First, some comments on the “Typical” English China blog
We got a very gratifying comment via email from a reader that ended with a little humorous jab at the English China blogosphere:
stumbled across this blog by chance … and now i’ve been here like four hours and can’t leave. thanks a lot for the hilarious insight and much-appreciated departure from the standard white-dude-in-china blogs. :)
First, I appreciated the props because Kai had just gone through a major redesign of the site. Second, I had a chuckle at the “white-dudes” comment…and since my inner dude is just as “white” as some of those “white-dudes” (and in fact many of them speak/read/write Chinese helluva lot better than I can), I’m allowed to laugh along with them, right?
We got another comment from Leo on our post about English China blogs increasingly translating Chinese fora:
I’ll give the English language China-themed blogosphere more respect when it’s more than just a bunch of white guys from a few countries, writing pithy rebuttals to the NYT, CNN, etc; and who tended to see China in monolithic qualities (frequent posts on China as a herd or group, rather than giving cities their own personalities, understanding regions beyond food, etc)…
So I looked at my China blog roll and for the first time stopped to think about the fact that a large number of the blogs, and indeed most of the exceptional English China blogs, were written by “white dudes.” But more so than this, I was also struck by the consistent focus of so many of these blogs: current events, politics, media, business, commerce, law.
“Typical” English China Blogs can be edifying, but weighty
Instead of profiling blogs by race of author, I’d instead observe that many of these “typical” English China blogs tackle weighty issues that really force you to think. I have these blogs on my blogroll because they really advance my personal course of study on China’s society and economy, and I fully intend to inflict CNReviews readers with such “serious” posts if it achieves my selfish purpose of clarifying my own thinking on issues I care about.
I have a lot of gratitude and respect for Dan Harris, Jeremy Goldkorn & Joel Martinsen, Sam Flemming, Rebecca MacKinnon, Thomas Crampton, Benjamin Joffe, Rich Brubaker, Will Moss, James Fallows, John Pomfret, David Wolf, Michael Pettis, Adam Minter, Richard Burger, George Godula, Gang Lu, Tangos Chan, Stan Adams, Jeremiah Jenne, Scott Sykes, and many others. But sometimes it just takes too much brainpower to follow everything you’re saying.
My shameful blogger secret: sometimes I secretly skip my Danwei feed!
Here’s a confession: more often than not, after a long day at work, I find myself secretly and shamefully avoiding my Danwei RSS feed (and yes, its always Danwei I feel most guilty about avoiding) to slouch over to the chinaSMACK RSS feed for a short, guilty, voyeuristic blog snack. That’s what this post is about: where to get an interesting, spicy blog snack to make your English China blog experience more tasty.
Ten Eclectic China Blogs you should follow
The answer to English China blog fatigue is to start following some Atypical China Blogs. And, yes, some of the best are authored by “white dudes” (although some of them may in fact be “fake foreigners“…Adam Schokora comes to mind). Here they are, in reverse alphabetical order:
- Stylites in Beijing
- RedBox Review
- Expatriate Games
- China Youth Watch
- 88 Bar (八八吧)
- 56minus1 (伍拾陸 minus 壹)
Wangjianshuo’s blog, one of the first and most consistently posting English blogs written by a native Chinese citizen, is a personal journal that provides insight into Chinese society through the eyes of a Chinese engineer who has progressed in his career to become the head of Baixing.com, a classifieds Website owned by eBay. He provides helpful insights to English-language people traveling to or living in Shanghai. What is great about Wangjianshuo’s blog is that it is written by an English-as-a-Second-Language writer, which results in prose that is more accessible to other non-native English speakers. As a result, he gets English readers from across the world: Africa, India, Middle East, Russia, Philippines, etc. Read Wangjianshuo (rss) if you want to read a personal journal that also adds useful travel and relocation information for foreigners. Twitter: @jianshuo.
2. Stylites in Beijing (stylites.net)
Stylites in Beijing is apparently part of a fashion blog genre called the “street blog”, and was recognized by H&M Magazine as one of the top 5 street blogs in the world. Nels Fryes, photographer and author of Stylites in Beijing, started capturing distinctive street fashion 2 years ago. Fryes also provides interesting little vignettes that showcase the diversity of experiences among Chinese people today. This blog is an excellent antidote to ignorant Westerners who think of Chinese as brainwashed, collectivist and oppressed people under the thumb of a totalitarian state. (You don’t have to tell them that people walking around Nanluoguxiang or Sanlitun Village is not the “real” China). Follow Stylites in Beijing if you are interested in issues of culture, taste, and fashion, as a reflection of change in China’s society.
RedBox Review is run by Katherine Don, co-founder and Director of Red Box Studio, a Beijing-based contemporary art advisory firm. The blog features original articles, events listings, gallery reviews, and commentary on and links to other coverage on Chinese contemporary art. The blog is aimed at people who are either insiders already or interested in contemporary art. However, it provides an interesting view into what has been one of the hottest areas of contemporary art today, and an area that will undoubtedly face big changes as a result of the global economic meltdown. Follow RedBox Review (rss) to add the development of Chinese contemporary art to your view of China’s changes. Twitter: @redboxbeijing
IfGoGo is a group blog run by Aw Guo (Guo Qirui), who also runs a big Chinese-language blog called Awflasher.com, featuring Adobe Flash and other Web technologies. Entitled “Chinese in English,” the blog provides a mix of personal stories, social commentary, and current events from the perspective of Chinese citizens, mostly of the generations born in the 1980s or 1990s. My favorite writers are Aw Guo, Cat Chen, and Lisa Lee, all of whom I’ve met in person. Side note: it has been shockingly hard to find Chinese who blog in English. I expected to find one “Wang Jianshuo” after another once I started digging, but after 16 months of looking, the only bloggers I found were the group on IfGoGo. If you know of any other native Chinese who blog consistently in English, please let me know. I wish they would blog more frequently. Follow IfGoGo.com (rss) if you want to hear Chinese voices, reflecting on the changes going on in China. Twitter: @awflasher @CatChen
Michael, the author of Expatriate Games, is a self-described “American experiencing mid-life” in China, with a focus on developing his photography skills and Photoshop skills. The result is a collection of portraits and photos that are evocative of China’s diverse society. He seems to focus on portraits, seeking to connect with the essence of China’s culture through its people. I think he goes a bit overboard with Photoshop, but his work provides an interesting window into contemporary China. Follow Expatriate Games (rss)to get a photographic exploration of China, from a newcomer to China that transparently expresses his experience. Twitter: @ExpatriateGames
6. China Youth Watch (chinayouthology.com)
Zafka Zhang (张安定) heads up a marketing consulting firm focused on Chinese youth marketing. This blog reflects that focus, observing brands, trends, creative culture, and Internet behavior of Chinese youth. The blog is not updated as frequently as many other China blogs, but has a nice “coolhunting” feel to it. Adam Schokora at 56minus1.com has a nice interview of Zafka Zhang. Expert on virtual worlds, involved in the Creative Commons movement, background as an experimental musician…Zafka seems impossibly…cool. Follow China Youth Watch (rss) to get a taste of youth culture…and Zafka’s impossibly cool life! Follow Twitter: @chinayouthology @zafka
We’ve blogged about repeatedly since we started following Fauna and chinaSMACK in August 2008. I consider it the most successful China blog launch of 2008. Tight concept. Good execution in virtually all aspects. Good selection of coverage. Hot and viral, and potentially GFWbait. Kai wrote extensively about chinaSMACK as the leader in the translation wave of China English blogs. Follow chinaSMACK (rss) to read about hot and viral internet stories and the reactions they engender in the Chinese internet.
8. 88 Bar (八八吧)
Run by Lyn Jeffery, Director at Palo Alto’s Institute For The Future, and by Jason Li, designer at Node in Barcelona, 88 Bar has a focus on technology and its impact on society. They are less frequent posters than some of the other bloggers, and are in the same blog “neighborhood” as Adam Schokora’s 56 minus 1. Nevertheless, Jason and Lyn have the nose for the interesting, especially where technology and culture intersect. Follow 88 Bar (rss) if you want to catch interesting stories about values, technology, trends, and society. Twitter: @LynJ @JasonLi @IFTF
9. 6 (thinksix.net)
I hesitated to include 6 because its so new, but hey, we were new once too. Blogger Adam Ash started the blog right after the Olympics, and has settled into an intriguing format–to follow the lives of 6 people (including himself). He is studying Mandarin at Beida so the people he encounters are from that milieu. Maybe its the “Real World” voyeurism. Maybe its the cool blog name. Maybe the promise to bring to life the thoughts and feelings of a few Chinese people that has appeal to me. Anyway, I’ll follow this blog and I hope those 6 people turn out to be pretty interesting! Follow 6 (rss) if you’re interested in reading in-depth biographies of diverse young people in China today. Twitter: @AdamAsh
10. 56minus1 (伍拾陸 minus 壹)
In just about 6 months, Adam Schokora has launched one of the most intentionally eclectic, and unintentionally important, English China blogs in the blogosphere. It delivers authenticity and personal expression, the core of what makes a great blog. It also has sufficient cohesive focus to become a niche publication on creative culture, design, social media, youth, music, and “things well done” as observed from his Shanghai vantage point where he can survey the “cool” landscape with kids like Zafka Zhang (see above). Why 56 minus 1? Adam explains in a CityWeekend interview here. Follow 56minus1 (rss) if you want to add creativity, music, and light to your blogroll. Twitter: @ajschokora, @56minus1
What blogs do you think belong on this list?
With all the interesting blogs about there, it was hard to come up with a top 10 list. What do you think belongs on this list?
Update 4/22: Far West China
Josh at Xinjiang: Far West China deserves for his recent post on his favorite China blogs. In all my tizzy of trying to work in the “white-dude” comments, I forgot to mention his inspirational post. He included CNReviews on this list and thus caused us to want to “pay forward” the love to some other, smaller, but deserving blogs. He’s got a concise blog list that includes the “right” major blogs as well as an interesting little blog called Hanzi Smatter that Josh characterizes as his Favorite Guilty Pleasure. Go check his post and Hanzi Smatter while you’re at it.