The Rise of the Chinese Blogosphere

The Rise of the Chinese Blogosphere

Zixue Tai (University of Kentucky, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-368-5.ch007
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Abstract

In comparison with the USA and Europe, the Chinese blogosphere was off to a later start; however, it has experienced phenomenal growth since its formal birth in 2002. Now China boasts by far the largest blogging community in the world, surpassing the blogger population in the United States and Europe combined. Chinese bloggers are among the first globally to both actively engage in blog writing and reading. Although the Chinese blogosphere has closely followed the global path of technological innovation and ingenuity, it has taken many of its own unique twists and turns in terms of its creative uses and impact on the social, political and cultural contexts of Chinese society. Focusing on the popularization of blogs, mainstreaming, and commercialization of the global cyber culture in China, this chapter paints a portrait of a Chinese blogger. Due to the omnipresent state control of cyberspace and heavy-handed state censoring of online information, most Chinese bloggers have shied away from politically sensitive and subversive issues and topics. The most popular blogging topics include the documentation of personal experiences and the expression of individual viewpoints on a wide range of topics; these topics are followed by hobbies, entertainment, and amusement.
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Background

User Generated Content holds a special place among Chinese netizens. Blogs, together with a variety of other social media technologies, fulfill a niche need for diverse users (Bruns, 2008). Universal McCann, a global media communications agency, has conducted three waves of world surveys of Internet users in over twenty countries from September 2006 through March 2008. Its latest survey estimates that, as of March 2008, China has over 42 million bloggers (cf. 47 million estimated by the China Internet Network Information Center as of November 2007, as mentioned earlier)2 out of a worldwide total of 184 million. China’s blogging community is by far the largest in the world, larger than that in the U.S. and Western Europe combined (Universal McCann, 2008).

The prominence of blogs in the cyber culture of a particular nation can be demonstrated by the percentage of Internet users who regularly read and write blogs. Of the 29 nations surveyed by Universal McCann in its Third Wave study in interviewing active Internet users (i.e., using the Internet every day or every other day), China is ranked third (88.1% of Chinese netizens reported ever reading blogs), slightly trailing South Korea (92.1%) and the Philippines (90.3%). By comparison, only 60.3% Internet users in the United States reported ever reading blogs, putting the U.S. close to the bottom on the list (Universal McCann, 2008).

Key Terms in this Chapter

BlogChina: An arch competitor of BlogCN (as suggested by its Chinese name Boke Zhongguo, or Blog China), it is headquartered in the Zhongguancun district of Beijing, nicknamed the “Silicon Valley of China.” It was founded in August 2002 by a blog pioneer Fang Xingdong as www.blogchina.com, and changed its name to Boke Wang (Blog Net) in July 2005 (hosted at www.bokee.com). As of late 2008, it claims over 20 registered users, and reports an average of 1.2 million logins per day.

Netizen: Called Wang Min in Mandarin, the term is defined by the China Internet Network Information Center as any Chinese citizen older than six years who has used the Internet in the past six months.

China Blog Contest: It has become a common strategy among major BSPs in China to host contests among bloggers for varying amounts of cash prizes in order to promote their brands and attract traffic to their sites. Each contest is typically thematically branded with a particular focus, and often involves commercial sponsor(s).

QQ: The most popular instant messaging service in China offered by Tencent Inc. As of September 2008, QQ had 865 million registered accounts, of which 355 million were active. Besides instant messaging, Tencent also offers game, chat, and blog services.

BlogCN: Known in China as Zhongguo Boke (China Blog), BlogCN is one of the most popular blog service providers in China. It offers both free and fee-based (VIP) blog hosting services to bloggers in the Chinese language. BlogCN started its operation in November 2002, and was the first to offer free blog hosting service in China. Headquartered in Hangzhou (the provincial capital of Zhenjiang), it has registered over 25 million bloggers and attracts an average of 30 million visits per day as of late 2008.

Blog Service Provider (BSP): A company that offers free or paid blog hosting service. BSPs have played an indispensable role in the popularization of China’s blogosphere, particularly in the early stages.

Boke: (1) a noun to refer to a blog page or site; (2) a noun for a blogger; (3) a verb to mean “to author a blog page or site.” The term was coined by blog pioneers Fang Xingdong and Wang Junxiu in July 2002 in their effort to introduce blogs/blogging to China.

User Generated Content (UGC): The term refers to various types of content that is generated by end-users and is publicly available on the Internet. Examples include postings on electronic Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), messages in online chat rooms, and blog entries.

China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC): A non-profit network information center of China founded in 1997. CNNIC is administered jointly by the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry (MII) and by Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Boke Mingren: The popularization of blogging in China has led to the rise of a special genre of bloggers, often nicknamed Boke Mingren (“blog celebrities”), who have established a reputation among blog writers and readers through their blog entries.

Mingren Boke: A term for celebrity bloggers in China. It was first coined by Sina when it staged a movement to sign up celebrities in China to open accounts and contribute to its blog section (at blog.sina.com.cn). This was part of an effort to gain competitive edge over popular independent blog sites by diverting traffic to Sina’s blog sites.

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