Chinese Blogs Have Unique Chinese Characteristics
[Note: Lu Qiu Luwei is a star reporter for Phoenix TV and she is currently on sabbatical leave to study in the United States. Meanwhile, she runs a popular and esteemed blog at Sina.com.]
(Rose Garden 闾丘露薇的BLOG) The Unique Chinese Characteristics of Chinese Blogs. December 6, 2006.
I have been watching the development of blogs on mainland China. After all, I am one of them because my blog is hosted on a server located in mainland China. During this period, I have communicated with certain experts in the field, certain people in the industry as well as certain regular citizens. I have come to realize that Chinese blogs have strong Chinese characteristics.
First of all, it is very difficult for a Chinese blog to be noticed among the millions of them without the support of a commercial website (namely, posting your blog post on the recommended list on the home page). If you are recommended and your blog post has an attractive title, then your hit rate will suddenly soar. But in the eyes of the experts, you are still not yet a 'powerful blogger.' To become a 'powerful blogger,' you must have many other people link to you in order for you to get a steady group of readers. Through linking, more and more people will be reading your blog. That is the original design. But in China, linking and using tags are not popular. Thus, blogs become websites to post personal essays and photographs. I am an example. I began to link to others only after listening to the advice from the experts.
But mainland China does have a group of 'powerful bloggers.' These are young people and they consider themselves to be grassroots bloggers. Through linking, they have built a sizeable circle. I admire them because they even organize conferences. They seem to be a group of very thoughtful young bloggers. Here, I must thank Keso for his debriefing on this subject.
Next, I find that blogs are blurring the line between the private and the public. At first, we have the bloggers from the public security sector. Then we see the local government officials starting their own blogs. There is a report that one local government leader is telling his underlings to voluntarily start their own blogs. The goal is to enhance communication with the people. But that is something that I don't understand. What is the purpose of the official government websites that already exists? Could it be that the special phone lines and mailboxes do not serve their purposes? Also, when a government officials uses his real name to blog, how are people going to be able to distinguish whether his expressed views are official views or personal views? What is the trade-off for the time and effort required to read and write blogs in a serious manner?
Many overseas politicians have blogs. The influence of blogs upon elections is quickly growing, as witnessed in the mid-term elections in the United States. But you should not forget that these politicians still need to use different methods to win the votes and create their images among the voters. As for public opinion, they have specialized channels for collecting information and feedback. The blogs of the politicians are more likely used for public relations.
A blog is a means. It may be new, but the nature of the problem has not changed because the politicians still need to get the votes. The mainland government officials are hoping to enhance communication with the people. The means may have changed, but unless there is a system in place, this will be just another noisy political show.
Also many people like to turn blogs into spaces where they can insert advertisements for free. I have even seen advertisements for machine tools in the comment sections of blogs with low hit rates. It seems that the Chinese people are smart and agile, and they immediately come up with an idea that does not cost anything.
Blogs give ordinary people the chance to express their views whereas traditional media had the right to determine speech rights. I mention traditional media because I feel that when a blog gets more than 100 readers, it can be considered a small media outlet with the ability to disseminate information. These 100 people do not live in the same community because they are distributed throughout the network. The information can be propagated around them wherever they are. Therefore, if blogs are regarded as personal diaries and if they are left open to the public without password protection, then they cannot be considered private diaries.
We can see that there is interaction between traditional media and blogs in China. Many news stories began with tips from bloggers. Of course, when a traditional media outlet publishes such a news story, it will have to observe journalistic ethics and standards by verifying the information. Then it must make a fair and balanced presentation, as opposed to taking sides. Yet bloggers do not have similar requirements. When mistakes occur, they can ignore it because this is their personal space. I used to think that way too, with respect to spelling errors or slips of the pen that netizens point out to me. But after more than a year of blogging, my experience is that the influence of bloggers is sometimes even greater than traditional media. So at this time, can we still write anything that we want and hold on to that attitude? We need to seriously think about this. I'm personally thinking about it and I want to know what you think.