posted on July 13, 2008 00:06
Picking up a copy of the 'new' That's Beijing magazine last night I found more (not unexpected) proof of the awfulness of local English-language media produced by local publishers who ought to know better. That's Beijing used to be produced by a US-run firm called True Run Media, and they did a decent job of listing all the worthwhile events, restaurants, bars etc in the city. They also ran some good writing on local art, music and literary scenes.
When their Chinese government-run partner/sponsor handed the magazine to a local firm - China Electric Power Media - its former publishers (True Run) relaunched as The Beijinger. They also took the writers and advertising, by the looks of the 'new' That's Beijing. It's mostly filled with over-written cliche pieces on pub crawls, weekend lunches and shopping outings in Beijing, interespersed with ads for spas and hotel bars. There's one worthhile article, on the founders of D-22, the rock bar in the university district of Wudoukou. Nothing in it though about how the bar has been told it can't have live music during the Olympics: local authorities gave them the choice of either selling drink or having music, and the proprietors have put concerts on ice till September.
The Beijinger - which has a couple of well-written pages on how the Olymics shut down on live outdoor venues is effecting the local rock scene - is edited by foreigners for foreigners. Hence it's what foreigners read, and where they go to advertise.I never stop wondering at Chinese publishers' preoccupation with the country's expatriate community - especially given that Russians, Koreans and Japanese make up the bulk of Beijing's expats and many don't even read English. Native English speakers/readers meanwhile would be hard pressed to maintain interest in what a magazine like That's Beijing - now written by Chinese for foreigners - puts out. There's nothing about rock music or anything else recommendably alternative in Expat, a new title focused at expatriates. Only advertorial and ads for watches, malls and yes, spas and hotel bars, in this title of heavy glossy pages.
Here's what happens to people who write about worthwhile, unwritten issues in Beijing. A cameraman for Czech TV on assignment near the north Korean border says undercover police searched his room, seized four videotapes and went through his computerafter he conducted interviews with North Korean refugees. Officials at the Chinese Foreign Ministry quizzed him for two hours, perused his computer and camera memory cards, then threatened the journalist with a deportation order, on the grounds that he "funding and planning the storming of 'foreign offices' in Beijing. His story is one of many of police harassment of reporters tackling issues - don't expect to read about in the 'new' That's Beijing or Expat magazines.More ...