About Chublic Opinion

Why Chublic Opinion?

I started this blog partly as a way to prevent my written English from rotting in the daily writing of emails and internal documents. From the very beginning I figure that I need an area of focus that is broad enough to allow a steady stream of writable topics and at the same time narrow enough to create some consistency. (Online) public opinion stands out as a desirable option for the fact that 1) there are always interesting things happening; 2) materials are readily and publicly available; 3) It is sufficiently relevant and consequential that enables reflective and critical writing.

Without question this area of focus also has its limitations. For one thing, what’s said on the internet and in the Chinese media does not fully represent “public” opinion in China. It only represents a portion of the Chinese society that is privileged and vocal enough to have its voice heard. Secondly, much of it is secondary information that has gone through all kinds of distortion. But since I have a full-time job by day, this seems to be a compromise I have to live with while being explicit about it.

Nowadays much is said about China around the world. There is an abundance of INFORMATION but still a shortage of INSIGHT. I’m not saying that this blog is in any way close to providing valuable insights but at least it is something I try to do. In the process, I am deeply humbled by the realization that the most insightful analyses and commentaries of contemporary China come from inside this country, in Chinese. Only a tiny portion of that manages to penetrate into the dense and noisy global conversation about China. For instance, the website MJPRESS used to provide a daily summary of public debates and a dispassionate record of China’s shifting media landscape, which serves as a great inspiration to this blog (it no longer does, which is a pity. For a sample of what they did, see Xu Danei’s column archived on FT’s Chinese site) ; commentators such as @石扉客 and 宋志标, both veteran journalists, offer piercing observations of current affairs; and analysts such as 元淦恭 produce interesting and original analyses about China’s politico-economic developments (his article shedding light on the transformation of the new leadership’s propaganda strategy by tracking the public appearance of key “political singers” is a classic example of how far you can get with publicly available information.) I am fully aware that if my blogs are translated into Chinese, they will probably not stand out among all the illuminating writing that is happening in the fast-changing world of the Chinese cyber space. In other words, if you have a decent grasp of Chinese that allows you to read these people directly, you probably do not need to read this blog…

With the above qualification and caution, I welcome you to Chublic Opinion. A few words about myself: I am a Shanghai native who currently live in Beijing. For the past decade I have been working in the area of environmental advocacy(In order to keep my organization from getting entangled with opinions expressed here I decide to keep the blog anonymous). As English is not my first language, please bear with the occasional grammatical errors and poor choices of words 🙂

You can also find me on Twitter: @TJMa_beijing

18 thoughts on “About Chublic Opinion

  1. 马先生你好,我是一名对中国时事深感兴趣的华裔。因为从小到大和中国大陆人(甭说是中国知识分子)鲜少接触,所以目前阅读过的有关中国信息大部分取自西方学者笔下的论述,自觉对中国的理解难免狭隘且片面。文中看你写道 “如果读者具备些许中文能力的话,或许就可以直接参考这些人的文章,没必要来此网站“一句后,只想在此留个言,希望您能推荐中文博客界里的一些您认为分析最中肯、见解最独到的博客(或类似网站),以便参考。先此致谢。


    • 智良,你好!建议你安装微信,然后关注几个有质量的微信公众号,比如“智谷趋势”、“旧闻评论”等等都是很值得读的。


  2. Hey. I’m a Chinese who currently study overseas. I will constantly follow your blog and use it as a place to study English while keeping myself updated of news in China. Please keep it up! 🙂


  3. Hi TJMa (I assume that’s what you’d like to be called judging by your twitter handle and out of respect for your wishes to keep anonymous on this blog), I heard about this great blog from the Sinica interview you did a couple of weeks ago and I have been following your succinct summaries and insightful analysis of Chinese public opinion ever since. As someone active in the political science field and have a keen, albeit casual, interest in China, I’d really love to contribute to great projects like yours in my spare time. So let me know if need any extra help with news gathering or editorial matters and I’d love to volunteer. I speak fluent Mandarin Chinese if that’d help. Keep up with the great work.


  4. Have listened to you on Sinica podcast and look forward to following your blog. Excellent writing btw.


  5. Hi TJMa,
    I am a Chinese “professional” translator who has been trying very hard to improve English skills for years, but without much success, and your writing just blew my mind. I would really like to pick your brain and see what you did that makes you such an excellent English writer (at least for a native Chinese). It would help me a lot if you could answer these questions for me:
    1. When did you start to read extensively in English?
    2. How do you memorize new words?


    • Hi Martin, thanks for your message. Based on this brief note I can tell that your English is pretty decent, so don’t worry too much about that 🙂 I was an English major in college (I guess you are probably the same) and I studied in the US for my master’s. It also helps a lot that English is almost the working language of my two jobs. I read English-language publications on a daily basis, and watch/listen to English-language programs regularly. There is an App called Biscuit which I’d recommend. The App makes it much easier to note down new English words you encounter and memorize them until they become part of your vocabulary.


      • So excited to see your reply! I’ve followed you for quite some time and have been mulling over these questions before summoning enough courage to asked them. You answer removed a huge mental block for me. You see, over the years, I’ve bought into and been disheartened by Krashen’s (?) theory that once a person passes a certain age, he/she can never learn a second language as well as his/her first. But seeing how flawlessly you took command of English changed my mind. It’s such an inspiration for me. Thank you. I will keep reading your blogs and recommend them to my friends, colleagues, and basically anyone who is as keen as I am to master this elusive language.


  6. This will be a useful, perhaps unique blog, keep it up. Comment I hope will be constructive: I just read your Trump article and found your use of the word “liberal” ambiguous and confusing. “Liberal” has two meanings that are nearly opposite. Small “l” liberal philosophy is defined by a belief in individual freedom and imposition of limits on the power of the state, sometimes called classical liberalism. Big “L” Liberalism, on the other hand, now also called Progressivism in the U.S., is a philosophy advocating increased centralized power and top-down solutions. In Europe it is similar to “Labor” in the U.K. or Social Democratic parties on the continent, and is loosely equivalent to Socialism in policy. In your article it was unclear which meaning you were drawing on in your various uses of the term. In the U.S. many people aren’t even aware of the older meaning of liberal, hence “liberal values” to them means something like “social democratic” or “socialist” values. Politically, “white liberals” would be assumed to refer to progressives, i.e., the democratic party of Hillary Clinton. For related reasons “right wing” is a problematic term. Mussoulini and Hitler are on opposite extremes of the political spectrum from the likes of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek in the 20th century and philosophers like Adam Smith, David Ricard, and John Stuart Mill in the 18th and 19th centuries. but modern Liberals call both types “right wing”. These political labels are confusing for native speakers, hence I thought it worth highlighting them.


  7. I stumbled upon Ping Pong Fury and immediately forwarded it to my close friend after reading with a caption “There is a lesson here, beneath the eyes” who is suffering from company politics. This is interesting, I thought, very interesting. I read Knock Out next and it was much greater depth than what I had read before. That settled it so I am following you. Just wanted you to know that you’re writing an interesting and informative blog and it is appreciated. Had been to China many times in the past and have many Chinese colleagues so this is especially interesting to me. Thanks.


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