Reports of blogs' death exaggerated
By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-03-14 05:40
March 8 was International Women's Day, but for Wang Xiaofeng it might as well
have been April Fool's Day.
On that day, the senior writer for Beijing-based Sanlian Life Weekly shut
down his popular blog, as did Yuan Lei, an entertainment reporter for
Guangzhou-based Southern Weekend.
The duo had planned the practical joke some two weeks earlier.
On that day, both blogs displayed this message: "Because of unavoidable
reasons known to all, this blog is now temporarily closed."
That evening, a Reuters report said: "Two of China's most adventurous web
logs closed on Wednesday under government orders, the latest in a wave of
shutdowns as Chinese censors tighten controls in cyberspace."
The report was used by at least 200 international media organizations.
"We tried the prank to test how foreign media would react. And this is
exactly what we anticipated," explained Wang Xiaofeng in an interview with China
Wang's blog, named "Massage Milk," is among the most popular in China. His
acerbic writings on culture and entertainment have won him a best
Chinese-language blog award from Deutsche Welle as well as a legion of loyal
fans. Yuan's blog, named "Milk Pig," is mostly short comments on the nation's
A source close to Reuters' Beijing office, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity, told China Daily that they failed to reach Wang for confirmation and
did not check with the relevant government agency.
Wang Xiaofeng had been annoyed that he was constantly misquoted by foreign
"Every time they interviewed me, they tried to steer the questions towards
political topics, in which I have no interest. Even if I made no mention of
anything political, the articles would come out as if I were an activist," he
"Most of the foreign reporters are not readers of my blog, and the few
snippets they read in translation are usually out of context so they appear to
be political," he added.
Once he told a Western reporter that out of the millions of blogs in China,
maybe only five are purely political. "Why can't you look beyond that?" he
The source close to Reuters insisted that some of Wang's postings as well as
his amateur feature film, which Reuters also reported on, are political
observations. "He would have made straightforward criticism if he had the
Wang disagreed. What he writes and how he writes it are his natural way of
expression, he said.
The most common words used by Reuters and other international media to
describe Wang's and Yuan's blogs are "outspoken" and "adventurous." Asked how
accurate these terms are, Wang said: "Nonsense."
A quick poll by China Daily of Chinese readers familiar with their blogs came
up with these adjectives: "sarcastic," "humorous," and "funny." None of them
associated the blogs with "outspoken" or "adventurous."
Wang's act was criticized by some commentators for being "politically naive."
One blogger accused him of "worsening an already bad situation."
Wang responded that some Chinese intellectuals tend to see everything in a
strongly political light. "It's sad that they can see only black and white."
A person close to Wang said that what he writes and does, including the gag,
are typical of him as a "quan ru" (cynic) even though Wang himself hates the
There were also suggestions that Wang and Yuan staged the hoax to test how
influential they were. Wang denied this was one of their motivations.
"We intended to keep our blogs down for 4-5 days. But the rush of biased
judgment came swifter than I expected," Wang said.
Both blogs were up and running a day later.
(China Daily 03/14/2006 page1)