At The Fourth Chinese Internet Research Conference: China’s Internet and Chinese Culture.
July 21-22, 2006.Singapore.
is a personal blog run by an individual Chinese citizen.The blogger explains how his experience as a consumer of news and
information led him to create the blog in this particular way.His goals are identified and some examples of work are presented.A discussion of the metrics of success is provided.
is a statement from an individual Chinese blogger.As such, I need to present my personal circumstances briefly.
most of the year in Hong Kong.I
am a media researcher by profession (specifically, in print and broadcast
audience measurement), and I have worked as a Chinese-to-English translator in
the United States.
2003, I moved from the United States to Hong Kong, and I started the EastSouthWestNorth blog
).This blog is written in English,
and could be characterized as a traditional news blog – that is, I read many
news articles, I mark the noteworthy ones and I comment.If the article is in Chinese, I translate it into English.The major coverage areas of the blog are media, culture, society and
politics in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.My
goal in running the blog is for neither fame nor fortune, but it is a personal
attempt to bring about a social transformation.
premise is consumer-centric in nature.From
the position of an English-language-only-reading person who is interested in
finding out about China, what are the principal sources of news and
New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science
Monitor;The Guardian, Financial
Times; South China Morning Post, The Standard, China Post, Taipei Times;
Newsweek, TIME, TIME Asia;
BBC, CNN, Channel News Asia, CCTV 9;
BBC World Service, Radio Free Asia, Voice of America
resources decide how attitudes, perceptions and knowledge about China are going to be formed by English-only news
contrast, what are the principal resources for a Chinese-reading person?
In Hong Kong, I wake up in the morning and I have eight
online newspapers to read, covering the entire political spectrum.Every week, I read Next Magazine, Eastweek Magazine and Ming Pao Weekly.That is just for Hong Kong alone.For
mainland China and Taiwan, I use the news aggregators such as Yahoo!
because there are thousands of online news sources.Then I check the Chinese forums such as Tianya Club, MOP, KDNet and Xici
Hutong to pick up the happenings that do not make it onto the mainstream media.Finally, I check the overseas Chinese websites such as Boxun and
ChineseNewsNet for stories that are censored inside China.
have been reading the English-language news and the Chinese-language news on China continuously for more than three years.These are two different worlds.
are these two worlds different?
it is about the speed of information.On
some important national matters (such as an earthquake), the speed is the same.On other matters (especially Internet-fueled news), the Chinese reader
will find out long before the English reader.By contrast, a blog can report in near-real-time.
it is about the breadth of coverage.China is a country with 1.3 billion people.How much does the New York Times tell you about China on a particular day?One or two articles, at the most.To
quote New York Times editor Bill Keller: “That’s not bad.But it’s not enough.”There
are many more things happening that the western media can possibly cover.By contrast, a blog is free to cover as much or as little.
it is about the availability of space.The
New York Times reporter may be given 800 words to cover an event in China.Let
us say a couple of paragraphs is given to the background in the beginning; one
paragraph to interview an expert to give one point of view; one paragraph to
interview another expert to give the opposite point of view; one paragraph to
summarize any conclusions; and that leaves about two paragraphs for the event
itself.Again, it’s not enough.By contrast, a blog has no limit on the number of words.
it is about time, or the attention-deficit syndrome.The western media do not have the resources, space and time to cover a
long-term, slow-developing story with multiple characters and events.Their readers do not have that kind of patience either.By contrast, a blog can continuously cover a topic in a single-minded way
and become the central reference resource.
and most contentiously, the western media have different perspectives and
emphases on what they want to show their readers compared to what people inside China are reading/seeing and care about.There is no right or wrong perspective here, but it ought to be important
to see and understand how the Chinese look at the same event differently.
EastSouthWestNorth is my attempt to bring the world of Chinese-language news to
the English-only-reading world.Maybe
as an individual citizen, I cannot hope to bring all the news over.That would be far too ambitious.I
never pretend that a personal blog could become the replacement of the
English-language mainstream media, but my blog can supplement the
English-language media.My lesser
but achievable goals are (1) to make a difference in specific cases and (2) to
create an awareness that things may be more complex than it seems.
Discussion of Work
are actually some more subtle issues here, and can be brought up by using
areas of interest are mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.There
are three different political systems with different media environments.This means that there has to be different approaches to address the
mainland China, news and information are subject to government
censorship as well as media self-censorship.That plays a huge part, even though it is not the only thing.In the following, examples will be offered to show how the blog performed
with respect to speed, breadth, space, time and perspective.
On August 8, 2005, at , there was an explosion on a bus in the city of
2:42pm, local Fuzhou BBS’s reported the news with
uploaded photos by civilians’ digital cameras.At 3:02pm, the Fujian Hotline website published the
story.At , NetEase.com was on the case; at , Sohu.com reported; at
4:32pm, Sina.com reported.At approximately 5:30pm, EastSouthWestNorth had the first
English-language report. [see Reference ]
October 8, at around 8:30pm, the Guardian reporter Benjamin Joffe-Walt
entered TaishiVillagein Guangdongprovince in the company of activist Lu Banglie.The group was attacked by unidentified persons.The alert went out via a SMS immediately and at 10:20pm, the overseas website Boxun had a brief report.At 11:20pm, EastSouthWestNorth had the translation of the
Boxun report [see Reference ].
April 2006, a post at the MOP game forum was made by a husband denouncing a
netizen of committing adultery with his wife.This would become known as the most popular Internet issue of the year.On April 17th, 2006, EastSouthWestNorth had translated the entire
5,000 word letter [see Reference ].The
story would appear in the New York Times on June 1, 2006 [see Reference ].
On April 22, 2005, the Strait Times reporter Ching Cheong was
arrested in Guangzhouby security agents.Why was he arrested?The
reasons varied depending on the people, time and place.EastSouthWestNorth gathered all the theories and evidence in one place
for anyone interested in sorting things out [see Reference ].
On June 11, 2006, Beijing municipal government vice-mayor Li Zhihua was
relieved of his duties abruptly on account of ‘corruption and
recorded all the various theories from western media and Chinese forums about
why the evidence was said to be incontrovertible.The most convincing case was: there were six hours of videotape of Liu
having sex with various women, and the decision to dismissal was made
immediately after the Disciplinary Committee viewed the film [see Reference
On January 25, 2006 it was announced that ‘Freezing Point,’ a
weekly supplement to China Youth Daily had been closed for re-organization by
the government due to the publication of the essay ‘Modernization and History
Textbooks‘ by Yuan Weishi.On January 26, 2006, EastSouthWestNorth translated the full article
for the English-reading world [see Reference ].The article would have been too long for any traditional western media to
On April 3, 2005, a large contingent of police and security
officers went to Huaxi/Huankantou village and was met violently by as many as
10,000 villagers.This mass incident
occurred without the media being present, but there were also many eyewitnesses.EastSouthWestNorth compiled all the western and Chinese mainstream media,
Internet news and information reports as well as forum discussions and
photographs [See Reference ].There
is enough content to write a whole book.
September 2005, Taiwan legislator and intellectual Li Ao delivered
three lectures at mainland Chinese universities and these received a great deal
of attention.Obviously, western
media can only afford to summarize and interpret these lectures.EastSouthWestNorth translated each of the speeches on the same day [see
September 2005, some villagers in Taishi village, Guangzhou province, began the process to recall their
village mayor by strictly following the constitution and the law.Over the course of several months, there were multiple incidents
involving a huge cast of characters.This
type of event is impossible for any mainstream media to follow.EastSouthWestNorth has the chronology of events in a continuously updated
web page that is 180K in size [see Reference ].
On June 10, 2006, Britain’s Mail on Sunday reported on working
conditions at the Foxconn factory that produces iPods for Apple Computer.The Daily Mirror followed with another report on June 16.Those reports were somewhat suspect because the reporters were apparently
only able to talk to a security guard and a female worker.On June 23, 2006, EastSouthWestNorth translated a report from China’s NetEase portal in which the reporters were
able to visit the factory and dormitory areas as well as talk to factory workers
in detail [see Reference ].
December 2005, the Beijing News newspaper was ordered to re-organize in a way
that obviously implied stricter government control in the future.EastSouthWestNorth translated a series of Internet forum posts by Beijing
News workers which revealed what was happening in their view and how they
personally felt [see Reference ].
Hong Kong has independent and competitive media.About 5% of the population is English-speaking-only, while the other 95%
is Chinese-speaking only or bilingual.There
are two English-language newspapers and about a dozen Chinese-language
is not reported equally in Chinese- versus English-language newspapers.There are some news stories that are initially deemed unsuitable for
publication in English for cultural reasons.However, when a case becomes a phenomenon eventually, the
English-language media will publish something eventually.EastSouthWestNorth serves to fill in that gap by being faster and better.While there are who question whether vulgar and low-brow stories should
be published, one must also recognize that these constitute the mainstream in Hong Kong.
example, in late April, a netizen uploaded a mobile-phone video onto an Internet
forum about a middle-aged man scolding a young man in a public bus in Hong Kong.This
would become known as the Bus Uncle incident.A lot more would happen with the man afterwards.EastSouthWestNorth was ahead of all English-language media on this
cultural phenomenon [see reference ].
most important news inTaiwan is political news, which is best covered and
broken by the Chinese-language media.EastSouthWestNorth
collates the results of the public opinion polls conducted by the media
contribution is the translation of primary documents.
example, it was reported recently that former president Lee Teng-hui asked
someone to send a copy of Lung Ying-tai’s article titled “Today’s Lesson:
Character” to current president Chen Shui-bian because it was relevant subject
translated the article for readers [see Reference ] so the political message
can be determined first-hand by the readers.
EastSouthWestNorth been successful?One
can start off with the quantitative metric of success.For the year 2005, here are the total website statistics:
of hits (15,198,304)
of pageviews (3,601,423)
of unique sessions (2,943,488)
to a daily basis, the numbers are:
of hits (41,638)
of pageviews (9,866)
of unique sessions (8,064)
respectable numbers for a blog, but this is far from mass media.But the blogger really does not care too much about numbers.Everybody knows how to get huge numbers already (hint: post photographs
of scantily clad pretty girls), and the blogger does not care for that.It is the quality of that audience.At
a minimum, from the media attention that the blogger is getting [see Reference
], this blog is well-known among media workers and may influence their
coverage and behavior.Even though
this blog is written in English by a Hong Kong resident, it is regarded as a top blog brand
name in China (see Reference ).
review the limited goals that had been set up previously.The first goal was to make a difference in specific cases.It is possible to list a number of cases in which the blog has informed
and influenced opinion.
second goal was to create the awareness that things may be more complex than it
seems. The blogger should think that
the regular blog visitors would agree that this is offering a more complex
picture of China.This
blog cannot replace mainstream media, but it can supplement them.It has even created the awareness that blogs can outperform mainstream
media in covering certain types of stories.
the larger goal of re-dressing the overall imbalance between Chinese-language
and English-language news on China, it is beyond the capability of a single
citizen.However, this blog seemed
to have raised the awareness for this particular model.If there are dozens or even hundreds similar blogs run by individual
citizens like this one, there will be a social transformation, both in
transnational understanding and media culture.