January 20th, 2008

Last night’s dinner was great. Good food, excellent company. Can’t ask for much more than that. We went to Feiteng Yuxiang, the branch on Chunxiu Lu- oddly enough, this is the best site I can find for it, but it does at least list addresses for some of their branches- for some good chuancai, and they certainly delivered. My only gripe was that the room was too warm- but that’s nothing to complain about in the middle of winter.

Actually, I really liked the gongbao jiding- it was the first gongbao jiding I’ve ever had that actually had a bit of spice too it. They’d put proper chillies into it instead of those pathetic northern Chinese non-spicy chillies.

But Jeremiah raised two points that I found interesting:

  1. The quality of commentary in the English-language China blogosphere has gone really downhill. Yep, unfortunately, and on certain bigger blogs more than others, comment threads are all too often childish slanging fests right from the get-go. It used to be you could actually get some intelligent, rational discussion in before the nutjobs dragged it off topic and started hurling abuse. Not any more.
  2. New Zealand companies advertising in China like to emphasise the New Zealand origins of their products. Jeremiah suggested this could be because of the general political inoffensiveness of New Zealand. It’s really hard to get angry at New Zealand. Of course, this also applies to Canada and Denmark (at least in China, and perhaps not among China’s Muslim population). I suspect, though, that they’re trying to trade off New Zealand’s “clean green” image. I just have to wonder how they expect that to work, though, they seem to running on too many assumptions. China is not North America or Western Europe, where that image may be strong. The only ads for New Zealand products I can recall seeing on TV (and I don’t watch a lot of TV- most of what I see I see because my wife is watching while I amuse myself with something else) are for Fonterra’s dairy products, and they do seem to emphasise the New Zealand connection, but I don’t recall seeing much about “clean and green”. That may be worth further investigation…

Of course, a conversation with Jeremiah is guaranteed to include many interesting points, those are just two that I found worth sharing with the wider world.

7 Responses to “snippets”

  1. Matthew Stinson Says:

    Sounds like a good dinner. Was the 宫保鸡丁 served with chopped spring onion along with the spice? That’s the way 沸腾鱼乡 offers the dish in Tianjin, and it’s so good.

    I agree about the general decline of China blogs, but I’d say they follow the trend among blogs overall, starting with a high point in 2001-2002 and going downhill steadily afterwards. Check out an American political blog and you’ll see the same behaviors you describe.

    A broader point with regard to China blogs is that they suffer from a lack of interesting topics. Much as Jeremiah criticizes the “recipe” method of writing China stories in the Western press in one of his new blog posts on The China Beat, a similar famine of imagination has gripped the China blogosphere.

    From my point of view, what topics are most consistently blogged about?
    * pollution
    * The Olympics
    * free speech
    * corruption

    The pattern just repeats itself over and over again, and while I’m definitely guilty of this in my own blogging, the “sameness” of it all leads me to skim most China blog posts. I guess getting away from the pattern is why The Peking Duck is half American politics recently!

  2. wangbo Says:

    It was a good dinner, but I don’t remember any chopped spring onions.

    Sorry, but I have no desire to check out any American political blog because so much of what I have seen of modern American political discourse looks so much like comment threads on Time’s China Blog. Still, I do think there’s still some variety in China blogging topics. Sure, there is a lot of the same, old, tired repetitive stuff, and I would say that’s what attracts the worst of the commentary, but there is still a bit of variety. I mean, just glancing through my blogroll I can see food and drink and literature and art and law and PR and media, too.

  3. Matthew Stinson Says:

    Ah, the spring onions add a nice texture to the meal.

    I was making a mock suggestion about the American political blogs, but that kind of discourse has unquestionably invaded the Chinese blogs as well. I know what you mean about the variety in your blogroll, but I’m talking about the general China blogs which are among the most widely read. The Time China Blog, Imagethief, TPD, Peking Duck, James Fallows and others definitely fall into that topic trap regularly. Half of the time Danwei follows suit, though they usually take a more contrarian point of view. I read Danwei for the media coverage, though, and that’s always good. The Hao Hao Report has a lot of entries in these categories — though that’s the result of the masses choosing to highlight those topics.

    Among the special interest blogs, I’d say Jottings from the Granite Studio and China Law Blog are the most consistently interesting. Brendan O’Kane is a fun read but doesn’t blog enough. Ditto for John at Sinosplice. One thing I’d like to see are more Chinese character learning blogs and especially Chinese food and art blogs. I’m shocked and amazed that there are so few blogs devoted to Chinese cuisine.

  4. wangbo Says:

    To be fair to Imagethief, he does specialise in PR. I think it’s only natural to develop a bit of a formula under the circumstances. China Law Blog posts also often follow a certain pattern, but that doesn’t detract from them (I only zone out when it gets too technical for me). I guess its the business law focus that saves CLB from the topic trap- it’s only corruption that can ensnare them there, and being lawyers with extensive experience, they can provide a fresh and more useful angle than most. The trap has too many PR angles for Imagethief to avoid it.

    I agree wholeheartedly about the lack of food and art blogs, and food in particular. I’ve only recently started finding any. And language blogs, too. I’ve been meaning for a long time to rerererere-kickstart my Chinese study blog, but I never quite get round to it, and I doubt that would contribute anything to filling that gap. Beijing Sounds looks like making a real contribution in that area, at least for those into Beijinghua. Apetite for China and Golden Dragon Wonton are two food blogs I found recently. Golden Dragon Wonton is new, though, and posts are infrequent so far.

    Yeah, spring onions are in many gongbao jidings and I like them, but I didn’t even notice they were missing last night. It did look and taste a little different from most, I was just too ecstatic about the spiciness to care. You can blame my inner chilli-starved Hunanren for that. I am so happy I got my chilli tolerance back, now I’m out looking for spicy food again.

  5. Matthew Stinson Says:

    I’m not deriding the blogs or writers that fall into that trap. I mean, I admire James Fallows immensely as a journalist, but last year his blog turned into “all Beijing air pollution, all the time.”

    I guess the lack of language-learning blogs is one reason Brendan and John’s previous blogging output is sorely missed now.

    I think there was another food blog Sinosplice recommended, something like How to Order Chinese food, which combined Chinese language learning and food, and that was good, but didn’t have a lot of posts last time I looked.

  6. wangbo Says:

    I thought How to Order Chinese Food was set up by Ben Ross the hairdresser to provide a list of foreigner-friendly dishes and help non-Chinese speakers get decent local meals in China. I never bothered to check it out myself, but I’m not surprised if there aren’t many posts, considering how infrequently Ben has been posting to his blog since he arrived back in America.

  7. Matthew Stinson Says:


    I checked out Beijing Sounds. Very nice use of sound and text. I hope they keep it up.