The China Beat Closes Its Doors

By , July 2, 2012

"Yi Lu Ping An" - Chinese phrase for Bon Voyage

Some blogs come and some blogs go, so what are you going to do about it, that’s what I’d like to know

That tune I found myself humming tonight when I opened my Twitter account to slews of tweets lamenting the end of an era, lamenting the end of the China Beat.

For the past four years, the China Beat, a blog out of UC Irvine, posted some of the most eclectic, insightful and best written posts on China.  Subtitled, “How the East is Read” and run by a group of Chinese historians, the blog covered a wide array of issues in a fun and engaging way, making China accessible to everyone.  But more than just the quality of its posts, the China Beat also afforded a platform for different voices in the field:  young students of Chinese studies, non-scholar observers of China, and women.

For much of the China Beat’s history, two women have been important members of the four person team  that ran the site: Kate Merkel-Hess and Maura Cunningham.  Does gender matter?  I think it does.  Each of us has a perspective through which we view this world and our experiences in life is what determines that perspective; gender plays a part in creating that perspective.  I’m making no normative assessments of these perspectives, just acknowledge that gender can at times offer a different viewpoint.

In the Western-based China world, women’s voices are often not at the forefront.  A review of my book shelf has just two China books written by women (Susan Shirk and Elizabeth Economy); my Google Reader lists blogs written by men (aside from Flora Sapio’s Forgotten Archipeligos); and most of the major journalists who regularly cover China are men (exceptions being Lousia Lim of NPR, Sharon LaFraniere of NY Times and Melissa Chan formerly of Al Jazeera).

So it was refreshing to have a blog that was 50% female-run, with high-quality women who offered amazing scholarship.

Regardless of the gender make up of the China Beat blog team, the fact that such an amazing blog is shutting down is a travesty in and of itself.

Bye-bye China Beat

As with many blogs, the China Beat editors were finding it increasingly difficult to balance blogging with their paid jobs and ultimately it was the blog that had to go.  As much as we all try, you cannot make a living on China blogging  and some other job must pay the bills.  But with all the efforts to improve Americans’ understanding of China such as the State Department’s 100,000 Strong Initiative, blogs like the China Beat, which helped to illuminate the mysteries of China to the average American, has to close its doors.  It’s a pity that there are no grants out there to support the work of the China Beat which lessened the distance between the American people, especially the vast majority who will likely never visit China, and the Chinese.

With the China Beat closing its doors, its left to other blogs to try to pick up the mantel of honest, interesting and smart blog posts.  While China Law & Policy will try, most likely no one will be able to replace the China Beat.

Good-bye the China Beat; we hardly knew ye’.

2 Responses to “The China Beat Closes Its Doors”

  1. Dan says:

    The China Price by Alexandra Harney is an excellent book by a female author. Xujun Eberlein is another excellent female writer on China and she has a blog called Inside-Out China. These two were just off the top of my head so I am betting there are plenty more. I too bemoan the loss of China Beat, but I am confident that you and others will make sure there is no dearth of females doing a great job covering China. I also note that there are plenty of first rate female reporters covering China as well.

  2. Greg says:

    Can’t say I will miss China Beat, because really there’s nothing to miss. Sure, the posts were well written, but the site was rarely updated with new content (only every couple months or so), making it akin to a Chinese ghost-city. Not to mention that their pseudo-scholarly tone was pretentious and outdated even though, laughably, none of them actually live in China. And let’s not forget their snobby “no comments allowed” policy that prohibited any interaction with we lowly commoners, which in this day and age of social networking is a major no-no. Face it: site like ChinaBeat was destined to be archived; I get more interesting and current articles and information from Reddit (r/China), making blogs like The China Beat and their ivory tower contributors obsolete.

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