay Area.

  13. @Allen,

    Indeed. It is also along the lines of what Martin Jacque said. The West has not had a need to understand the rest of the world, because it also has the might to completely ignore.

    Dismissing our perspectives on the grounds of “nationalism” is that very attitude Jacque speaks of. People inside China getting upset over the Western media bashing, and the West responds with “growing nationalism.” Go figure!

    And obviously that’s not only in the “Chinese” corner. Look at the Middle East. I just read this article by Soumaya Ghannoushi over at Aljazeera, where she said:

    This is confirmed by a number of studies, such as the one conducted following the Palestinian Intifada by Greg Philo and Mike Berry of the Glasgow University Group.

    The researchers monitored hours of BBC and ITV coverage of the 2002 Intifada, examined 200 news programmes, and interviewed over 800 people about their perceptions of the conflict .

    The researchers encountered an alarming level of ignorance and confusion among the viewers, of whom only 9 per cent knew that the “occupied territories” were occupied by Israel, with the majority believing that the Palestinians were the occupiers.

    This is hardly surprising given the unbalanced coverage and its tendency to obscure the central truths in the conflict: It does not tell us that over 418 Palestinian villages were destroyed in 1948, that their inhabitants were expelled in their hundreds of thousands, that Israel was largely established by force on 78 per cent of historic Palestine, that since 1967 it has illegally occupied and imposed various forms of military rule on the remaining 22 per cent, or that the majority of Palestinians – over 8 million – live as refugees today.

    Reports of the Iraq war do not fare better. The viewer is given the impression that the country’s ills are rooted in its people’s bloodthirstiness and love of self-mutilation, with one sect and ethnicity vying for the other’s destruction.

    The Americans emerge as benign mediators whose role consists in imposing order and preventing the different groups from exterminating each other.

  14. Another perspective example that is of “Western,” which actually pushes forward the same narrative in the biased Western media:

    Here, Shanghaiist.com weighs in on the Super Bowl Groupon ad. The article sounds neutral of the typical Westerner, but there are two items I thought very wrong:

    Groundless accusations about Chinese companies:

    Lay aside everything you’ve heard so far about Groupon’s ambitious plans to hire 1,000 China employees by March and its insistence that it will beat the many Chinese clones that are already up and running here.

    Where does this author get the idea Groupon must have “clones” in China? Couldn’t it be possible that Groupon copied the idea from a Chinese company? Or from somewhere else? It’s rather easy to throw in this kind of nonsense because that’s the echo in the West.

    Below is a clever assumption and purposeful desire for a divided China as often done by the Western media:

    Concerned that Tibetans and Chinese are unhappy with the ad, Kunwar expresses concern about future business, “It makes Groupon look bad, it makes us look bad and it was not the way it should’ve been done.”

    This is like referring to the African Americans in the U.S. as simply “Africans.” The “Africans” and the “Americans” are unhappy with each other. Does that work? All nation states recognize Tibet a part of China. To be correct, the author should have used “Tibetan separatists” or the TGIE.

    Again, “China” blogs of the Western perspectives often reinforces the same skewed narratives. Knowingly or unknowingly.

  15. yinyang,

    Referring to black Americans as “Africans” is offensive insofar as it violates their own preferences to be treated as Americans. Whether Tibetans prefer to be referred to as Chinese, I have no way of knowing, but I see no reason to assume it. It’s true that every national government has found it advantageous to accept the PRC’s territorial claim to Tibet, but that doesn’t change the fact that very few people outside of China think of “Tibetans” as a type of “Chinese”.

    The English word “Tibet” corresponds closely with the Tibetan word Bhöʻ (bod) and “China” with the Tibetan word Gyanak (rgya-nag). Bhöʻ is never treated as being part of Gyanak, which is why the PRC had to introduce a neologism into Tibetan during the 1960s to refer to “China” in the politically correct sense.

  16. @Otto

    I understand your perspective and I am 100% against it. You are of the same Western media perspective that is wrong.

    very few people outside of China think of “Tibetans” as a type of “Chinese”

    And that’s because the Western media pushes this narrative. Never-mind the sovereignty and nation state being a Western lead concept that the world over have accepted. The more powerful West is hypocritical and violate this rule in international relations, because their governments acquiesce to their media’s position.

    Anyways, my point is that English language “China” blogs are often nothing more than the same old Western media narratives.

  17. yinyang, you push the same exaggerated viewpoint that I have seen Chinese commenters point out coming the other way from Westerners: the belief that we are passive brainwashed victims of a monolithic propaganda machine. There is a kernel of truth to this in both cases, but you’re never going to have a meaningful conversation with someone if you begin with the assumption that they are incapable of thinking for themselves. If a bunch of people reach the same conclusion as each other on a given subject, one explanation is that they might actually be on to something.

  18. @Otto,

    That kernel is HUGE. Ask the average Westerner where Tibet is on a map. They will know nothing about Tibet. I bet you many will spout what the Western media propaganda machine narrate.

    But why isn’t my point about this hypocrisy over sovereignty valid? If you are capable of thinking for yourself, I wonder why your programming blocked your ability to pick up on that point?

  19. “the belief that we are passive brainwashed victims of a monolithic propaganda machine”.

    Otto,

    It’s quite clear that your massive amount of assumptions underlying your basic arguments are products of “propaganda”.

    “If a bunch of people reach the same conclusion as each other on a given subject, one explanation is that they might actually be on to something.”

    That, frankly, is yet another false and illogical assumption, compounded upon such other logical fallacies such as “if the majority thinks so, it must be right.”

    *Of course, you used the backdoor phrase of “might”, but you were implying a certainty, not a probability. Obviously, you are not stating the amount of probability as a correlation to the number of people either.

    In fact, the probability of the correctness of any idea has little or nothing to do with the number of people believing it, see Flat Earth in Medieval Europe.

    Frankly, if you don’t see the illogic behind what you just wrote, and never bothered to challenge such similar assumptions in yourself, you just proved how brainwashed you really are.

  20. @r v #24,

    Your response to Otto is so forceful that I was forced to skim what Otto has written (my default is to skip). You make good points, as usual… 🙂

  21. “The English word “Tibet” corresponds closely with the Tibetan word Bhöʻ (bod) and “China” with the Tibetan word Gyanak (rgya-nag). Bhöʻ is never treated as being part of Gyanak, which is why the PRC had to introduce a neologism into Tibetan during the 1960s to refer to “China” in the politically correct sense.”

    Yeah, well, the English word “Welsh” original came from a Germanic word meaning “foreigner”.

    When in fact, the Welsh people were native to England.

    So much for the English language making sense.

  22. “If a bunch of people reach the same conclusion as each other on a given subject, one explanation is that they might actually be on to something.”

    Translation for the newest version of “democratic thoughts”:

    –I’m With the Herd–

    *I can’t help myself. It’s just too painfully ridiculous.

  23. yinyang, the kernel in both cases is huge. Most people in any country do indeed go along with whatever ideas they are handed, so, to that extent they are “indoctrinated” or “brainwashed”. I do think there is a popular misconception among Westerners about the degree of outside indoctrination that Chinese people have about Tibet — I think another important factor is self-interest, that Chinese people perceive certain conclusions about Tibet to be strongly in their national interest, which results in a strong bias (kind of a self-brainwashing). Americans who are fearful of China (or at least uncomfortable with its rise to power) do have a self-interested motive in reaching the opposite conclusions, but the interest is much more indirect so the effect is weaker.

    More importantly, do you really think that the tendency to refer to “Tibetan” and “Chinese” as distinct from each other is limited to ignoramuses and the brainwashed masses? Have you noticed that Melvyn Goldstein, the dean of English-language Tibet studies, consistently refers to “the Tibetans and the Chinese”? What about Pamela Kyle Crossley, who wrote a whole book (A Translucent Mirror) about ethnic identity in China in which she uses “Chinese” to refer to the Han majority? (granted, she doesn’t seem to know much about Tibet in particular, the book’s main focus being on Manchus and Han during the Qing dynasty).

    I wonder why it is okay for yinyang to use the argument, “All nation states recognize Tibet a part of China,” but suddenly it’s false and illogical for me to refer to the opinions of the people who live in those nation-states.

    r v,

    @r v

    r v :*Of course, you used the backdoor phrase of “might”, but you were implying a certainty, not a probability. Obviously, you are not stating the amount of probability as a correlation to the number of people either.

    I was replying to yinyang’s assumption that opinions that differ from his are all the result of propaganda. I was pointing out that there are other explanations for why people might agree with each other. You read a lot more into it than that.

    Do you guys seriously not see how your assumptions that I am either ignorant or brainwashed because I disagree with you contributes to the low quality of discussions on this blog (and even more so on the late, lamented Fool’s Mountain)?

  24. r v :
    Yeah, well, the English word “Welsh” original came from a Germanic word meaning “foreigner”.
    When in fact, the Welsh people were native to England.
    So much for the English language making sense.

    My point was not that English words always or even usually make sense. Just that the conventional English usage of these two particular words would apparently make sense to Tibetans, who ought to be in a position to know what country they live in.

  25. yinyang, regarding your point about sovereignty and hypocrisy, I didn’t really understand what you meant, so perhaps you can clarify. Humans are like hypocrisy-generating machines, so there is certainly plenty of hypocrisy that you could bring up, but what specifically? I don’t think “the West” has ever had one monolithic attitude toward to sovereignty. Instead, opinions have always been varied and nuanced, so I don’t see how “the West” as a whole can be accused of hypocrisy. Woodrow Wilson was a hypocrite for supporting self-determination for white Eastern Europeans only, but others opposed the overseas empires, etc., etc.

  26. “I was replying to yinyang’s assumption that opinions that differ from his are all the result of propaganda. I was pointing out that there are other explanations for why people might agree with each other. You read a lot more into it than that.

    Do you guys seriously not see how your assumptions that I am either ignorant or brainwashed because I disagree with you contributes to the low quality of discussions on this blog (and even more so on the late, lamented Fool’s Mountain)?”

    Otto,

    Your 1 “other explanation”, again, sounded like the product of your “democratic” propaganda. If you could only think of THAT particular other explanation, (that people might be onto the right idea, JUST because they have others who agree), then it is pretty obvious where you are coming from, and how you are unable to challenge your own assumptions.

    If you can think of “other explanations” that are outside of your “democratic” assumptions, we are all ears.

    And just so you know, we don’t assume anything about “democracy”. We understand the concepts quite well, and some of us have extensive practical experiences in the legal system of “democracies”. (For example, Alan and I are both US attorneys).

    Our criticisms of Western propaganda are not mere assumptions.

    My criticism of your assumptions are not assumptions. It’s based upon your own 1 “other explanation”.

  27. Otto Kerner :

    r v :Yeah, well, the English word “Welsh” original came from a Germanic word meaning “foreigner”.When in fact, the Welsh people were native to England.So much for the English language making sense.

    My point was not that English words always or even usually make sense. Just that the conventional English usage of these two particular words would apparently make sense to Tibetans, who ought to be in a position to know what country they live in.

    (1) Tibetans are descendants of migratory people from Mongolia. I doubt they know what country they lived in when they moved into the region and coined those names for places.

    (2) 2 English words from 2 Tibetan words is hardly evidence on status of Tibet, considering how little the Tibetans even knew about their own history (see Sir Charles Bells’ book, stating that most Tibetans were ignorant of their own history, when the English first met them).

    You can derive all sorts of fantasy land country names from fairy tales, that doesn’t mean anything. If English words are full of illogic and fantasies, then how do you attribute accuracy to the Tibetan words? “They ought to be in a position to know what country they live in?” What ridiculous assumption?! After you just admitted that the English words don’t always make sense?!

    Hmm…. Well, you think the English people ought to be in a position to know that the Welsh people are not “foreigners”?! Oh no?

    So why do you have more faith in the Tibetan language (to reflect historical facts accurately) than the English language?! From your own vast knowledge of Tibetan history, or from the Tibetans’ own vast knowledge of their own history (or equally lacking of)?

    So here is your logic, the view of history of Tibet by a people who can’t even tell who is a “foreigner”, based on words of a people who didn’t know their own history?

    No thanks.

  28. r v :
    If you could only think of THAT particular other explanation, (that people might be onto the right idea, JUST because they have others who agree), then it is pretty obvious where you are coming from, and how you are unable to challenge your own assumptions.

    r v,

    You keep responding to things I didn’t say. That isn’t the only explanation I can think of. It is an alternative explanation to establish the possibility that English-language China bloggers might not all be brainwashed. In fact, I don’t think it’s an either/or question. Everyone’s opinions are shaped by a mixture of assumptions that they picked up from other people without questioning them + their own independent reason and observations. Some people do very little of the latter (probably nobody does 0 independent thinking) while critical thinkers do somewhat less of the former.

    I also never said that you don’t understand democracy. Actually, I don’t think very many people (even attorneys) who live in free societies understand democracy very well. You probably understand it better than most. I was referring to assumptions that are made about individuals, not assumptions made about the democratic system.

  29. I also don’t understand what point you are making by talking about the English word “Welsh”. This is not a good example of an English word that “doesn’t make sense”; what it is is an example of an English word that implies an Anglocentric worldview. Etymologically, “Welsh” doesn’t mean “foreigners” as in “not from around here”; it means “outsiders” as “not part of our group”, and was typically applied to non-Germanic-speaking groups that Germanic-speakers came in contact with. The Welsh were just such a group, so the name accurately reflects the Anglo-Saxons’ view of themselves and their neighbors. I think people usually describe their own concepts of their own identities accurately, and in the above case I was making an implication about what Tibetans’ self-concept might be.

  30. “That isn’t the only explanation I can think of.”

    It’s the ONLY explanation your brain automatically went with. and we are still waiting for another explanation, if you can come up with one.

    “I was referring to assumptions that are made about individuals, not assumptions made about the democratic system.”

    Our assumptions about you are purely based upon what you have said in the past (and currently sticking by). We see no changes in your own assumptions, (which are based upon what you “picked up” from the Democratic media).

    Origin of your assumptions confirmed from your own statements.

    *
    ” “not part of our group””

    Well, I guess Welsh people should be independent then, at least from the “self-concept” point of view.

    But then again, “self-concept” is not really equal to historical fact.

  31. You have still failed to understand what I was saying to yinyang.

    As for Welsh independence, I am all for it if the Welsh people want it. In the UK, they have free elections in which the Welsh splittist party, Plaid Cymru, can compete without fear of harassment. Hopefully, we’ll see a similar arrangement in Tibet someday.

  32. “As for Welsh independence, I am all for it if the Welsh people want it. In the UK, they have free elections in which the Welsh splittist party, Plaid Cymru, can compete without fear of harassment. Hopefully, we’ll see a similar arrangement in Tibet someday.”

    Why half-as* the sacred ideals of Welsh “self-concept”?

    You only need the English word to know that Welsh “sovereignty” is a historical fact, isn’t it?

    Now you want them to go through “vote” after centuries of “cultural genocide”? WTF and WTFC.

    Oh, I think your English voting process is a continuation of “cultural genocide”, forcing the Welsh to vote (and live along aside) with their conquerers, being diluted.

    The British government even install puppet masters like “Prince and Princess of Wales”!

    No wonder the Welsh soccer fans riot periodically! Nobel peace prize for Welsh soccer fans!! 🙂

  33. Support the Independence movement of Wales 🙂

    Cardiff City F.C.’s hooligan firm are known as the Soul Crew and have been involved in full scale riots since the 1970s. In January 2002, Leeds United A.F.C. and Cardiff City fans, players, and Cardiff chairman Sam Hammam were hit by missiles during a match, and hundreds of Cardiff fans invaded the pitch after the final whistle to celebrate knocking the then leaders of the Premier League out of the FA Cup.[130] In May 2002, Cardiff City were fined £40,000 by the Football Association of Wales for the events that day. Hammam was criticised by the head of the English Police Spotting teams for his comment preceding the game, which were deemed to be encouraging hooligans. Hammam had said, “It’s better for us to play them at Ninian because the intimidatory factor will be so big… It’s a bit like the old Den at Millwall except ten times more.”

    Hammam at first blamed what he called a “racist English media” for exaggerating the trouble at the Leeds game.

    Hammam also launched “a war on hooliganism.”[130] In October 2004 a BBC report stated that Cardiff had more fans banned than any other Football League club, with 160 banning orders against its fans; showing a clear willingness to stamp out holliganism.[131]

    Despite the club’s small size, Wrexham F.C.’s football hooligan element is known was the front line, and has gained a reputation as being amongst most fearsome ‘firms’ in the UK. The front line has been involved in full scale riots with many of the top firms in the UK, perhaps most notably in recent years with arch rivals Chester City F.C., Everton, Port Vale, Shrewsbury and Oldham. refEverton Port Vale hooliganism at Wrexham

  34. Thank you so much for this blog! To be honest, I’m always a little wary when I read an English-language blog about Asia for exactly the same reasons you speak of.

    Even if the author is Asian, I’m still cautious because of this colonial mentality that seems to exist in a lot of ABCs (and the like).

    Luckily someone recently linked to your blog on reddit and you can’t believe how amazed I was 🙂

    Thanks again and keep up the great work!

    And I’m also glad to see what a great community this blog is pulling in. I’m currently in Taiwan and while my spoken Mandarin is fluent, my reading is spotty so I sometimes need to rely on English-based forums for help—except a lot of those sites are littered with bitter expats. And perhaps as your community grows you can consider setting up a somewhat moderated forum … if it’s not too much work of course 🙂

  35. Thanks for the compliments. And help us spread the word when the opportunity comes. Yes, we want a stronger sense of community around this blog, so we will keep your forum idea in mind.

  36. @Allen Thank you very much for your compliment, and sorry for the late reply. My plans for the summer are first to travel in China, and show my girlfriend’s family and my own around. After that there are three options: graduate at my home university in Belgium, try to run into a job offer in China and start working, or a combination of both.

    I also hope to open up a similar blog as the English languaged http://dailychina.web-log.nl, but the other way around, so in Chinese and about daily stuff in Holland and Belgium. (If I can find the time…)

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