Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A cheesy interview with Angry Editor

Angry Editor,
My obsessive Chinese alter-ego, was interviewed by my company's internal magazine. This may go some way toward explaining what all those strange Chinese tweets and Facebook updates have been about.


“I’m English. I’m an editor at one of the world’s leading PR agencies. I’ve had enough!” This is how Jeremy Webb introduces himself on his Chinese-language website, Angry Editor. The Buzz asked him a few questions about this increasingly popular blog.

What is Angry Editor?

Angry Editor deals with the mistakes and style issues I frequently encounter as an editor of written English in China. Previously, when I explained my edits face-to-face, my colleagues would be surprised that they had been making a certain mistake and extremely grateful that I had pointed it out. My blog is simply an extension of these conversations.

Why “angry”?

Writing posts in an “angry” tone hopefully makes an otherwise dry, academic subject more memorable and interesting to read. Of course, anyone who is in any way involved with writing will have developed a few pet hates. While these might wind me up a little, I never actually get angry.

Has Angry Editor offended anyone yet?

No, I don’t see how it could. Angry Editor does not single out actual examples, and I have never explicitly mentioned Ogilvy, let alone individual colleagues.

Aren’t some issues simply a matter of personal writing style?

Of course. And so not all “Angry Edits” correct mistakes, as such. For example, the use of “to join hands” when describing cooperation between two companies might be perfectly acceptable to some people; to me, it is a cliché. When dealing with the aesthetics of language, I make it clear that such edits are based on my personal opinion and are therefore fully open to debate.

What has been the most debated Angry Edit?

There were over 200 comments – many in disagreement – on an impassioned case I made against the abbreviation “etc.” when used in conjunction with the expression “including.” Such online debate is beneficial for everyone, including me.

Are you qualified to correct people’s English?

I have done a fair amount of English writing, editing and translation. But more importantly, I am fascinated with how language works. What I don’t know, therefore, I will go to great lengths to figure out.

What has been the biggest challenge with Angry Editor?

Writing regularly in my second language has not been easy, especially as readers show little mercy to my less-than-perfect Chinese. This is hardly unsurprising, and I imagine people thinking, “What right does this guy have to correct us if his Chinese is not perfect?”

Don’t they have a point?

My Chinese will never be as good as my English, and I am sure people understand that. At the same time, I am very careful to make sure that my articles make perfect sense and are easy to follow. I sometimes also ask Chinese friends to proofread.

What is the next stage?

I am currently trying to write a book. One day, I would also like to deal with PowerPoint design issues that drive me crazy, and even use podcasts as a way of correcting common mistakes in spoken English.

Visit Angry Editor at or

Thursday, 21 January 2010

China Viral Video: Thailand brings another challenger

This online ad for Chinese car maker Chery has been viewed 2,782,911 times on Youku and has received 843 comments since it was uploaded on January 9th. This is, therefore, a very significant viral video in China.

Embedded link doesn't work? Try clicking here.

A reference to a recent challenge made against Chinese kungfu by Thai boxers, the car featured in the ad defeats the foreign challenger before kungfu even has a chance.

According to Youku Buzz, which has also written about this “banal” clip, this was Youku’s most-viewed video last week. At the time of writing my post, there were twice as many thumbs up as there were thumbs down.

Despite this apparant support, the comments, which began overwhelmingly positive, end up being almost exclusively negative.

I think there are much more sophisticated ways of appealing to nationalism than this. This ad has none of the things I think make a good viral: it doesn’t make me laugh, it doesn’t evoke any emotion, and it doesn’t teach me anything.

Kudos is due, however, for getting the ad out in time to resonate with the recent martial arts showdown. This is the only legitimate reason I can think of why it has had so much positive attention.

One recent comment suggests another theory, “The people that gave this a thumbs up were employed by the company…”

Friday, 8 January 2010

China Viral Video - Where the hell in Guangzhou is Matt?

Below is a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago for Ogilvy Asia Digital Map:

“Foreigner lights up Guangzhou by dancing like a weirdo,” (老外搞怪舞功燃烧广州), appeared a couple of weeks ago on Chinese video-sharing site Youku. At the time of writing, the clip had been viewed 648,791 times.

The dancer, who is probably not called Matt, is dancing in Guangzhou, host of the upcoming Asian Games. The annoying catchy soundtrack tells viewers to put up their hands and cheer for Asia.

Look familiar?

It may remind some of another viral video phenomenon, “Where the Hell is Matt”, which also starred a white man dancing stupidly in various locations:

Although nobody appears to be claiming credit for the Guangzhou clip, it was probably commercially produced, most likely by an official body linked to the Games or by Jianlibao (健力宝), the beverage brand that appears toward the end of the clip.

Many of the people who have left comments are similarly suspicious, while many others appear to be genuinely impressed and moved.

A couple of the clip’s viewers also point out the similarity with Matt’s video, calling it a “rip-off Where the Hell is Matt.”

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Stingy characters – are Chinese microblogs more generous than Twitter?



Yes, another Ogilvy blog. View the original, complete with cheesy bio, here.


Chinese microblog platforms have one major thing in common with Twitter, they limit updates to 140 characters. However, since a Chinese character generally conveys much more meaning than a single letter of the Roman alphabet, a Chinese microblog update can say a lot more than one in English.

As a very rough guide, four Chinese characters (新浪微博) are used to describe one of China’s leading microblog platforms, while fourteen characters are needed to write its English translation, Sina Microblog.

Similarly, 推特 - the Chinese for Twitter, does in two characters what English does in seven.

In addition, Chinese sentences do not need any spaces to make sense, even after punctuation marks.

Admittedly, posts on Chinese microblogs are often a mixture of English words and Chinese; and the online cultures of China and the English-language speaking world abbreviate in different ways.

However, despite these qualifying factors, by offering the same 140-character limit, microblogs are being much less stingy to Chinese writers than people updating in English.

So, a company or an individual can say a lot more. And quite often, they do just that. First, look at this fairly typical Twitter update from microblog aficionados, Dell (@DellOutlet):


Below is another update, also from Dell (@delldirect), on Chinese “twitter-like” site,


In just 114 characters, this Dell microblogger had managed to say the following:

Dell’s National Day Sale will run from Sept 11 to Oct 8. To celebrate the 60th anniversary w. the motherland, Dell Home Computers is offering 6 cool gifts & deals on 10 computer models. These exciting offers will run non-stop for 4 weeks. Also, get a free upgrade to color casing & a 512MB independent graphics card, as well as other service upgrades. All offers are on a first-come-first-serve basis. What R U waiting 4? Act now!

It doesn’t look so “micro” now, does it? By using only part of their allowance, Dell managed to say the equivalent of 430 English-language characters.

When it comes to microblogs, I am less likely to read long updates; fat blocks of characters – English or Chinese – put me off.

Of course, not everyone is as lazy as me. However, companies should think about whether they should take advantage of these slightly less “micro” opportunities by writing longer updates. Personally, I think they shouldn’t. In this case, less is definitely more.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Blogilvy: China’s first government microblog feed

Below is a more serious entry. It is related to my job at Ogilvy PR. Until I convince anyone at work to let me get properly involved in a real social media campaign, blogging for them will have to suffice.

Here is the original link:

For those that can be bothered to read on, you will notice a conspicuous lack of wordplay. I am shy. Puns will have to wait.

On November 21, the southwestern province of Yunnan launched China’s first official government microblog feed.

Among the first entries, which are published on the “Twitter-like” Sina microblog platform (新浪微博), was a post about a recent protest in the city of Kunming. The 130-Chinese-character response to the incident was rapid and relatively open.

Since its first post two weeks ago, the Yunnan government has updated its microblog 27 times, using the service to make various announcements, from manufacturing safety records to a drinking song competition in the province. At the time of writing, “Yunnan Microblog” (@云南微博) had 13,087 followers.

Governments use microblogging platforms to achieve various goals. A good microblog, for example, can allow governments to present a more “human” face. Yunnan Microblog, however, is currently little more than a news feed. Posts are written by “Yunnan,” rather than a person with a real name; and, with a couple of exceptions, the language used is dry and official sounding.

Governments can also use microblogs to monitor public sentiment. One of the ways Sina’s microblogging platform is different from Twitter is that it allows comments under each post. The Kunming protest entry, for example, received 41 comments. However, since Chinese social media platforms engage in self-censorship, Sina Microblog is unlikely to provide opportunities to speak out against government. As one person joked, “No comment… too afraid.”

This same feature could also have been used to create more interactive dialogue between netizens and the government. Yunnan Microblog, however, is yet use the platform to respond to any of its comments.

While conservative use of the platform, combined with China’s Internet restrictions, may limit the platform’s potential for meaningful engagement, Yunnan is certain to benefit in some way from this involvement in the online conversation. The provincial government and the public have a new direct link to one another. This, at the very least, is a step in the right direction.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

German man killed in hijacked Beijing taxi



At around 05:00 this morning, police found a 21-year-old German man dead in a Beijing taxi. The car had hit a tree beside Beijing’s East Fourth Ring Road, between Siyuan Bridge and Xiaoyun Bridge. A woman lay injured on the backseat.

Approximately one hour after police discovered the vehicle, the taxi’s driver appeared on the scene, claiming that the foreign man had stolen the car.

According to the driver, the woman hailed the taxi near Lido Hotel at around 04:00, asking to be taken to Baiziwan. Before the driver set off, a man suddenly began banging on the car door. After dragging the driver out of the car, the man drove off with the woman in the backseat.

“I had no idea what was going on,” said the driver.

The woman is currently recovering in a Beijing hospital, and according to doctors, is not in a critical state.


Because the incident took place in a remote area, there were no witnesses. Police are investigating the matter.


The above is based on an article today’s Beijing News that I found reposted online: (Chinese).

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Social media in China - Sina Twitter & Douban

Due to the "technical difficulties" of living in China, The Peking Order has not been updated for quite some time. Apologies for that, it should be OK for a while now.

In the meantime, a combination of boredom, frustration and professional interest has driven me to Chinese social media equivalents of foreign sites that are inaccessible within China. The two that I have found most interesting so far are
Sina Twitter and Douban.

1. Sina Twitter (Chinese: 新浪微博; Xīnlàng wēibó)

Following a purge of Chinese "Twitter clones" that took place earlier this year, Chinese internet giant Sina has recently brought out its very own micro-blogging service, Sina Twitter.

Although no official English name is clearly displayed on the site itself, in the official bilingual email that invites users to the site, the site is referred to as "Sina Twitter". The Chinese name translates directly as "Sina Microblog" (Perhaps Biz Stone et al. would be happier with that translation?!).

Sina's Twitter is very similar Twitter's Twitter. Apart from the fact that you don't need a VPN to access it in China and that functions have been given Chinese names, there are a few notable differences.

At the moment, there seems to be no desktop app like Tweetdeck or Twhirl that can be used with Sina Twitter. "Tweets" must be made either at the website or via text message, which is free of charge for China Mobile and China Unicom users.

The other main difference I have noticed is the amount of celebrities that already use this site. Most famous users are film or pop stars, but currently with the most number of followers (51,193 at the time of writing) is Lee Kai-fu, the former head of Google China.

Identical to Twitter, each post must be no longer than 140 characters. However, since a single Chinese character can represent entire words or concepts, a single tweet can convey far more than an English-language Twitter post.

For more detail, read Steven Milward's report on CNet.

To keep up-to-date on what I am doing, follow my very own Sina Twitter feed at

Please note: Still in the beta phase, Sina Twitter can only be used on an invite-only basis. For an invite, please let me know in the comments below.

2. (Chinese: 豆瓣; Dòubàn)

Established in 2005, Douban is social network that, in some ways, is identical to Facebook: Users maintain a profile with basic information, add friends and post messages on the profile pages of other users.

Douban distinguishes itself from Facebook by focusing more on users' interests, with discussion groups and fan pages of bands, brand names and celebrities etc. On their personal pages, users can list books they have read, the music they have listened to and the films they have watched. Based on these interactions, people add can friends based on common interests. Unlike Facebook, therefore, a large amount of a user's friends are often people that they do not necessarily have a "real-world" relationship with.

According to an article on, which includes an interview with the founder, the website has dominated the online cultural scene for the last four years."

And according to a Chinese friend, Douban is predominantly used by 文青. She describes this group as "hipsters", or "young people interested in cultural phenomena". I would go for something like "young, educated, artsy types".

My Douban profile can be found at:

When I have time, I may write more about these Chinese sites. To be updated, please subscribe to The Peking Order RSS Feed (see sidebar).

Monday, 21 September 2009

"To the foreigners" - A notice from the local police

The following appeared outside my door earlier this evening:

To the foreigners:

October 1st, 2009 is the 60th anniversary of founding the People's Republic of China, Celebrations and Eve Gala Evenings will be held accordingly. The close down and cordon off area will include the area that you live in curtain period. For the smooth going of your daily life, we take pleasure in announcing the following issues:
  1. Please reduce your going out as possibly as you can. While having to go out, please definitely take your passport and the temporary accommodation register form.
  2. You had better refuse the visitors who possibly cannot arrive at your abode.
  3. Please save certain of living necessity, then the peripheral store won't can provide convenience.
  4. Please obey the policeman's direction and control. Your co-operations are most appreciated.
  5. Please pay attention to the government's announcement about traffic control, and work well your route of travel arrangement in advance.
Dong Cheng District Public Security Bureau wish you having a happy life in our magistracy!

Dong Cheng District Public Security Bureau
September 4, 2009

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Vintage Beij 3: Chinese girls for US soldiers

By popular demand, more of the Pocket Guide to China - a introduction to China for US soldiers in 1943.

An edited version of the Guide, which has had the lovable wartime racism of my earlier post removed, can be read here at the Internet Archive.

Perhaps the highlight for me was the booklet's timeless advice on Chinese girls:

THE modern Chinese girl, in her long, closely fitting gown, her bare arms and short hair, is often very pretty. Yet it is well to remember that in China the attitude toward women is different from ours in America. Chinese women in some ways are more free than they are here in America — that is, they do some things which American women don't yet do. They are in the Army, they fight side by side with the guerrillas. But in their relations with men they haven't the same freedom as women have in America.
There are Chinese girls in cabarets and places of amusement who may be used to free and easy ways. But the average Chinese girl will be insulted If you touch her, or will take you more seriously than you probably want to be taken. A mistake in this may cause a lot of trouble.