Blogging has taken off in China in a big way. Even China's police service has a blog and it attracted over a million hits when it launched a photo section introducing the force's hottest police-women.
Partly due to a clever move by one of China's web portals sina.com, blogging has become a daily habit for many of China's rich and famous. Sina offered a blog home to around 100 Chinese celebrities; creating an enormous boost to its own traffic. Now property tycoon Pan Shiyi has one. Hong Huang publisher of Time Out Beijing has one. Even writer Peter Mayle has a Chinese blog on Sina.
Last week Technorati revealed that for the first time it is a Chinese blog which has the most hits of all the blogs in the world. The world's top blog belongs to Xu Jinglei an actress and filmmaker from Beijing. She is on 10 million and rising.
While big hit blogs from around the world have focused on subjects like music, science, technology, Xu's is a little different. She admits that her writing is totally 'za', meaning she writes on a vast range of things. Her blog is written in a very personal way. She writes about the little things in life, from her musings on karaoke nights out, to visits home to her grandmother, and letting off steam after frustrating days at work. Her entries move between the frivolous and the philosophical. Her writing style is simple yet rhythmic and comfortable to read.
Recently she blogged a personal ad to help one of her friends find a wife as his parents are desperate for grandchildren. She describes him with yellow-white skin tones, a fairly round face, not bad looking, and as a script writer, who has been rather talkative recently. He is looking for a girl between 20 and 40 who wants to get married and looks reasonable and above.
Her readers write messages of support and encouragment. One commenter kept posting about his joy at sitting upon the first sofa he has ever owned. And that he hadn't even had wooden benches in his previous home. With Chinese social uprooting Xu's blog provides guidance with ways to think about life in China's new urban environment, where rules and habits in work and relationships between people have become unclear.
At 31, she calls her blog 'old Xu'. Old, in Chinese infers wisdom and respect. Last night on her blog she talked about the bits of work we love to do, versus the other bits we take on and do reluctantly while perhaps we shouldn't have taken them on at all. How do we decide?
"There are some things you have to go through, when you know you shouldn't take the easy route or give up, and the most difficult thing is to get over yourself and change the way you think, and overcome the weaknesses of your personality. We gain knowledge from all different areas, but it is not always easy to make the quantity of knowledge bring about a qualitative change in us. Whether we can really understand our choices depends on the quality of decisions we make."
Ok, so she doesn't have total clarity yet, but she is trying, and her blog's popularity makes me feel really hopeful.
Over the last ten months we have been reporting on a China whose internet has been an alternative shelter from a society that for some is moving terrifyingly quickly. A place where online gaming is how many young people chose to spend most of their time. A place where strict censorship means the internet is becoming home to the growth of the only form of loud political expression currently possible: nationalism. It is wonderful that the most popular blog in China (and in the world) is written by a young Chinese woman who is just trying to figure things out, engage on pleasures and problems of daily life, and communicate with people in a personal, truthful and positive way.
Poppy Sebag-Montefiore chatted to Xu Jinglei on a webcam. Click here for the report.