The Voice of China Goes Ballistic

The Voice of China Goes Ballistic

This show just went epic nuts at the Bird’s Nest. Tracy and I were watching reruns of the grand finale of The Voice of China.

Obviously, I was in the main room, so I only caught the last parts. But those last parts made it all the more worthwhile. They also formed a very heated debate with other academics in a meeting just a few hours after we watched it at home.

Advertising is all the rage in China — and as long as it’s not “unhealthy” or seriously political, chances are, they’ll let it run. The super-expensive spot — played just before they announced the nationwide winner — tried to really “suck it up” to Jay Chow and his rap. It was basically a rip-off of a Jay Chow kung-fu (?) rap — plugging in a car site,

We saw it — and the whole wide Web went bolonzos.

China Media Theory?

For academics, China resembles this huge country where you are just captivated — by trains virtually flying by one moment, then huge airports to make Boris mad (sorry, Gatwick), then off-colour-looking buildings hosting Central Television. There is a lot of the glitz and glamour, but remarkably little in the way of theory.

I’ve just been dipping my feet in the China media world, but I have yet to see a solid, oft-cited Chinese-made theory about the Internet and communications (as in: the way we speak; or “talk the talk, walk the walk”). Instead, many a Chinese university freely cite McLuhan, Habermas, or Marx.

Most of China tends to default to citing Marx as often as possible. You can’t blame them: it’s “enshrined” in the country’s constitution, and the replacing of this idea with Western values is almost guaranteed to make Beijing uncomfortable. Yet what are missing here are more “Internet-savvy” / “Internet-ready” ideas, as well as a very “with Chinese characteristics” theory (which should be rather apolitical if possible).

China is indeed in quite a unique situation.

Trying to Make Sense of the Jing

Trying to Make Sense of the Jing

China is this weird and wonderful country where it’s a challenge to make sense, at times, of what’s coming out from Zhongnanhai. Mixed in at times horrifically hard-to-understand officialspeak are national policies of a system that, whilst grey on the outside, actually works in more and more of the country.

I’ve spent 14 years in China in one go. If you’re willing to make sense of how this nation is supposed to be made sense of, here are the media resources I often tune into (in Chinese, as this is what you’d want, right?… If you were serious about China, you’d have learnt the language!)…


Would you work in a place with the slogan Achieve goals or the Sun will no longer rise? (It’s both a scary and a pathetic slogan — Wikipedians would also tag it factually inaccurate. I myself have missed tonnes of goals and I’ve never made the Sun not come out!)

Most of us know about the crass violations of workers’ rights and dignity at Foxconn, where Apple’s iDevices are churned out in record time. But to me, it was just a violation that “had to be swallowed” or even, worse, “accepted as fact”. The full scale of how scary things were weren’t made clear to me until I attended a talk by Dr Jenny Chan of the University of Oxford. She also focused on corporate misbehaviour in the talk, in addition to giving us all an idea of how scary things were on the assembly line.

The Internet and China: Less is More?

If you thought China was fully in control and regulating things these days (apparently they completely canned Line), this might only be the tip of the iceberg for you. Presently, the firewall operates on a blacklist (liste noire) principle, in essence containing a list of sites you’re not allowed to go to, and then not restricting access to the rest. (The same goes for keywords, especially those in search machines.) Incredibly, though, as long as you stay away from the two Ps — politics and porn — you should be fine.


Because whilst I was just browsing around on my hard drive as of late, I came across this presentation I did in my first PhD year. It really was a scary moment.

WeChat: Your Own E-Newspaper

In 1995, Joseph Schorr and others authored one of my more favourite tech books — Macworld Mac Secrets, where he introduced a number of Web links — including CRAYON (Create Your Own Newspaper). I’ve never been able to really use that back in the day, but I did know that in 1999, I was happy with My Yahoo!, which, as a Swiss Wetterfrosch, allowed me to put the weather report where it mattered — top left hand of the customised news page. (It also allowed me to set a pale-ish grey as the background colour, which was easier on the eyes.)

We’re now about 20 years away from when I first got introduced to CRAYON. Whilst that never really worked, it is working when it comes to customised news on my smartphone. There are three ways, in fact, I got this working my end:

  • following all the news sources I want on Twitter (easier said than done, really; I had to follow credible / verified accounts over “just about any old account”)
  • downloading news apps to my iPhone (again, I was never a fan of the “unofficial aggregates”, which I found hard to really trust)
  • following accounts on WeChat (here again, I had the tendency to trust verified accounts more)

Who Owns the “Units of the Cause”?

Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Chang'anjie Media Notebook, China, Media | No Comments

If you’ve been around China for any time, you’ll note two things about the media:

  • Outside of the Internet, there is no real private local media to speak of;
  • You’ll also run into what are termed “units of the cause” (事业单位).

The latter threw me off a lot. I know the “cause” here might very well be the cause of socialism, and eventually communism, as Zhongnanhai is adamant it will (eventually) achieve (not too easy to find much Marxism in McDonald’s, though). But what are the “units” (as in companies and other kinds of organisations) of the cause?

China Central Television: Never Easy There…

Posted by on Apr 25, 2014 in Chang'anjie Media Notebook, China, Media | No Comments

Circulated rumours that you have to claim wages by presenting official receipts seem to be the least of China Central TV’s issues, apparently. The bigger issue is how CCTV can — yes, remain itself.

To many an outsider, CCTV is that one monster that seems untouchable. Those not retransmitting its “flagship” 19:00 news programme are far more the exception than the rule. And yet, the TV channel itself is under massive pressure to be:

  • an outlet for official government news / propaganda; and
  • increasingly financially self-sustaining as Beijing feeds it less cash; and
  • as of around 2003, a service public broadcaster.

Talk about tall orders!