All posts by David Feng

Chinese Language Version of Arriving September 2016

With a fair bit of regret — I’m announcing the Chinese language versions (simplified and standard traditional script) will arrive with huge delays. After talking to language specialists I have realised that the Chinese I am using is either too official or too “non-professional”, as was told.

Whom do I really have to blame — the Chinese I have learnt in China was in essence forgotten when I landed in Switzerland in late 1988. (Thankfully, I picked them up again in intensive courses in 2000 through to late 2001.) I have been told many times that people would probably feel more “at home” in a presentation I did in English rather than one I tried in Chinese, even though I’ve done many similar events in Chinese. But for the public delivery factor, I’m defaulting back to English-only presentations with immediate effect. It’d be awful if my Chinese made no sense to you.

I know I’m going against the flow here. The thing is: in China, the way you look plays a very big role. (I wish this wasn’t the case, though.) If you look “non-Chinese”, a la Mark Zuckerberg, you giving even a three-minute speech in Chinese will be regarded as a gift from the lingo gods. If you look “Chinese”, you get the same treatment — if you pull it off in English.

And on that bit I am more than spooked. In 2009 I travelled with Twitter friends on trains around Beijing. Many passengers around us looked at the two of us in utter astonishment — these were two Chinese-looking people (one a Swiss citizen, the other a US citizen), talking in English. If they weren’t part of some secretive, foreign-funded plot to “do bad things to China”, they’d at least be very unpatriotic, so said the looks. From then onwards I’ve tried to play the “local card” by using Chinese whenever possible — only to be told, “Boy, this isn’t how we use Chinese here in China”.

I’m getting together Chinese professionals born-and-bred in China to help me with the Chinese sites. Until then it’s simply a case of — pretend these sites don’t come with a Chinese version. I’ll try to blank out pages but realise it’s not a censorship campaign — it’s just we write Chinese, even the basics, in a completely different way. If the Oyster machines have awful Chinese, that’s normal; it is one of the hardest languages to learn, both in terms of expressing ourselves, as well as the pronunciation and the characters. I have it harder as a “Chinese-looking” foreign passport holder. Reality is: to completely dispel any odd myths, I’ve been forced to resort to this measure of killing all sites in Chinese until it has been triple, even quadruple-checked, in Chinese by local experts. I’m also cutting down speaking opportunities in Chinese until I am quite sure that what goes into the mic is actually comprehensible to 1.3 billion.

It’s all very Swiss at the end of the day, really: if it’s not done to perfection, one prefers it was never done in the first place…

Oh and why September 2016? That’s 20 years after I first started coding for my first site (in English). I thought it’d make good timing…


Unhyped China, China City Directory, and More Planned for December 2014

I’m launching an entire content network which will also be partially centred on my ongoing research in media in China. All will launch in December 2014, ahead of an earlier scheduled date of January 2015.

  • Unhyped China will launch on 01 December 2014; on the same-day, I will also “soft-launch” the companion site, the China City Directory. Due to problems with the former Beijingology project, they will be “locked but regularly updated” wikis in the form of a regular WordPress blog. (What killed Beijingology was an eventual swarm of hackers that killed the network’s safety mechanisms.) The idea behind Unhyped China is that this is a site designed to inform you about “everything China” from a unique view, which is neither from government nor from “plain-vanilla” foreign media.
  • techblog86 features will launch on 08 December 2014, as well as key updates to the China-centric tech site. This will be very closely related to my China social media project.
  • The Chang’anjie Media Notebook and the associated remaining pages on will launch on 15 December 2014. This will form my personal centrepiece of my social media in China research project. At the same time, a new, similar-in-topic site will also launch; details are expected on this site soon.
  • Updates and improvements to my other blogs, including, That Building… and Chinglish Alert!, will all be completed by 22 December 2014.
  • Finally, the long-awaited relaunch of Tracking China is slated for 29 December 2014, as well as relatively complete content for the first-stage segments of the China City Directory.

Those who were previously familiar with the Beijingology project will find the train-related parts in Tracking China and everything else in the China City Directory.

No new blogs are expected to be launched in the forthcoming months, this being a lot of content planned already. There will also be updates planned with other sites I am working with, but which I do not own.