Classical music and media in China 1

by Ken Smith

Let me take a moment to thank all my friends for sending me Alex Ross’s Symphony of Millions article a few weeks ago. I was seeing events for the Financial Times in Beijing and Shanghai, which meant there was probably no way I would’ve found it myself. If you try to log onto Alex’s blog in China, you get a web error. Try and it takes so long to load that your browser eventually times out. Either way, the result – or lack thereof – is the same.

For anyone interested in The Great Firewall of China, I highly recommend James Fallow’s article in The Atlantic, even though it was published six months ago. If you’ve been following the “free internet” debate about the Olympics in the past week, you realize even six days is ancient history as far as China concerned.

What no one’s mentioned, though, is the treatment of the local media. The Chinese media never posed a real threat, but those pesky expats simply can’t be trusted. A few days ago, Time Out Beijing just had its June issue finally released by the censors, who’d been holding it for no stated reason. (“Killing the chicken to scare the monkey” is a particularly apt Chinese aphorism this year.) Also in June, the publisher of Time Out‘s chief competitor, the similarly opinionated That’s Beijing, unilaterally cut loose its entire editorial staff and put out a highly substandard (but much tamer!) replacement magazine. (The editors, who clearly saw this coming, quickly found a new partner and published their July edition under their existing web name, The Beijinger.)

For those of us in China who don’t read the language (and that includes many people who speak it well), it just got much harder to find out what’s going on in Beijing. Not that ready access to the media would always help: two of the six July concerts I wanted to see after reading The Beijinger had been cancelled without notice by the time I tried to get tickets.

But I digress. I really wanted to talk more about Alex. Of all the parachutists who’ve been dropping in to survey the Chinese scene, he at least did his homework beforehand. More on this in my next missive, I promise – but first, a question of names for this blog. I came up with SinoFile mostly because I could never resist a really bad pun. But I’m open to suggestions.

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