Category Archives: China

One Problem in Chinese newsrooms

This past spring,before I graduated at Penn State, I took a class called World Media Systems, which was taught by Dr. Z (Professor Bu Zhong) that really opened my eyes to media around the world and was what encouraged me to pursue an internship with the China Daily in Beijing, China.

I remember in an email before I left, Dr. Z had told me to use my knowledge of world media and to try to observe and take in everything I could. During the two months I was in the People’s Republic I took in all that I could from information about the government, to the culture, especially seeing people’s everyday lives, most intriguing were those of the migrant workers, but I also tried to examine how the newsroom worked compared to those in my home country.

If you’ve never had the chance to work in a newsroom I’m sure you have the same idea of one as I do, that they are supposed to be loud with people working and constantly on the phone, yelling to their editors and co-workers, etc. My idea is like a scene out of the 1994 film “The Paper” staring Michael Keaton. During my time working at the China Daily, I was basically thrown right into the workforce, spending some time at the 21st Century Newspaper (an affiliate paper for college students centered around education) as well as some time with the Metro section for the China Daily. The thing that surprised me most was that my previous perception of newsroom interactions were not completely  valid globally.

The time when I first noticed this was on my first day at the internship and a girl on my staff came up to me and asked if she could have my Windows Live Messenger screen name since she wanted to tell me about a story idea. Instead of telling me right then and there, she later messaged me on my computer and then told me the story idea. This wasn’t the only time I had this situation. Nearly everyday the office was silent and people would only talk to me through messenger or email when we all sat in cubicles close together. Now, I don’t know if it’s because I was new and a foreigner, but maybe someone should examine this, that I believe that some Chinese journalists or maybe even other office workers in general, may have some sort of social anxiety or disorder, where they feel more comfortable interacting through online interactions than in person. The most significant example I can think of happened when I was working on a story and another girl on my staff messaged me, asking about a couple english phrases. I tried my best to help her then she thanked me, saying I was going to ask Charlie (another co-worker from the US, who had been there for about 5 years), but he wasn’t online. This puzzled me because the thing is, Charlie sits 3 feet away from her and was at his desk the entire time.

To me, this seems the beginning of something I learned from a Japanese anime where people called “hikikomori” basically seclude themselves and only come in contact with people through online interactions, they usually don’t even leave their homes for months on end. While this isn’t as severe as that type of situation, when you can’t communicate at work in person with co-worker only a few feet away from you, I think it’s the beginning of something serious. Walking down the hallways of the China Daily, in most offices, you could probably hear a pin drop. One time as I was speaking with Charlie, he told me that he sometimes deliberately doesn’t sign-on to messenger in order to force people to come speak with him, as the silence also can drive him crazy.

I can only hope that these people won’t, in the future, suffer the same complete social withdrawl of the ill-fated Japanese hikikomori.

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Filed under American in China, China, Social

America F*** NO!

I think that this blog is turning into more of a web journal, since I only update it when I have the time, but this post is inspired by a recent column written for the China Daily Metro section by my friend Will Axford. It can be viewed here at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/metro/2010-07/30/content_11073081.htm

I’ve been in Beijing for about 5 weeks now, as I arrived on June 24th. I think I can say this experience if making me into a better person than I was before because of all the things I get to experience and also getting to see how people in other countries live their lives from day to day. What I didn’t expect was my thoughts of some of the people from my own country here in Beijing. In Will’s column, he talks about this briefly, as I was one of the friends with him at this pizza shop and I’m going to go into this deeper.

Every week my friends and I have been going to this chain-restaurant pizza shop in Beijing called the Kros Nest since the pizza is amazing and also if you go on Wednesday night they have free beer from 8 – 10 p.m. Basically all you can drink Tsingtao drafts. For three recent college graduate American expats, this is an opportunity you just can’t let pass by to relax after a long day working in the newsroom at China Daily, but every week we see these same American college students. They’re loud and obnoxious and the restaurant staff are annoyed by the very sight of them. I understand that they’re college students, but it doesn’t mean they need to be disrespectful by drunkenly shouting profanities and chanting “USA! USA! USA!” at the top of their lungs, or even singing the theme song from Team America known as “America F*** Yeah!”, as well.

Being around these people makes me want to pretend I’m from Canada and not feel proud to think that we all come from the same melting pot. Just because we’re in a country where people don’t speak the same language, doesn’t mean people here don’t deserve the same amount of respect.

While I may not be a perfect person in all aspects, I still have the piece of mind to be respectful in a place that is only my temporary home and also to the many traditions and cultural aspects I may not completely agree with. To me, these people I’m meeting and observing don’t follow the definition of an American in my dictionary.

For now all I can say is that of the title of this blog post: “America F*** NO!”. Some of the Americans I’ve seen in Beijing need to grow up and watch how they handle themselves. Why would we want even more people in the world to hate us and think Americans are obnoxious when much of the world already thinks that? We stereotype people in America and many of these people seem to be serving as the American stereotype for the Chinese people.

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Filed under America, China

Beijing or Bust!

It seems like I’ve been neglecting my blog, one thing I always seem to do. I’ve been here in Bejijng for 12 days and I’ve already seen so much and am starting my second week of working here at the China Daily. For this first blog, I think I’ll start with my trip to Beijing then I’ll catch up to where I am currently since most days I don’t do anything, but work all day so not much exciting goes on.

I’ll try to spare the boring parts, but the journey really begins once I got on the plane at Dulles International Airport. It was direct from Washinton, D.C to Beijing Capital Airport, 14 hours.

It was a bit of an annoyance, but for the first hour or so on the plane, I was sitting next to a young Chinese university student on his way back home who grilled me on why I was going to China and why I was interested in interning at the China Daily, a state-run publication. He couldn’t understand the fact that I want to be a journalist, well, that I am a journalist, and experience is experience. What better a place to get international reporting experience than in the PRC if you have the connections through your school?

All that aside, although it felt like a lifetime, I made it to Beijing, bewildered since I didn’t speak any of the language. The next couple hours after arriving were some of the most stressful times of my life. The plan was that I was supposed to get there, get online with the airport WIFI and contact my friend who was going to meet me at the airport to take me to our hotel. I was supposed to be able to check my email and he would have sent me his phone number for me to call him after I got a sim card for my cell phone. The problem was that there was no free Internet in the airport and you could only use it if you were on a departing flight. The information desk directed me to the “business center” where I would be able to get online and check my email, but when I finally checked it, there was no email from my friend. Apparently he got on a different flight and didn’t get to Beijing till later than he was supposed to. So here I was stranded in the airport with no contact and on top of that my cell phone battery was dead.

Fear not, for I eventually charged my phone as this ghetto charging station where you attach your battery, and was able to get online later on my phone to send an email to Eric to call my number which he eventually got his. From there I got in a taxi where the driver at first told me “no” when I handed him the address in English and I had to call Eric to have him tell the driver where to go in Chinese. When I did get to the hotel, I found out about 30 minutes later as I waited for Eric that I was at the wrong hotel, as our hotel was a chain with about 15 hotels of the same name. From here I went into a shop and handed my phone to a woman holding a baby who then was able to help me get another taxi and tell the driver where to take me.

It turns out that I was on the complete other side of the city from where I needed to be. After I got out of the taxi, I met my friend who I hadn’t seen in weeks since we were in State College, PA. We got to the hotel and that was the end of my long and tiresome journey before we went out to dinner that night.

I arrived at Beijing Capital Airport at 2:30 pm. From the time it took me to get through customs, get my baggage and face all these troubles till I met my friend, Eric, it was about 8 pm when I finally arrived at the correct hotel and was about to go out to dinner. Nonetheless, I was triumphant and hungry.

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Filed under China

Life as a College Graduate, I’m going to Asia!

I realize I haven’t posted in a while and I apologize for that. The last month of school was just very crazy. It felt as if I did nothing all semester and all of my work was due during that last month. To tell you the truth though, the bulk of my work was in the last month, that’s just how my professors setup the classes, but, anyway, I survived and am now a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University with a B.A. in Journalism and a minor in English!

I bet you’re all wondering, what now. Do you have a job? The answer to that is, well, not quite, but I’m happy to report that I’m going to Beijing, China! In past entries I said that I wanted to go to Asia and with persistence and searching, I got offered an internship with the China Daily, one of the top English-language newspapers in China. Just to show how big it is, the paper has an average daily circulation of more than 300,000 in about 150 countries and regions. My past professional experience only includes blogging, so I really wanted to work for a print newspaper, although I could be working on the website, Chinadaily.com.cn.

Here is my plan and it is to go to Beijing to intern for the China Daily. I’ll be there for about 2 months. If I really love Beijing, I’m planning on trying to find a full-time position there. If that doesn’t work out, I already have another internship lined up right after where I’m going to be working at Akihabara News, a tech blog in Tokyo. If you know me, you know that is right up my alley.

I can’t wait to be in China, especially for the food. Just look at the pictures I posted and these are just noodle soups. Doesn’t it look amazing? That is only one thing, there’s going to be tons of dumplings, steamed buns, tofu and everything else that I can’t imagine right now and it’s all supposedly very cheap. I think about 6 dumplings costs less than 50 cents. By the way, I think the food in those pictures look delicious, they’re screen shots from when I was watching Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in Shanghai on my computer.

I’m definitely going to be updating my blog a lot more frequently. I plan to keep a blog from now on of all my journeys and experiences while I’m in Beijing and then also if I go to Japan. So be sure to keep checking back!

One last thing, being the crazy technology-obsessed American that I am, one thing I’m really excited about is all of the cheap KIRFs (people in the tech world call them Keeping It Real Fake), or in other words, Chinese knockoffs. Apparently they are really cheap. They have fake cellphones, like iPhone for about $100, I’ve even seen KIRFs that look like the new iPhone 4G that was recently leaked and isn’t even out yet. I have my eye set on a KIRF iPad, which runs Android 2.1, the same as my Nexus One (by Google) cell phone and now has about the same processor as the iPad that costs about $250. What also is improved is that it has a place to put SD cards for more memory, USB ports and also an HDMI output so you can display it on your TV.

China is gonna be amazing!

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Filed under China, Uncategorized

Great Firewall of China by Laura Ling

I saw this video a couple years ago on Current, one of my favorite news sites/tv channels. It’s what really got me interested in censorship in China.

Laura Ling goes to China where an information battle is taking place between China’s 120 million Internet users and the Chinese government’s web censors.

The Great Firewall of China by Laura Ling

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Filed under Censorship, China, Media

Should America REALLY interfere with censorship in China?

I wanted to bring up this topic since I’ve been following the story pretty closely with Google and China. I have many different thoughts on this, so I will try to make sure this whole entry conclusive in the end and I think my journalism education is sufficient grounds for me to talk about this.

If you didn’t know, recently Google pulled their China search engine since they no longer wished to provide service in China with the government wanting search results censored and because of the recent hacking of Google servers. If you type in google.cn right now, you are redirected to the Hong Kong version, which is uncensored, since again if you didn’t know, although it is technically part of China, in a sense, it is its own country with its own currency (the Hong Kong dollar), legal system, and parliamentary system.

Now before I get into the US, although I’m a huge fanboy of Google, I think that they were wrong to think they could push there ideals on another country. I’m all for internet freedom, but Google knew beforehand what they were getting into, a growing economic powerhouse with heavy censorship. This seems a shame to me that they decided to pull the search engine because now someone else will come in and take all the business when Google was already providing more results to the Chinese than ever before.

Going back to America now, I’ve read and heard people talking about how we should now urge China to change their laws of censorship and I have to disagree on this matter. When the Google/China conflict was going on, I remember hearing about a speech that Hilary Clinton gave. It didn’t seem right for her to give it since, in my opinion, this conflict was between a corporation and another country. I felt that the US had no right to intervene. Although Google is an American company, in the end, it is a company and as I learned in one of my classes last semester, a corporation has no boundaries, they are only out for their own self profit. If you want to see further how this is true, look up how Coca-cola sold a special drink to the Nazis during WWII or how IBM sold printing machines to them for the concentration camps, which had to be serviced inside the camps by an American IBM worker once a year. Trying to force a communist country to change their censorship laws seems like it could only start a war. So many times, I’ve noticed the US trying to push our ideals on another country like in the Middle East and it creates conflict. For China’s sake, I think that they will need to change these laws on their own. It may not happen in our lifetime, but I believe it will happen eventually as the younger generation begins to take power.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to be giving a presentation to my World Media Systems class about censorship in China, focusing on the conflict between China and Google. One of the students in my group went to China this spring break as part of an international reporting class and although I only talked about this for a few minutes recently about the matter, he said that the people in China aren’t as concerned as the people of the US are about this. Most of the people he talked to in Shanghai said “why should they care” since the Google conflict doesn’t really concern them. That there is nothing they can really do right now. This came from a man he talked to in a park. America is a country that I feel thinks she has a responsibility to get involved and try to change things, even when the people of that country aren’t as concerned. With Chinese censorship, I feel it would be best for America to not get involved as it will only create tension between our countries when we have good relations right now. I think that if the Chinese people want change, they will bring it to themselves eventually, just look how far China already.

I found article from Gizmodo by Brian Lam, about his thoughts on the conflict. He spent all his summers in Hong Kong when he was young and his views are similar to mine, so its worth checking out, here.

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Filed under Censorship, China, Google