I was curious about the tone and content of blogs by Chinese government officials. Keith Ng kindly read a bunch and fed back his impressions. Keith is a Kiwi journalist posting on the distinguished Public Address site. With his permission, here's what he said about the 81 middle and high-ranking municipal government officials blogging on the Suqian city web site.
It's a bit confusing, as you can't access the bio on the writers, I'm not quite sure who's who. But, say, one guy is talking about how he's getting new clothes (because he can't just keep wearing the same old thing from his in-laws...), but that's the only post on his blog.
One of the more prolific ones is more intellectual, in a I-read-public-notices-and-government-white-papers kind of way. I wouldn't quite go so far as to call it total inhuman party line. More dull-civil-servant party line. He expresses views, just really dull ones. There is one comment in the entire thing: "I really agree with you!". Sums it up, eh?
So it's like an official government voice, but in the first person and with a byline. I'm not really sure how the random one fits into all of this, but put it this way: It's a government domain name, it's full of government writers, therefore it's full of government readers - and everyone is using their real names. There might not be a specific agenda about what they should say, but there'll certainly be a firm understanding of what they shouldn't say.
Some of what Keith observes would probably be equally true if government officials in other countries were to take to blogging with enthusiasm â€” an improbable trend. The difference is (and here I regurgitate something I read on a news site and found easy to believe) that for Chinese officials this constrained opportunity to blog represents a new and heady freedom.
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