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Enter the blogosphere to take the nation's pulse

By Jules Quartly (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-26 07:57
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To appreciate how vast and diverse China is, just log on and click. Blogs are the submarines of opinion swimming below the major media waves. They bubble away under the surface and anyone on the outside looking in could be forgiven for thinking that because they can't see them (or read them) they don't exist. But they do, in record-breaking numbers.

A neat example of this is Blog Weekly, a combination of State media hosting and user-generated content that seems to work by providing a few in-depth stories, then getting reporter-bloggers to weigh in with their news and views. The result is some well-focused and often alternative stories and opinions.

On the menu at the moment is a timely piece on the difficulty of getting train tickets during Chinese New Year, when half the country is on the move. It's a bit of a scandal really, as you have to know "someone" or buy from a tout to get one of the highly prized tickets home for the annual festivities. In the main media every year there are stories about crackdowns on touts and corruption. But it's the same old story the next year.

"Jing Chengzi" says these opinionators have got it wrong, as the fact is scalpers are like any other business, providing for a demand, and actually, if they didn't provide the service even fewer people (without connections) could buy tickets.

Enter the blogosphere to take the nation's pulse

On another subject is the statement of an official that the designation of those who "sell wantonness" (the literal translation of maiyin) should be changed to "women who make a wrong step" - which is a nice euphemism. One commentator says it doesn't matter if you call them "princesses" it wouldn't change the fact; but "Age of Style" thinks "sex workers" is the best term because "its such a neutral but accurate description of a basic fact".

The fastest growing example of blogging at the moment is, of course, micro- blogging. Of the country's 457 million netizens an estimated 125 million are micro-blog users, particularly on Sina Weibo, which is celebrity based but often the quickest way of grabbing the hottest news and latest trends.

Da Shan, the Canadian who has a place in Chinese hearts because his Mandarin is so flawless, comments that he was listening to a news report the other day and heard a United States city being referred to as "second tier". While this is normal in China, he says Americans "are unwilling to admit they have a class system".

Lee Kai-fu is the former Google China chief and now a micro-blogging phenomenon. He has 10.3 million followers and wins them over with 10 posts a day on his business thinking and private life. It's like one of those "make-it-to-the-top" books, with a new thought every day on how to succeed, from someone who has.

More alternative are the bloggers who seem to have taken on the role of being big business, government and media watchdogs. And since WikiLeaks is the new standard bearer for journalism this has got some people in China thinking they have their own shanzhai (copy) versions of Julian Assange, running around, putting things right.

"The Wenzhou version of WikiLeaks" on the 703804 forum is one example of this, and an odd one really, because it is linked to a local official, but still manages to keep the city's streets and government offices clean. Recently, grassroots bloggers were among those to question the lifetime imprisonment of a man for avoiding tolls; and have investigated whether real estate developers and officials bear responsibility for some tragic traffic "accidents" that happened to anti-demolition campaigners.

Overall, there is plenty to see and learn about China and you don't need a plane ticket to do so.

(China Daily 01/26/2011 page18)

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