The Most Popular Chinese Blogger
From Blogger Nation by Sarah Schafer in Newsweek (February 27, 2006 issue):
Like China, everything about the phenomenon is big. At the end of last year, more than 30 million bloggers were registered across the country, more than double the number in 2004, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International. Of course, many of those are users who merely type hello and never blog again. But experts estimate that there are a few million active bloggers in China and that the number is growing rapidly. More than 100 firms provide blog services nationally, up from zero a few years ago. By comparison, the United States has anywhere from 15 million to 30 million active bloggers.
Who are these Chinese bloggers? The most popular of them all is actress Xu Jinglei (徐静蕾) at SinaBlog, and the following is an interview with her in Southern Metropolis Daily.
I Got The Joy Of Expressing Myself: Xu Jinglei. By Jiang Yingshuan (姜英爽). February 20, 2006.
From Xu Jinglei's blog post of October 25, 2005:
A few days ago, a colleague at the company established a blog for me at Sina.com and she said that I ought to go and write something or post some photographs. My colleague Ms. Learned always knows more than I do, about popular songs, or how which Korean stars are hot, or how to manages finances, or how to get foreign insurance, everything ... Since Ms. Learned said that blogging was good, it must mean something. Recently, I re-learned an old truth -- if you listen to advice from others, your rice bowl will be full. Previously, I was not too keen on this saying but I am now very keen.
As a cultural phenomenon, blogging has swept the Internet. Famous young actress/director Xu Jinglei set up a blog at Sina.com. After a brief four months, she has accumulated 11,500,000 visits and her astonishing speed of growth may be said to have put her as the top Chinese blogger. Recently, Xu Jinglei was interviewed by our reporter in Beijing to chat about her life as a blogger.
Reporter: First, let me congratulate your blog for getting past the 10 million visitor mark. This should be something of a miracle. It seemed that it was not your idea to start a blog in the first place?
Xu: Personally speaking, I actually have an instinctively resistant attitude towards things that I am not familiar with. I actually never imagined that so many people would read my blog, because I did not think that I have a good mass base. Why is that? I have not been in television drama for quite a while as I have been moving to behind the scenes. I did not think that so many people would want to read it, so this is a motivating force for me. Actually, everything that we want to do is connected with expression, including movie-making. I want to express what I want to say through movies, and the blog is also a form of expression. I am happy if a lot of people like the movies, and it is the same with the blog.
Reporter: What was your understanding about blogs before?
Xu: Previously, I knew a bit -- they are Internet diaries. I have a friend who was frequently posting photographs on her blog. Strictly speaking, hers was the only blog that I had visited before. For me, a blog was such a concept.
Reporter: Have you completely accepted it?
Xu: I have accepted it. Actually, I have accepted it for some time. At first, it was for fun that I describe my ideas or post a photograph. And then I could publish ring tones, and it became even more meaningful. The operational procedure is particularly simple, unlike publishing or movie-making which are very very complicated. For this, you can write a bit whenever you want to write every day. For example, one day, I just wrote the word "Tired." If you don't feel like writing, you don't. Southern Metropolis Daily asked me to write a column, but I thought that this meant a certain pressure. When I open my eyes, I am going to remember that I owe someone an article. It is a great deal of pressure for me to owe someone stuff, especially since I have so much of this kind of work every day.
Reporter: The advantage of the blog is that you can do as you please.
Xu: Right. If you don't demand it of me, I might write every day. If you demand it of me, I may not write instead. I am like that. The blog fits my personality.
Reporter: Even if you write just one word one day, you still get more than 1,000 comments for you. This is really astonishing. As a pretty actress, it is easy to draw criticisms and abuse, but the comments for you are obviously very clean.
Xu: There are also many criticisms. I kept them there. (laughter) Maybe those people who don't like me never come to my blog to read what I write.
Reporter: What do you think about how other people feel towards your blog or their attention to you? Does this affect your enthusiasm for writing your blog?
Xu: When nobody comes to see my movie, I would definitely be somewhat set back. If people like it, I would be more enthusiastic.
Reporter: Many people don't know you well at first, but they like you after reading your blog.
Xu: Previously, I had no idea how so many people cared about me. It turned out that my mass base was not bad. This is an interactive effect. I am ecstatic because so many people like me. My readers like me even better after reading my blog. But I fell that the happiness that I gained from writing the blog is very important. If I don't like to write, then this becomes a burden no matter how high the number of hits get. But I like to write now and the number of hits is high. So this matter is really quite perfect.
Reporter: For you, what are the differences in feeling between making a movie, giving an interviewing and being a blogger?
Xu: Obviously, there are differences. For example, you are interviewing me now. I was just playing ball before and thinking about something else. So when you ask me a question, my mind is not focused. It is very difficult to explain to you what I am thinking about inside. Basically, I will tell you wherever my thoughts lead me. But writing is different. Basically, I am in an enclosed environment. I had to concentrate for a while first before I write. This is probably truer than when I am being interviewed.
Reporter: Your blog appears particularly true to many readers, including me. It lets people feel that the Xu Jinglei in the blog is more real and direct that the Xu Jinglei who appears in a movie or a press conference.
Xu: This may be a question of personality. I am basically a shy person, athough I have been trained after all these years or else I would really get tense in front of strangers. I always say that I say things to people and then later I have to think just what I said earlier? Basically, I have no idea what I just said. The blog is different. I don't have the burden, I don't have to face others and I don't have to guess why people are saying something. This is very tranquil. Everything that I write is true, and I won't write anything that is untrue. Many times, I needed to say something false, but I have many other channels to say false things. Why would I need to say them on the blog? For example, if I want to create an image, I can use interviews and other opportunities to do imaging better. I value my blog, because I feel that it can let be real and therefore I treat it as a place where I can speak the truth.
Reporter: But if it is the absolute truth, then there may be a problem. (laughter)
Xu: For course, it is impossible to have the absolute truth. When I say something about my opinions on certain movies, I am being quite delicate. Yet, I have still managed to hurt some feelings as I am not a movie critic. I am in the business and I make movies. I know that it is not easy to make a movie, and people in the trade should be considerate of each other. Therefore, absolute truth is impossible.
Reporter: Can you manage to control this so finely? Are you worried about exposing your private life?
Xu: For example, when I want to write about my private life, I can write about the scenery! I may be saying something while meaning something else. The Chinese language is very rich and there are ways of expressing something. For example, I can put a song up because I am expressing a certain mood to a certain person. I can use this song as the vehicle of expression, even though I cannot say it out. I am a public personality, but the other party may not be a public person. I do this out of respect for others. Language can be concrete and it can be abstract. This is the good thing about language.
Reporter: Our colleagues rate you as being like a professional Internet writer.
Xu: Really? (laughter) Actually, I have been looking for a way to express myself. As a business person, I hope to use the business reality to fulfill something that I want to do. I used to express myself by making a movie and playing a role, but these two modes of expression rely to a large degree on the foundation of others. A blog is a purely personal thing. I possess it, and language is my tool. When I write, I am glad to think that I know my language is not up to being a writer and therefore I must be attracting the attention of other people for other reasons. But I did obtain the happiness of expressing myself. I feel very good inside. Of course, there are times when I don't feel good and it is hard not to speak up. I have reached an age in which my desire to express myself is strong and I have many things to say. I am very clear about my viewpoints, but I can only express some of the viewpoints. If I want to be a "good" person, then I can only express what I like and I cannot say too much about what I don't like.
Reporter: Is this some form of resigned acceptance?
Xu: Right now, I can only show this to the public. As I grow older, I think I will ultimately realize full expression. If I want to bring something out, then I need to first believe it is something. First, I have to get it past myself. I want to publish a book right now. Why? For my 10 million hits? For my short few months? None of this is what I want.
Reporter: Many celebrities are writing blogs. All sorts of people. But you have become the leader in the blogosphere. Why do you think is the reason?
Xu: Nobody is a fool. If you treat others as fools and lie to them, then you are the biggest fool. If I want to say some especially false things, then I have slapping myself in the face. Why bother? When I write that I attended a certain event, I can boast about the number of attendees. But I am more attentive to certain feelings. There are many angles to look at the same thing. Otherwise, this becomes a movement report. Many reporters already know what I do, so there is no need for me to repeat it.
Reporter: You have set up a special section in your blog to tell people about some basic knowledge and tips in movie-making. You have offered basic knowledge courses to many readers interested in movie-making.
Xu: Perhaps industry professionals already know what movies are about. Many more people interested in movies do not work in the trade and this is the first time that they have read this type of thing. Movies are my business, and I feel that I have the obligation to tell everybody about what I know. I am not chatting with movie-makers. I am chatting with the spectators. It may seem very shallow, but if you don't tell it, the outsiders won't know what this is about.
Reporter: Will you get tired of writing one day?
Xu: Of course, my readers or my audience may get tired one day too. But I won't because something different happens to me everyday. My life is not repetitious.