Staying home this summer instead of winging off to Beijing? No problem, when your interest in team handball and Greco-Roman wrestling start to fade, turn to the Web for an alternative, informed look at the Chinese capital through the eyes of these bloggers.
Beijing Boyce: With a martini in one hand and a laptop in the other, Canadian expatriate Jim Boyce strives to provide "a consumer's view of the bar scene in Beijing" with his semi-eponymous blog. With a reputation for strict objectivity, Boyce offers a ground-level view of developments in Beijing's nightlife and entertainment, complete with reviews of drinks, food, service and atmosphere. Its sibling site, Grape Wall of China, gives oenophiles in China and abroad insight into the development of the industry in one of the world's most sought-after markets.
Most recently, Boyce led the charge in tracking down and debunking reports that blacks and Mongolians would be banned from Beijing bars during the Olympics, as part of security policy during the Games. Keep an eye on this blog to find out where the party is during the games and updates on what happens after dark.
Danwei: Literally "work unit" in Chinese, Danwei was born during the last major Beijing event -- the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) -- and has grown into a must-read for anyone with a significant interest in China's media market. Danwei is the go-to site for sites blocked by Chinese authorities, round-ups of headlines in the Chinese press and literary happenings in the capital.
How China is viewing itself during the Olympics -- and how the watchers are watching that viewing -- will be Danwei's bread and butter while the games are happening.
EastWestSouthNorth: Close the Google Translate window. This Hong Kong-based blog presents, in fluent English, how the Chinese press, both in China and Hong Kong, is reporting events making international headlines. Roland Soong translates local coverage of riots, natural disasters, celebrity mishaps and certainly the upcoming Olympics, adds occasional commentary, and when possible provides multiple views of them. Offering both text translation and links to online reports of events, this is about as close as the non-Chinese reader will get to understanding the Chinese view of events in Greater China without years of language study.
No matter what happens during the Olympics, EWSN will track the winds of public opinion and make the source material available to the English reader.
Imagethief: Mixing acerbic wit with the lessons learned in the PR game, Will Moss provides readers with both a good chuckle and good advice. But he talks about his baby too much. Moss particularly excels in describing the PR successes and failures of multinationals doing business in China, although he also covers media and government absurdities.
This past winter, when Chinese media was fixated on the posting online of hundreds of nude photographs taken by, and in some cases, showing, Hong Kong actor/singer Edison Chen, Imagethief offered the following advice to young people: "The Internet is like a gravity well for nudity, and there is a 100 percent chance those pictures will end up there someday. Probably the week of your wedding."
Look to Imagethief as the medals chart for corporate message success during the Olympics.
Silicon Hutong: Named for the traditional and increasingly rare Beijing alleyways, marketing and communications consultant David Wolf (Imagethief and Silicon Hutong's authors are former colleagues) uses the Hutong as an observation post to make some of the keenest comments on China's technological development. Earlier this year, he observed the following on the breakdown of talks between Apple and China Mobile to bring the iPhone officially to China:
"There are three ways of looking at this:
1. Apple has been offered another thick slice of Humble Pie, and it needs to wake up and realize that it is no longer the only guy on the block.
2. China Mobile will regret this. Deeply."
And my personal favorite:
"3. The parties walked away from the table because they don't really need each other to succeed."
Wolf will keep the big technological picture into focus during those 16 days in August. But China-based surfers beware: because the site is based on Typepad, it is usually blocked in China. Unless promises on Internet openness are kept, try reaching it using a proxy if the Hutong is closed to traffic.
Infrastructure aficionado David Feng tracks the opening and service of Beijing's mass transit system. "I like to get from point A to point B quickly. The only way to do that in Beijing from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. is underground," he said. Although now presented with an inferior design since being taken over by local rag City Weekend, Feng's Beijingology does the best job so far of detailing life beneath the capital, including Line 10 and the Airport Express, both of which opened July 19.