Danwei Model Workers 2014


Danwei has been publishing the Model Worker awards – our list of the best websites, blogs, Twitter feeds and podcasts on China since 2005 (there are links to the earlier awards at the bottom of this post). This year, we’ve decided to award the Model Worker award for the best China website to one that does not publish news or commentary on current affairs at all but focuses on the intangible cultural heritage of Chinese accents, dialects, and languages.

Phonemica is an all-volunteer labor of love and we think it best expresses the possibilities of the Internet for independent people, unfunded by corporate or government interests, to engage intelligently with Chinese culture and build an archive of disappearing stories and language that will be of growing value as regional accents and dialects dissolve in the flood of standardized Mandarin on TV and the Internet.

Aside from choosing a different type of website as winner this year, we’ve also re-arranged the categories a little, for example instead of choosing one overall Twitter winner, we’ve chosen ten winners who cover different fields.

We have excluded the Sinica podcast of which I am the co-host, and The China Story, to which Danwei is a major contributor from the lists below. As always, the Model Worker awards this year were decided by a process entirely free of democracy by Danwei’s central committee, but do email us if you have any thoughts on our selection (you can use the CONTACT US link above) or message me @goldkorn on Twitter – the winners of the top three categories are fixed, but we’re still open to including other sites and Twitter accounts in the longer directory.

— Jeremy Goldkorn


2014laomo150Phonemica 乡音苑 (xiang yin yuan, or the garden of hometown sounds) is a crowd-sourced archive of recordings and transcriptions of stories told in Chinese dialects and regional accents. Users, who record, upload and transcribe regional lore: nursery rhymes and childhood games, preparation of specialty foods, humorous anecdotes, and local history.

Phonemica’s about page is here; there’s an Atlantic story on the project here, and a Sinica podcast interview with founders Kellen Parker and Steve Hansen here.

MODEL WORKER OF THE YEAR — PODCAST: China in Africa podcast

2014laomo150A lively discussion on China’s engagement across Africa hosted by Eric Olander from various locations in Asia and Cobus van Staden in Johannesburg. Since 2011 this podcast has looked in-depth at the China’s engagement with Africa, making itself a great source for keeping up to date with the topic (Disclosure: Danwei’s Jeremy Goldkorn was a recent guest, but is a long time fan).


2014laomo150This is the first time we’ve made a must read list of this kind, but in the face of the splintering and ever-changing China information environment, these are the sites and accounts to follow to stay on top of Danwei’s field of interest: media, Internet, politics, business, the economy, current affairs and culture in China. There is also a list of links to mainstream media China channels at the bottom of this list.

China Copyright and Media
Translations and articles on the law and policy of China’s news and entertainment media, usually very quick to provide accurate renderings of new laws and speeches that affect media and Internet policy.

China Dialogue
Bilingual site about environmental issues in China, with high-quality contributions from Chinese and global journalists and activists. Editor Sam Geall is also active on Twitter, as is founder Isabel Hilton.

China Digital Times
Bilingual site that aggregates, filters and contextualises English-language news about China, translates Chinese-language media stories, compiles the comprehensive Directives from the Ministry of Truth database of online censorship and propaganda, and maintains a glossary of Chinese Internet slang, the Grass Mud Horse Lexicon. Deputy Editor Samuel Wade is active on Twitter, as is founding editor Xiao Qiang.

An excellent, growing China-focused site by the Asia Society, ChinaFile publishes commentary, discussions, articles and archival materials on a huge range of China issues in a range of multimedia forms. The site pulls together a huge variety of materials and writings by leading China scholars. Special sections include a complete archive of New York Review of Books articles on China, My First Trip — a growing collection of essays in which authors recount their maiden excursions into and out of China, and archives of stories from Caixin media, and much more. (Disclosure: Danwei director Jeremy Goldkorn is a contributor.)

China Media Project
Translation, analysis and commentary on Chinese media, media policy, censorship and journalism run out of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong. David Bandurski edits the site, and writes many of the articles himself; but China Media project also regularly publishes commentary and reportage by important Chinese editors, journalists and academics (see the Fellows page for biographies and links to their work). The site also hosts a growing section of special features, such as the China Media Map, the Media Dictionary, and the Anti-Social List of deleted Weibo posts.

Chris Buckley Twitter feed
Tweets from Hong Kong based New York Times journalist with extensive Chinese news reading habits.

Very useful newsletter with a slightly eccentric publishing schedule put together by Bill Bishop, aggregating and commenting on the most important articles on China from both Chinese and international media. Bishop is also worth following on Twitter.



Below are new entrants to our Model Workers list.

The Anthill
Alec Ash (@alecash on Twitter) edits this web magazine of writing about China: language, culture, life, and fiction. For a taste: Life Underground, a profile of a member of a subway tunnel construction crew, and Teaching for China, about two university graduates who choose to teach in a rural school in Yunnan.

China Law Translate
Crowd-sourced and collaborative translations of Chinese legal documents.

China Medical News
News and commentary on pharma and health care in China, also on Twitter. The blogger is also behind In the footsteps of Joseph Rock, subtitle “Kham then and now. A photoblog showing how eastern Tibet looked in the 1920s and how the same places and people look now.”

China Music Radar
A comprehensive resource on the music industry in China – pop, rock, digital streaming, concerts and more.

Fei Chang Dao
Subtitled “Chronicling Free Speech With Mainland Chinese Characteristics”, this blog documents the details and absurdities of Chinese Internet censorship. The author is on Twitter.

Isidor’s Fugue
Brian Glucroft visits lower-tier Chinese cities and makes interesting blog posts about them.

Kaiju Shakedown
News and criticism of film from mainland China and Hong Kong make up a significant proportion of the posts on Grady Hendrix’s hugely entertaining blog on Asian cinema (now hosted on Film Comment). Recommended posts: a profile of Huang Jianxin‘s career, hopping vampires, and So Much Sex!.

The Licentiate’s Ledger
Austin Dean is conducting PhD research in Beijing and blogs about education and history. Recommended post: The Alibaba IPO and the business history of the Reform and Opening Period, Bitcoins and a mint in Beijing at the end of the Qing Dynasty.

All about real estate and China, including the domestic market, government policy, finance, and outward bound investment.

Nick Stember
Translations and discussion of Chinese comics. See his post, “Don’t call it ‘Manga’: A Short Intro to Chinese Comics and Manhua” for a nice introduction. His Tumblr aggregates a lot of other manhua bloggers.

The Wayward Historian
Maggie Greene, a history professor, blogs occasionally about her research and other topics of interest in Chinese culture. Recommended posts: On the joys of book shopping (from 2011), and A Long Time Ago in a China Far, Far Away… (an 80s Star Wars lianhuanhua).



Some descriptions have been amended, some remain the same as last year.

300 Shots at Greatness
A blog by Chengdu-dwelling Derek Sandhaus, author of a book on Chinese baijiu (liquor) and on Twitter.

Eclectic hodge-podge of articles and commentary on Chinese contemporary tech, media and design from a team with multidisciplinary backgrounds, including ethnographer Tricia Wang, also on Twitter.

Asia Health Care Blog
Group blog by China health care consultancy about the healthcare industry from pharma to hospitals to care of the elderly. Covers Asia but focused on China. Includes section on employment.

Beijing Cream
A “dollop of China” that, despite a recently-announced transition, still occasionally publishes essays about a mixture of blogging and essays on life in China, news and people in the news, updates from Xinjiang by ‘Beige Wind’ who also runs the Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia, and comics of questionable taste. The editor is on Twitter: Anthony Tao, as is the editor at large Robert Foyle Hunwick.

Beijing Daze
Live music in Beijing, also on Twitter.

Bezdomy ex patria
A New Zealander living in a rural area north of Beijing; see also his history of Yanqing county. The updates have gotten more infrequent but are still worth reading.

Blood and Treasure
A perceptive blog about Chinese politics and media, issues of the left and the former Communist world, current events in Britain, China and across the globe and more; can seem cryptic to the novice. The blogger is also on Twitter.

Buy Buy China
This blog about Chinese consumers, the retail industry and branding has been converted into a newsletter. Archives are here.

Celebrity, fashion, film, television and entertainment gossip from the PRC – very fluffy but useful if you want to keep tabs on current C, B, and A-list celebrities in China.

Chengdu Living
Offbeat coverage of life and society in Chengdu and Sichuan. Editor and filmmaker Sascha Matuszak is on Twitter.

China Accounting Blog
Paul Gillis’ blog provides detailed insight and accessible commentary on topical accounting and corporate financial issues in China; Gillis is also on Twitter.

China Economic Review
Magazine covering economics, finance and business in China.

China Law Blog
Regular, engaging, detailed and practical commentary and expert insight into Chinese law and doing business in China. Includes plenty of no-nonsense advice for small companies and information about general issues of interest to anyone with commercial interests in China.

China Change
Website about and by activists that describes itself as “news and commentary from those who work for change”. Founding editor Cao Yaxue is on Twitter.

China Current
New English section of Chinese website dedicated to commentary and investigative reporting by a group of Chinese and foreign students and recent graduates.

China Daily Show
Satire and spoof news that often says more about China than the real news media. Also on Twitter at @ChinaDailyShow.

China in Africa
A blog by author and scholar Deborah Brautigam, documenting and often providing an on-the-ground perspective to China’s political and commercial involvement with Africa.

China Labour Bulletin
Research, analysis and commentary on the Chinese labor market and labor rights issues. The blog section is frequently updated.

Chinese Law Prof Blog
Analysis and articles on Chinese law legal issues by law professor Donald C. Clarke.

China Rhyming
The blog of Midnight in Peking author Paul French, self-described as a ‘gallimaufry of random China history and research interests’.

Translations of popular stories and postings from the Chinese Internet, together with summaries and translations of user comments.

The Diplomat’s China Power Blog
Analysis of China’s international relations, politics, economy and society.

Far West China
Life and travel in Xinjiang by a long-time American resident.

Global Voices: China
Collaborative global blog and translation aggregator; the China section is a useful source of links to news stories about China and also publishes translations of Chinese Internet reports and interesting social commentary.

Monitoring of Chinese Internet censorship, tools to avoid and analyze it, and anti-censorship activism.

High Peaks Pure Earth
Translations from Tibetan and Chinese language blogs, commentary on Tibet related news and issues, and posting on modern Tibetan arts and culture; the only consistent English language source for Tibetan writings from within the People’s Republic. Contributor Tsering Woeser is worth following on Twitter.

Jing Daily
Interviews, articles and news about luxury products, marketing and business in China.

Jonah Kessel
New York Times visual journalist posting photos and videos of China and elsewhere, including exotic locations such as Socotra, Yemen.

Jottings from the Granite Studio
Subtitled “a Qing historian reads the newspaper”, topics include current affairs, history and its abuses, Beijing, and travel around China from one of the funnier voices in the Anglophone Chinasphere.

Interviews and translations from a German blogger who describes his attitude towards the CCP as “cold-warlike”.

Law and Border
Visas and the law for foreigners living in China and emigrating Chinese with both practical advice on Chinese work visas and US green cards, and commentary on immigration and visa issues.

Liuzhou Laowai
Regular notes from an Englishman who has been living in Liuzhou, Guangxi, since 1999. This blog is probably the longest-running, currently active digital journal of life in a lesser known Chinese city.

Lost Laowai
News, vignettes, and practical guides by foreigners living in China, run by Ryan McLaughlin who also operates Hao Hao Report (like Digg for Chinese topics), China Blog Network, and the website construction service Dao By Design (disclosure: the builder of the current incarnation of Danwei.com).

A website of Manchu language source materials and a blog.

A rundown of retail real estate industry, ecommerce, fashion, high end brands and couture in China with plenty of photos, commentary and interviews by industry insider Timothy Coghlan.

Marco Polo Project
The Marco Polo Project publishes a selection of essays, fiction and other writings from established and emerging Chinese writers, submitted and translated by the website’s users. The translations are “crowd-sourced”, and the site is looking for new translators. A blog by editor Julien Leyre is perhaps the easiest way to keep up with new content.

Michael Pettis’ China Financial Market
Subtitled “Global imbalances and the Chinese economy”, this is a highly-respected blog on topics related to financial markets and the economy.

Ministry of Tofu
Translations, commentary and photo compilations from Chinese social media and news articles.

My China Kanfa
An old fashioned personal blog by an American about Chinese culture, business, society, and being married into a Chinese family.

The Nanfang
Stories and translations about urban life in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan. Often the only English language news source on happenings in the Pear River Delta. Founding editor Cam MacMurchy is @zhongnanhai on Twitter.

Paper Republic Blog
The blog of an online resource for translators, writers and publishers of translated Chinese fiction.

Blog documenting street fashion and industry news in Beijing and beyond.

Offbeat China
Topical and often amusing translations and summaries of Internet memes and popular postings.

Shanghai Scrap
Commentary and links to Bloomberg columns from author of ‘Junkyard Planet’ – Minter lives writer in Malaysia, used to live in Shanghai, and also tweets frequently.

Less a blog about Shanghai and more an aggregator of interesting, scandalous and sensationalist China news with occasional Shanghai entertainment updates.

Silicon Hutong
Tech, PR, business in China, the US and between by David Wolf, also on Twitter.

Another stalwart, Sinosplice was one of the earliest English language blogs about China. Run by John Pasden with occasional consistently interesting postings on the Chinese language, contemporary Chinese society, and life in Shanghai and China.

Tea Leaf Nation
Tea Leaf Nation was Model Worker of the Year 2013 for Blogs and Websites and was soon afterwards acquired by Foreign Policy where it is now the China channel. The site does good long form reviews and articles based on social media, news media and, increasingly, original reporting.

Tech in Asia: China
China section of an Asia tech industry blog providing a stream of news on the business of hardware, Internet, mobile, apps and gaming in China. Edited by Charles Custer, who tweets from@ChinaGeeks.

Bilingual coverage of Internet and tech industry news, now affiliated with Tech Crunch.

Wild East Football
A comprehensive English language blog about the China football (soccer) scene, from regular analysis and team updates to bribery scandals and Beckham. (Disclosure: Former Danwei intern Johan Van De Ven contributes to this site.)

Young’s China Business Blog
Business commentary by Doug Young, former China company news chief at Reuters.



Asia News Podcast
Discussion podcast focused more generally on Asia, with substantial China coverage

China Businesscast
A podcast featuring entrepreneurs and business people in China

China History podcast
Lively stories from Chinexe history recent and ancient presented by Laszlo Montgomery. Model Worker Podcasts winner 2013.

China in the World podcast
Conversations with Chinese and international experts on China’s foreign policy, international role, and relations with the world by the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy.

China Money Podcast
Interviews with industry experts, government officials, academics and journalists.

NCUSCR China Podcast Series
National Committee China Podcast featuring brief interviews with experts on select topics and developing issues.

Shanghai Comedy Corner Podcast
Light-hearted Reviews and news about Shanghai and China from comedians and other artists in Shanghai.

Taiwan Noir
Discussions on Taiwanese genre cinema of the 1970s and ’80s.

The History of China
The grand sweep of Chinese history in 30-minute installments.

Three Kingdoms Podcast
John Zhu retells the classic novel in accessible episodes.



Twitter accounts already mentioned above are not included in this list. Suggestions for more categories and Twitter accounts are welcome.

TV and Entertainment in China and being Da Shan
Da Shan

Chinese maritime issues and territorial disputes
M Taylor Fravel
Andrew Chubb

Korean relations
Adam Cathcart

Winslow Robertson
Wits University China Africa Project
Howard French

India and China
Ananth Krishnan

Urban China outside of Beijing and Shanghai
Black China Hand

Wildlife and the environment
Birding Beijing

Science journalism (some of the time)
Mara Hvistendahl
Kathleen McLaughlin Kathleen McLaughlin

Chinese State Media
People’s Daily

Economics and business news
Joanna Chiu
Mike Forsythe
Gu Wei
Lucy Hornby
James Kynge
Shai Oster
Wu Zijing
Tom Orlik
Dexter Roberts
Rob Schmitz
Victor Shih

News and current affairs, mostly by journalists
Rachel Beitarie
Patrick Boehler
Josh Chin
Barbara Demick
Gady Epstein
Bree Feng
Peter Ford
Hélène Franchineau
Helen Gao
John Garnaut
Carrie Gracie
Leta Hong Fincher
Andrew Jacobs
Kim Rathcke Jensen
Ian Johnson
Kaiser Kuo
Sui-Lee Wee
Louisa Lim
Kristie Lu Stout
David McKenzie
Isolda Morillo
Jeremy Page
James Palmer
Phil Pan
Amy Qin
Austin Ramzy
Felicia Sonmez
Didi Kirsten Tatlow
Wang Feng
Wang Xiangwei
Jeff Wasserstrom
Philip Wen
Ed Wong



Financial Times
Wall Street Journal – China Real Time Report
New York Times
Daily Telegraph
The Atlantic
The Hindu
South China Morning Post


2008 (Olympic edition): English, Chinese, supplement
2007: English, Chinese, supplement
2006: Chinese blogs – a list of favourites
2005: Inaugural Model Workers

shangdian150This year’s Danwei Model Worker badge is adapted from a Model Worker commemorative pin issued by Shanghai Electric in 1950. The original image was taken from an auction posted to the 7788 trading website.



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