Blog Revolution in China

by Ray Matthews on December 03, 2004 at 12:01 PM

While the government may not be enthusiastic over offering RSS news feeds, the Chinese people themselves are embracing Internet communications with gusto and particularly RSS news syndication in the form of blogging.

According to China's biggest blogging service provider blogcn.com, the number of subscribers has soared from 10,000 in June last year, to more than 500,000 now.

A couple of years ago technology writer Fang Xingdong at his site blogchina.com coined the Chinese term bo ke to mean blogger. He encouraged his readers to try blogging by registering on blogger.com. “Blogging is a true revolution,” he wrote. “One needs zero technology training, zero institution and zero cost to become a blogger.”

The number of Chinese online has quintupled over the past four years. Duncan Clark, managing director of BDA China, a telecommunications and technology consulting firm based in Beijing, said in an email message to the to Tom Zeller, Jr. of the New York Times, "China's rulers are bent on putting communications, mobile phones, Internet access and the new growth area, broadband, into as many hands as possible."

"China is already the largest mobile communications subscriber market in the world," reports the Internet Herald Tribune, "with more than 320 million subscribers." Internet users, who numbered fewer than 17 million in 2000, are now estimated to be somewhere near 90 million, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre, the government's clearinghouse for Internet statistics. China is second only to the United States in the number of people online."

Beijing has an uneven record of late in allowing citizens access to Google English News headlines giving Chinese searchers access to uncensored news from all over the world. According to Reporters Without Borders, China is censoring Google News to force Internet users to use the Chinese version of the site which has been purged of the most critical news reports.

Similarly, the government is also ambivalent about how allowing its citizens to freely blog. Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California at Berkeley runs the China Digital News blog and is monitoring the pulse of blogging in China.

Qiang reports that by January 2003, China had about 2000 bloggers when, without warning, the Chinese government blocked all access to blogspot.com, the server that hosts all blogs registered on blogger.com. According to Qiang:

[The] crackdown in 2003 closed websites and internet cafes and saw the arrest of dozens of online commentators.

Yet this is not proving enough to stifle the pluck and ingenuity of China’s bloggers. The rise of the blog phenomenon was made possible by blog-hosting services. Just as companies like Yahoo host email accounts, sites like blogger.com, based in the United States, host blogs.....

Blog services are now sprouting all over China. By the end of October 2004, China had more than 45 large blog-hosting services. A Google search for bo ke will return more than two million results, from blogs for football fans to blogs for Christians.

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