China Beat Archive



Nicolai Volland

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June 30, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright June 30, 2008 Nicolai Volland. Used by permission.


In early May, we published the first installment of our feature, “China Around the World.” We asked scholars, journalists, and graduate students working outside China and the US to reflect on Chinese media and coverage of China. This reflection on the implications of Hu Jintao’s recent visit to the People’s Dailynewsroom is from Nicolai Volland, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chinese Studies at the National University of Singapore.

One June 20, Hu Jintao paid a high profile visit to the People’s Daily. His foray to the editorial offices of the CCP mouthpiece was first announced in the form of what turned out to be all but a Hoax: “General Secretary Hu chats with Chinese netizens!” The news spread like a wildfire, but surfers who rushed to the People’s Daily’s “Strong Nation Forum” found themselves barred from entering. Disappointed, they vented their anger in the freely accessible Tianya forum.

As it turned out, they may have missed little. Sitting in the offices of the People’s Daily, “Boss Hu” (Hu zong – the slightly irreverent way Chinese netizens refer to Hu is, ironically, a consequence of Hu’s name being blocked by most online forums) looked at a screen and was read three questions asked by what presumably were loyal and prescreened users of the forum. All questions were harmless (“Mr. General-Secretary, what do you read on the web?” “Mr. General-Secretary, do you review many suggestions and proposals from netizens on the web?”). Hu answered to one of the forum’s editors, who keyed in the general secretary’s answers. Then the “chat” was over and Hu rushed on to other business – his real business.