Wednesday, 17 June 2015


Quartz presents a really fascinating and under-appreciated glimpse on the strange, strained affair that the Chinese government has with Western social-networking heralds and mavens.

The dominant sites are banned from public-consumption, although it is not as if the average Chinese citizens were unaware of their existence and most businesses and state organs maintain their own internet presence on the same blocked sites. Possibly in order to curb curiosity and assuage rebellion, the state news agency Xinhua is featuring a segment of selected tweeted and shared items to give its audience a glimpse of how China is portrayed around. The articles seem pretty anodyne and cherry-picked to cast the country in the best light, but then again most regimes have highly propagandised mouth-pieces. Learning of this and of the sobering, unfamiliar mirror universe of applications that the Chinese make do with reminded me of the living tradition of the “lectores”—that is, news-readers, of the Cuban cigar factories, which is a really rich and fascinating story in its own right. The scope is of course very different and attestedly, the individual whose job it was to read to the workers as they rolled cigars usually elevated by popular consent, there for the emendation of the others. The juxtaposition of someone first anchoring the national, official newspaper, however, and the moving on to literature in the afternoon—whether subversive, unvetted or otherwise, makes me wish that this broadcast feuilleton might prove just as entertaining and broadening.