The Chinese Government: Environmentalists?

In his remarks to the United States Congress on Tuesday, American President Barack Obama gave the Chinese government some unexpected props:

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient.

It was a brief comment, and one that may have flown in the face of many Americans’ understanding of China as a land of dirty industrialism and cutting corners. Even hardened expats might be reluctant to give China a lot of credit on the environmentalist front, given the smoke that pours into the air (and, consequently, our lungs) constantly from the nation’s congested roads and sprawling factories.

Still, the government does deserve some credit — perhaps more than the American government — in its attempts to confront these issues, or at the very least its support for those who do. As many sources have reported, environmentalism is increasingly popular among the Chinese populace. Environmentalist groups are (and have been) springing up in colleges and elsewhere and, perhaps surprisingly, they’ve been met with support from the government, sometimes even in instances where their reports condemn state-owned enterprises for violating regulations. The Washington Monthly reported,

Not only is China’s emerging environmental movement tolerated by the central government; for the most part, it’s encouraged. More than 3,000 groups like Green Camel Bell currently operate in China, constituting the largest and most developed segment of the country’s budding civil society. Some NGO leaders are even consulted by government officials and praised by the state-controlled media.

Of course, the Monthly figures there’s no way that the Chinese government would actually be interested in protecting the environment, so there’s an ulterior motive:

The kid-glove treatment China’s environmental activists receive is not a sign that Beijing is willing to relinquish political control. The Communist Party’s agile leaders are well aware of the role that civil society groups have played in the fall of other authoritarian systems. Rather, the government is taking a calculated risk. It is opening space for political participation in the hope of preventing what it sees as an even greater threat: that the country’s rapidly deteriorating environment will imperil China’s vibrant economy—and perhaps, one day, the party’s own hold on power.

Later in the article, they offer another, less cynical theory:

To understand why Chinese officials are genuinely concerned about the country’s growing environmental problems, you must first remember that they live here. Pollution is one by-product of China’s thriving economy that can’t be evaded with influence or cash. One former U.S. Energy Department official told me that his Chinese counterparts rave about the air on visits to Washington, bemoaning Beijing’s bleak skies.

Whatever the reason, clearly the government is concerned about the environment. The recent ban on free plastic shoppping bags has had a noticable effect, at least in people’s behavior: many are bringing their own reusable bags to the supermarkets instead of paying a few extra mao for the plastic ones. But according to the Council on Foreign Relations, larger, more sweeping change has thusfar eluded the central government:

The State Environmental Protection Administration and other relevant agencies have tried to do as much as they can, establishing an extensive legal framework and bureaucratic infrastructure to address environmental concerns. However, China’s environmental bureaucracy is generally weak, and funding and personnel levels remain well below the level necessary merely to keep the situation from deteriorating further. Without greater support from Beijing, the regulatory and enforcement regimes also remain insufficient to support implementation of the best policies or technological fixes.

Much of the burden for environmental protection, therefore, has come to rest outside of Beijing and the central government apparatus. Responsibility has been decentralized to the local level, with some wealthier regions under proactive mayors moving aggressively to tackle their own environmental needs, while other cities and towns lag far behind. The government has also encouraged public participation in environmental protection, opening the door to non-governmental organizations and the media, who have become an important force for change in some sectors of environmental protection. The international community-through bilateral assistance, non-governmental organizations, international governmental organizations, and most recently, multinationals-has also been a powerful force in shaping China’s environmental practices.

Although there are always those who prefer to see China as a coal-consuming, environment murdering menace, it seems clear that the Chinese government is at least interested in the environment, and even willing to engage in some dialogue with private groups and citizens about environmental policy. From the look of Obama’s speech, so is the new US administration.

Citizens of both China and America may find some comfort in this, although they’d likely find more had either government been prepared to engage with these issues twenty years ago.

Also Related to this Article but not easily implemented into the flow of the piece is this point from Yale Global Online:

For all its global inspiration, environmentalism in China is not a just a copycat movement. For Chinese environmentalists, one local aspiration is to ground the global discourse of sustainable development in eastern philosophical traditions such as Buddhism and Daoism. These traditions stress the harmony between humans and nature, reject human-centered approaches to the environment, and admonish humility before nature. These ideas bring global ecological thinking closer home.

A (Nearly) Forgotten Anniversary

2009 is a year of anniversaries for China. It’s been 60 years since the formation of the modern People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party’s formal ascent to power, an event sure to be lauded by the current regime and is to include the country’s biggest military parade ever and even a motion picture. Other anniversaries are less welcomed; 50 years ago, a revolt rocked Tibet and the Dalai Lama fled to India, where he’s been a thorn in the CCP’s side ever since. Even more clouded in controversy is the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre that loom this coming summer. Amid all of this is a forgotten anniversary that few will note in China: 30 years ago in 1979, China invaded Vietnam.

The Sino-Vietnamese War (known in Chinese as 中越战争) is the culmination of a long string of modern tragedies for Vietnam, starting with the French occupation in the 19th and early 20th centuries to a brutal Japanese invasion during WWII and a civil war and bitter guerrilla fighting with the United States in the 1960s and 70s. The war is but the most recent installment of a thousands-of-year-struggle between Vietnam and its massive neighbor the north. On February 17, 1979 China invaded on the pretense of punishing Vietnam for toppling the government of its ally Pol Pot, the brutal Cambodian dictator, and for abuses against ethnic Chinese in Vietnam. Many observers cite deeper geo-political goals, such as exposing the Soviet Union’s unwillingness to come to the military aid of Vietnam and to convince the United States that China was able and willing to curb Soviet expansion.

By mid-March the PLA, hampered by archaic equipment and command structures and no match for the battle-hardened Vietnamese army, in true Orwellian style declared victory, packed up its bags and went home, leaving behind as many as 20,000 of their comrades dead in northern Vietnam. Estimates for Vietnamese casualties vary, but the Chinese employed a scorched-earth policy on their way back north, thus ensuring that the war would, at least for some, last long after the last Chinese soldier left Vietnam. Low-level border conflicts continued well into the 1980s.

In Vietnam, the war is far from forgotten. In fact, a large section of the War Crimes Museum in Ho Chi Minh City is devoted to the Sino-Vietnamese War. But in today’s China, the story is different. Reliable information about the so-called Chinese “victory” in Vietnam is hard to come by on the mainland. The war is a sore point for the PRC government and books and articles on the topic are almost never published, even when written by the veterans themselves. The war isn’t included in school curriculum and many young Chinese don’t even know the war happened at all.

Perhaps this would all be par for the course if not for the fact that all this silence exists side by side with vocal outrage over Japanese textbooks that are silent on Japanese atrocities committed during WWII. While the Chinese government is more than willing to harp on Japan for its war crimes, an awkward and telling silence exists over the topic of China’s own misadventure in Vietnam. In fact, some go so far as to claim that China has never invaded another country.

An opportunity exists here for China. Raising awareness of the truth regarding the Sino-Vietnamese War, far from drawing criticism from the international community, instead would be an excellent and cheap way for China to gain praise for making steps towards greater transparency. Another benefit sure to appeal to those in power is the chance to gain the moral high-ground on other fronts, shaming Japan into coming to terms with its own atrocities.

Anniversaries can have a special power over an emotionally charged people, as the PRC surely knows. Rather than focusing on crackdowns and protests, China should take steps forward to clear the record regarding a 30-year old mistake. China itself stands to gain the most.

by Chris Hearne

Our Three Week Hiatus

UPDATE: CCTV building in Beijing caught fire last night. No time to write about this in more detail, check Shanghaiist, ChinaSMACK, CNReviews, and Youku Buzz. The cause is unclear but looks to be stray fireworks from the holiday last night. China Daily has a story here indicating it was a hotel…

It probably bodes poorly for this young blog, but we’ll be taking a three week hiatus because I’ll be traveling for the next three weeks (Chengdu, Xi’an, Luoyang, Zhengzhou, Kaifeng) and none of you have offered to help yet. There may be some updates during that time, but our near-daily posting schedule will resume March 2.

In the meantime, we’d like to call your attention to some things. First, I’d like to thank all the respectable China blogs that have linked here even though the blog is extremely new. EastSouthNorthWest has linked us several times. The Wall Street Journal’s China blog linked us, as did Global Voices Online, and Mutant Palm, among others. The traffic you’ve directed this way is the lifeblood of this still-nascent operation.

I’d also like to thank all the commenters who have chimed in, and would encourage them to keep doing so in the future.

So, what can you do while we’re not posting so often. Well, check out our list of recommended sites to see if there are any China blogs missing from your RSS feed. Browse our archives, which date back to Jan 10 and include some worthwhile stuff that has been overlooked, I think. Check out our store and buy a t-shirt.

Or write something for the site and email it to me (custerc at gmail dot com). I’ll be checking my email every few days and would love to post some guest pieces from the road if anyone is at all interested.

I wish you all a happy February, we’ll see you again in March.

The Worst Drought in 50 Years

Northeastern China is suffering from what even the Chinese media are calling “the most severe drought for decades.” Affecting nearly 5 million people to date, the drought also threatens future harvests and has drawn a number of government responses including diverting water from the Yangzi and Yellow Rivers, inducing rain artificially, providing over US $12 billion in subsidies to farmers, and sending Premier Wen Jiabao into the fields with a hose.

What’s more interesting to some people, though, is why this suddenly became a story. A quick search of China Daily‘s archives reveals precious few stories on the drought before a couple days ago, even though today it’s headline news (as it has been for the past few days). What gives? Blogger Black and White Cat is wondering too:

Droughts aren’t like most other kinds of disaster. They don’t usually happen overnight. […] So what about this drought in northern China that finally became news these last few days? It’s supposed to be the worst drought in the region for half a century and it’s suddenly very big news indeed. But, surely, for it to become the worst for 50-odd years, didn’t it have to pass through other “worst since” milestones? Wouldn’t there have been a point when it was the worst for a decade? When did it reach that point? Isn’t something that happens once in a decade news? What about when it became the worst for two decades? Or three? Or four? Who decided that a five-decade record was finally a big enough story to justify reporting it?

Some people might suggest that a problem is only news in China when the government says what splendid job it’s doing dealing with it. But surely not.

Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Also of interest today:
Wen Jiabao Urges Cambridge to Forgive Shoe Thrower (China Daily, also check out our coverage of the shoe throwing incident)

Would You Break the Law for This Woman?

According to ESWN, lots of Chinese people apparently would. Lu Jiali, reportedly the mistress of some of Shanghai’s highest officials (many of whom are now embroiled in a scandal), is an attractive woman (88% of netizens polled agree!). Photos of her (after the jump) have been circulating the internet recently, which led to an opinion poll: “If you were a government official, would you break the law for the sake of Lu Jiali?”

55% of respondents indicated that yes, they would break the law for her. 30% said they wouldn’t, and 15% said they weren’t sure. ESWN reports one netizen commented: “When I saw the results, I am speechless — are there any good men left in the world?” It is a bit distressing, on the other hand, is anyone really surprised? Certainly, it seems like if officials themselves were polled, an awful lot of them would say yes, too. Looking at the original article, another netizen engaged in some in-depth analysis of the photographs’ symbolism:

“The background shows a derelict fishing boat, and a submerged reef. How creative, the metaphorical meaning is that these officials are just a boat used to “catch fish” which will collide with the reef. But in the end, she will make it ashore. You can look at the pictures and see it, this woman is really remarkable.” Another netizen wrote: “Being an official is really great, one can enjoy this kind of top-class beauty!”

Others felt the news was nothing to write home about: “Almost everyone knows officials have mistresses,” one netizen wrote; apparently 94% of those polled felt that officials having mistresses was “extremely common.”

The Useless Tree has also picked up the story, pointing out that Confucius had something to say about all this: “It is a rare man who would turn his mind to virtue when he could follow love instead.” (Analects 15.13) and “The Master said: “I’ve never seen anyone for whom loving Integrity is like loving a beautiful woman.” (Analects 9.8)

Also of interest today: Mutant Palm has posted a page containing links to several archives of historical Chinese photos, and plans to continue updating it as new archives become available. Historians, start your engines!

Was the Sichuan Earthquake Caused by Man?

The New York Times thinks maybe: (h/t James Fallows)

Nearly nine months after a devastating earthquake in Sichuan Province, China, left 80,000 people dead or missing, a growing number of American and Chinese scientists are suggesting that the calamity was triggered by a four-year-old reservoir built close to the earthquake’s geological fault line.

A Columbia University scientist who studied the quake has said that it may have been triggered by the weight of 320 million tons of water in the Zipingpu Reservoir less than a mile from a well-known major fault. His conclusions, presented to the American Geophysical Union in December, coincide with a new finding by Chinese geophysicists that the dam caused significant seismic changes before the earthquake.

Scientists emphasize that the link between the dam and the failure of the fault has not been conclusively proved, and that even if the dam acted as a trigger, it would only have hastened a quake that would have occurred at some point.

How has the Chinese media responded to this? James Fallows wanted to know, so Mutant Palm answered. You can go to that site for a full translation of the article, but frankly the title sums it up pretty well: “Foreign Media Stir Up Trouble, Speculate ‘Sichuan Earthquake was Man-Made’.”

Things really get interesting in the comments, though. A commenter called “eswn” (I think we can assume this is Roland Soong of EastSouthWestNorth) posted this link (in Chinese), which apparently brings to light some misrepresentation of data intended to make it look like the reservoir had more influence than it did. Commenter DJ posted this link from the same site. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to be able to access either of them at the moment (have they been harmonized?), but if access becomes available I will check them out and report back.

Interestingly, DJ also pointed out that this isn’t exactly a new theory, linking to this article about it that was published a mere ten days after the earthquake. Sorry New York Times, I think you got scooped on this one.

The original Chinese article about the theory appears to be fairly straightforward, noting that authorities denied any connection but that some geologists felt the possibility should not be overlooked. It then reprints information from interview with Fan Xiao, a chief engineer for the geological investigative team. Fan Xiao is also the person the “eswn” commenter accused of misrepresenting data, and according to the article, he had written articles opposing the opening of the Zipingpu Reservoir. In the interview, he said:

Fan Xiao: I didn’t just oppose the construction of the Zipingpu Reservoir. On the main stream of the Min River there are ten major reservoirs, if you count the major tributaries then there are 29, if you count the minor streams then there are even more. These reservoirs are, step by step, obstructing the entire river. This leaves no room for [the river to] open up; there are many problems with the model. We do geology and the environment; in this kind of model the geological hazard is quite large.

Reporter: And why is that?

Fan Xiao: This area is also a fault line. This time there was an 8.0 level earthquake, actually in the past there have been many earthquakes here, it’s just that the level was not so high. Especially Wenchuan, in that are earthquakes around 7.0 are quite common.

Interestingly, according to Fan Xiao (who, at the time of the writing of that article, was not willing to draw any formal conclusions but said he was very worried the quake had been caused by the reservoir), “there are many examples of reservoirs causing earthquakes, on the basis of analyzing the situation, the Zipingpu Reservoir has all the conditions needed to cause an earthquake […] but whether it could cause an earthquake at as high a level as 8.0, we still need to leave a question mark after that, there needs to be lots of data to explain it.”

So who is telling the truth? It’s not entirely clear. A quick web search seems to indicate that generally speaking, many people believe it is possible for earthquakes to be caused by reservoirs, but I’m no geologist. Perhaps some astute commenters (or some commenters with uncensored internet access) can help us out…

UPDATE: For an extremely thorough treatment of the subject including a variety of Western and Chinese articles as well as statistical analysis that puts this site to shame, check EastSouthWestNorth. The Fan Xiao information and translation of Chinese articles are near the bottom.

Also Interesting: Evan Osnos of the New Yorker: “His [Fan Xiao’s] findings and related conclusions by Columbia University scientists are not definitive, but, as they circulate in the West, they remain, so far, absent from the Chinese press, as far as I have seen.” Evan: See links above.

What the Hell Does “Crackdown” Mean?

If you’re reading this post right now, chances are this isn’t the first thing you’ve read about China in English. And if this isn’t the first thing you’ve read about China in English, you’ve probably read about a Chinese government “crackdown” before.

But what, exactly, does it mean when the Chinese government cracks down? The term was likely initially popularized through its frequent use to describe the government’s response to the protesters in Tiananmen in 1989. To many people, when they hear about a Chinese government “crackdown“, it conjures images of tanks rolling into the Square, toppling the goddess of democracy while soldiers execute peaceful protesters trying to escape the mayhem.

Yet, the term crackdown gets thrown around a lot. Recently, the Chinese government “cracked down” on pornographic websites. There’s apparently a “severe crackdown” on Uighurs in Xinjiang, and there’s a “crackdown” going on in Tibet too, in fact, multiple “crackdowns“. Christan leaders in China are concerned a “crackdown” might be imminent. There’s a “crackdown” on Falun Gong practitioners, and a “crackdown” in intellectual property rights violations.

The problem is that there’s no clear meaning for the term. As indicated above, it gets thrown around to describe a wide variety of government activities. Sometimes, its intended meaning is spelled out later in the article through specifics, but even when that’s the case, someone reading about a ‘severe crackdown’ in Tibet is probably going to think what that phrase indicates is violence, not the arrest of 40-odd people in a province with a population of over 2.7 million.

Often, though, there’s no further explanation anyway. The Amnesty International report linked above cites a “severe crackdown” on Uighurs but doesn’t elaborate at all on what, exactly, the “crackdown” entails. Does that mean they’re forcing Uighurs to speak Mandarin more, or executing them in the street? It’s not clear, but that seems like a pretty important distinction to make, and it’s not fair to expect that your readers are going to be willing to do the digging and figure out what crackdown means this time.

Let us here at ChinaGeeks be the first to declare a crackdown on “crackdown”. It’s a vague word that carries with it historical implications (for many readers) that distort its intended meaning, and it’s used far too often. A quick search of Google News turns up 2,696 responses for “China crackdown”. That’s nearly half the number of responses that come up when you search for “China politics” (5,762)! For every two stories about politics in China, apparently, there’s a story about a crackdown.

Please, let’s decide once and for all what “crackdown” actually means, or stop using it altogether. Its current “meaning” is too broad, too vague, and only feeds into the popular Western belief that everything the Chinese government does can and should be compared to Tiananmen, 1989.

Flying Shoes

We didn’t want to write about the shoe thing, but here we are, writing about the shoe thing.

Everybody knows that a month and a half ago, someone chucked a shoe at former (!) President Bush during a press conference in Iraq. Much merriment was shared by all, and the Chinese netizens, as one might expect, certainly joined in the fun. But how do they react when the shoe’s on the other foot? (Zing!)

Not very well, it turns out. On Monday, China’s own Premier Wen Jiabao got the shoe treatment while giving a speech at Cambridge in England. According to the New York Times, this shoe-thrower wasn’t as adept as his Iraqi counterpart: “The shoe missed Mr. Wen by at least 30 feet, but security officials promptly escorted the protester from the hall.”

Before he threw the shoe, he reportedly yelled something like “You should be ashamed of yourselves, how can you listen to the lies he’s telling?” After he chucked the shoe, he was apparently booed by the audience, a discerning sort. After all, as the vice chancellor of Cambridge told the BBC, “Cambridge is a place where ideas are put into play, not shoes.”

Much to his credit, Wen Jiabao handled having a shoe thrown at him like a true professional. The same could not be said for the rest of China’s reaction.

People were lot less amused than they were the Bush shoe throwing a month ago. Many web posts and reports about it appear to have been blocked or otherwise “harmonized”, what has remained (graciously translated by ChinaSMACK) is pretty intense, ranging from the predictable indignation to the (sadly also predictable) blind xenophobia: “Foreign devils, go to hell.”

A number of people, including some western bloggers, have questioned whether Wen, widely regarded as ‘one of the good guys’ deserves this sort of treatment. We here at ChinaGeeks tend to agree with something we saw on Jottings from the Granite Studio: “I’m not condoning what happened to Wen Jiabao, but I like the fact I live in a world where state leaders have to duck a shoe every once in awhile.”

In the end, though, whether throwing a shoe at Wen is right or not — and we’re pretty sure that regardless of your politics there are better ways to express your opinions than through the lobbing of footwear — it’s sort of beside the point. As one of the commenters translated by ChinaSMACK pointed out, “It proves that we are indeed a big/powerful country now, as who would bother with a small/weak country?”

Who, indeed? China has become an international player, and as such, they’re going to need to get accustomed to the fact that that means they’re going to have to duck some shoes every now and then. Global powers are going to get criticized. America is takes criticism from all sides more or less constantly; it comes with the territory.

But the government (and many Chinese people) don’t seem to have fully grasped this yet. Anyone who pays attention has seen pretty much every Western power accused of “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people” through criticism over the past few years. Ryan of Lost Laowai things China needs to grow up:

Countries, much like people, don’t gain true power by crying “it’s not fair!” every time something doesn’t go their way. And, they most certainly don’t garner the respect of others by not being able to gracefully handle criticism.

So, as my dear parents said to me not too long ago: if you want people to treat you like an adult, act like an adult. Or, to put it another way, grow the hell up.

Luckily, not everyone in China is taking the “fenqing” (angry youth) approach to international diplomacy. If reading ChinaSMACK’s comments (both the Chinese and foreign ones) is depressing to you, you would do well to check out Jotting’s from the Granite Studio’s report on moderate voices in the Sino-US relationship. As they put it, “it’s […] good to remember that not all Chinese voices are fenqing, not all American voices are Neo-Cons, and that dialogue can happen when the ideologues and extremists tone down their blather and let the grown-ups do the talking.”

The Hidden Dangers of Cohabitation

Any formal student of Chinese language who’s made it past the second year has likely gotten to the point where each chapter of his or her textbook takes the form of “[social issue]: is it good or bad?” One of the most common social issues is 同居, or “cohabitation”, specifically, the cohabitation of men and women before they’re married. Often, this cohabitation is part of what’s called a 试婚, or “trial marriage” — the lovers are trying living together before getting actually married…or are they?

According to an article in Chinese newspaper Life Daily (生活日报), “Cohabitation is not protected by law; not being legally married has many hidden dangers“, people intentionally staying unmarried, or even canceling their legal marriages and becoming a legally unwed couple, is an increasingly common phenomenon. Apparently, these couples are looking to “avoid their legal responsibilities and duties”, unaware that “the law is a double edged sword” and their new unmarried status also causes them to lose legal rights.

Why would people intentionally avoid getting married, or even cancel their marriage’s legal status? One reason the article cites is to avoid investigation and prosecution through China’s One Child Policy. The article cites an anonymous example couple who, “after [starting to live together], continuously failed to initiate marriage registration procedures so as to shirk what they felt were trivial investigations through family planning/pregnancy [policies]”. Unfortunately, when the man was killed in a traffic accident, the woman was unable to inherit his money because he hadn’t prepared a will.

Another couple the article mentions avoided registering their marriage married because the husband worked in electricity and water installations, and feared that in the future if he installed something improperly or there was an accident it could translate into massive debt for his beloved. Later, when their relationship soured and the husband wanted to file a complaint to split their property, the courts would not hear the case because their marriage had not been registered.

Still another couple didn’t register their marriage legally because of their “avant-garde” principle of living together: “First, foster feelings, if they are good, stay together, if not, split up.” A few years after they moved in, the ‘wife’ developed breast cancer, which led to significant medical expenses. After borrowing from family and friends, and with nowhere else to turn, the ‘wife’ sought her ‘husband’ to cover the medical expenses. When he failed to pay, she reported him to the courts, but he was only willing to pay 10,000 yuan, and would not cover the rest of the costs, which would be his legal responsibility had they actually been married.

The article presents these kinds of ‘marriages’ as a growing trend, although no hard statistical data is provided. Still, it will be interesting to see if these kinds of relationships become more common as “cohabitation” is increasingly accepted in urban China and as couples realized not getting married is a way to avoid restrictions on how many children they can have.

Recommended Reading

As anyone reading this blog is probably aware, there are a ton of valuable China related sites out there. Here’s a list of the ones we read regularly, or at least, most of them. This page will be edited regularly to add new blogs as we find them.

General China Blogs

Danwei.org – Chinese media, advertising, and urban life. One of the most popular and respected China blogs.
Shanghaiist – Shanghai news and reviews as well as general China news, updated multiple times/day.
EastSouthWestNorth – Aggregator of worthwhile China news in both English and Chinese, also provides skilled commentary and research on China, absolutely indispensable.
The Useless Tree – Ancient Chinese Thought in Modern American Life. Not always a “China” blog, per se, but always worth reading.
ChinaSMACK – Translates popular BBS forum posts and other hot topics on the Chinese internet along with the comments of Chinese netizens, extremely interesting.
Youku Buzz – A daily(ish) review of the hottest/most interesting videos on popular Chinese video-sharing site Youku.
Lost Laowai – China expat group blog, always interesting and often funny.
A Modern Lei Feng – Interesting commentary/analysis on a wide variety of China issues.
Black and White Cat – Sporadically updated, but when they post something, it’s worth reading.
Chinayouren – Another general China blog, always interesting and sometimes has some good original research.
The Peking Duck – Another “classic” China blog, frequently updated and always good.
James Fallows – (of The Atlantic magazine) thoughtful and interesting dispatches from and (usually) about China.
Imagethief – Another great blog covering a variety of topics
Mutant Palm – Not always frequently updated, but great when it is, full of interesting posts.
Jottings from the Granite Studio – Ruminations on current events, often with a historical comparison or context, another infrequently updated but great one.
Fool’s Mountain – Yet another “classic”, great general China blog.
Alice Poon – Her China Current Events posts for the Asia Sentinel are always worth reading.
CNReviews – “…a blog about China’s technology, travel, entrepreneurship, and the blogosphere”, worthwhile.
China Hearsay – Commentary on China Law, Economics, and Business
China Dialogue – Great feature pieces, everything on the site is bilingual too.
Pomfret’s China – China commentary from John Pomfret, who works for Newsweek/the Washington Post.
Letter From China – Evan Osnos’s New Yorker China blog.
The China Beat – Yet another general China blog absolutely worth reading.
Wall Street Journal China Blog – Exactly what the name says, often very good.
Zhongnanhai – Another great China blog.
Xinjiang: Far West China – Sometimes-personal blog on general China issues, especially issues in Xinjiang, but currently blocked in the PRC (unclear why).
China Media Project – Pretty much what it sounds like
Bendi Laowai – Sometimes personal, sometimes more general China news.
The China Blog TIME – A China blog by TIME magazine.
Digital Marketing Inner Circle – Tech blog focusing especially on China internet stuff.
The Foreign Expert – News, Translations, Etc.
James Reynolds – The BBC’s Beijing correspondent shares his thoughts on China.
Absurdity, Allegory, and China – “The Kingdom from another angle.”
RConversation – Former CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon’s blog, very good but blocked in China.
Sinologistical Violoncellist – Chinese-North Korean relations, Chinese nationalism, and other assorted issues related to Chinese foreign policy and culture.
ChinaHush – Very much like ChinaSMACK, posts popular Chinese BBS forum posts and netizen comments.
China Law Blog – Pretty self-explanitory.
More to come…

China News Sources (English)

Xinhua (English) – Official state wire service.
People’s Daily – The mouthpiece of the CCP. Useful if you’re interested in what the CCP has to say.
Asia Sentinel – Online newspaper covering all kinds of topics relevant to Asia.
China Daily – The other English-language Mainland China newspaper.
China Alltop – Aggregator of the latest news stories and posts from all the best China blogs and news sites.
South China Morning Post – HK-based newspaper, requires a subscription though.
New York Times Stories Tagged “China” – For those interested in how China plays in the West.
China Digital Times – Aggregator of China news, also does some original reporting. Great, but currently blocked in China.

China News Sources (Chinese)

新华网 - Official State wire service.
中工网 – Worker’s newspaper
南都网 - Another newspaper
China Weekly – Weekly magazine with longer feature pieces.
求是理论网 - Pro-CCP magazine.
(currently looking for suggestions!)

Personal China Blogs

Sinosplice – John Pasden’s (ChinesePod) personal blog, one of the oldest personal China blogs
This Ridiculous World – Brilliantly satirical expat blog, a must-read for anyone who lives or has ever lived in China.
MyLaowai – Controversial, offensive, but often very funny. This line sold me: “For a country that has a pathological loathing of queues, it is amazing how popular QQ is.”
American Expatriate – My own personal China blog.
Think6 – Interesting and often political blog of a BeiDa Chinese student
fifty 5 – Adam Schockora’s blog on Chinese media, especially creative artsy type stuff.
Inside-out China – Personal blog of Xujun Eberlein, lots of great posts about Chinese history, often from a personal perspective.

Chinese Language Blogs

钱烈宪要发言 – This link is currently dead and the site hadn’t been updated following a stabbing incident. Anyone know where it went?
天涯周报更多 – An aggregator for some interesting stuff on Tianya.
24 Hour Blogbus – Interesting stories about common people, etc.
不许联想 – The best blog motto ever: “Value your life. Stay far away from blogs.”
Hecaitou – Very popular blogger who covers all types of stuff.
Li Yinhe – Li is a sexologist and the widow of Wang Xiaobo.
Honghuang – Another very popular blog.
Yin Lichuan – Modern poet, writer, and filmmaker.
很黄很暴力 - 90% porn, 10% dissident writing, tagged as either “very yellow” or “very violent”, respectively. This link leads only to “very violent” posts, be warned that the “very yellow” posts are also very NSFW.
Ai Weiwei – The blog of a famous artist with a political streak.
看不见的西藏 – Woeser, the most famous Chinese-language Tibetan blogger; unfortunately this blog is currently blocked in China.
胡泳的BLOG – Hu Yong’s blog, worth reading.
Tiger Temple – Similar content (sometimes the same) as 24 Hour Blogbus.
Isaac Mao – Technology and lots of other stuff.
毛新宇 – Grandson of Mao Zedong blogs about pretty much exactly what you might expect Mao Zedong’s grandson to blog about.
(currently looking for suggestions!)
刘晓原 - Personal blog of lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan.
阮一峰 - Ruan Yifeng’s blog, lots of economic/business stuff.
Anti-CNN – Essays and BBS forums mainly focused on criticizing Western media coverage of China.
愤青网 - Essays and BBS forums for China’s “angry youth”.
Fuck the World – A very pro-CCP youth blog, hasn’t updated in a while though.
Amoiist – Popular twitter account, he was arrested some time ago and used this account to get help from netizens who pressured police for his release.
韩寒 – One of China’s most popular bloggers.
章文的博客 – Blog of reporter Zhang Wen, he often posts about major issues pertaining to China.
王克勤 – Another reporter with some very interesting posts on Chinese social issues.
赵世龙 – Chinese issues, often with helpful and/or amusing images
谁是谁非– Personal blog of Chang Ping
王大豪:新疆民族观察 – A blog about ethnic minorities in Xinjiang