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China: Most influential most-read blogger

Being the world's most widely-read blogger seems to have made Han Han a candidate for the 2010 Time 100 list, though a certain amount of selection bias probably isn't hurting given the other contenders from China this year.

Han's blog service provider Sina.com ran his nomination as a top feature earlier in the week and many others such as rival QQ have given space to the debate over the degree of Han's influence; Han himself has posted on the topic, translated here by China Digital Times‘ Xiao Qiang:

I often ask myself, what contribution have I made to this society which is full of sensitive words? Maybe in the end, all I contribute is another sensitive word which is my name. That’s all. Everyday I get out of bed around noon, often wasting money on digital gadgets, and I’m very picky about food. Thank goodness that I did not add more load or sin to this society, at least so far. I do not have a grand vision; I only want the relevant departments to treat art, literature and the news media better, and our small readers, listeners, audience, netizens, urban dwellers and citizens can all enjoy this benefit. I may not have the talent and ability to write great things, but some others do. But you [the goverment] should not castrate people or glorify those who have been castrated.

Sina.com blogger and university professor Xie Yong thought to consider the source of Han's perceived influence:

必须承认,我是韩寒的粉丝,所以,当看到《广州日报》4月5日韩寒进入美国《时代》杂志全球最具影响力候选名单的报道,我实在是有些惊奇:不是惊奇韩寒入选名单,而是惊奇新闻的标题,惊奇新闻标题最后那个有些刺眼的问号。

I have to admit, I'm a fan of Han Han's, which is why when I saw in the April 5 edition of Guangzhou Daily that Han Han had made onto Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world, I was honestly a bit taken aback: not that he made it onto the list, but because of the headline used on the report and the somewhat ironically-placed question mark at the end of it.

我不知道《广州日报》是出于什么考虑,用疑问句的方式书写这个标题,也许他们想要转述部分“网友”的质疑:韩寒什么时候具有全球影响力了?在这部分网友看来,作为青年作家和赛车手的韩寒,他的名字进入榜单,与世界政治家企业家放在一起,会影响实力榜的“权威性”。可能在这部分网友眼中,“中国”并非“世界”一部分,这块土地上生活着的十几亿人口,并非“全球”的有效组成,所以,即使韩寒已经成为我们今天最有影响力的青年人,成为当下“公民”社会的象征,他的影响力也不足以具有“全球”性。或者,只有政治家与经济精英入选《时代》,这位网民心中的权威感才能落实……

I can't speak on Guangzhou Daily‘s reasoning in using an interrogative sentence as a headline, perhaps they wanted to reflect the doubts expressed by some “netizens”: since when has Han Han become influential globally? The way these netizens see it, putting Han Han, a young writer and race car driver, alongside the world's politicians and corporatists, will affect the “authoritativeness” of this power list. And possibly as these netizens see things, “China” is not in fact part of “the world”, therefore the billion plus people who live on this piece of land can't be valid members of “the world”; and which is why, even if Han Han has become our most influential young person today and a symbol of the current “civil” society, his influence is still insufficient to be considered “global”. In other words, this kind of netizen will only recognize the authority of this list when only politicians and the economic elite make it on……

实际上,韩寒有没有影响力,在我看来已经基本上不成为“问题”,前不久,张鸣先生在深圳讲演时曾经提出,“现在的中国大学教授加起来对公众的影响力,赶不上一个韩寒”。这话自然有些情绪色彩,但在某种程度上也算是真相一种。也许,在今天需要进一步思考的是,韩寒的影响力究竟从何而来?

Actually, the way I see it, there isn't really any “question” now as to whether or not Han Han is influential. Not too long ago, Mr. Zhang Ming was giving a talk in Shenzhen and he put forward that, “the influence of all university professors in China today combined, still wouldn't compare to a single Han Han.” Of course a statement like that is a bit dramatic, but to a certain extent there is a kind of truth to it. Perhaps, what needs to be further considered today is: from where exactly is it that Han Han's influence comes?

很自然,会有一种说法,韩寒没有什么了不起,他说得不过是“常识”,他拥有的不过是俊朗的外表和同样俊朗的文字表达,他之所以能有今天的“影响力”,是传媒界“炒作”的某种成果:新概念作文让韩寒一夜成名,新浪网让韩寒成了草根名博,然后南方报系让他成了“公民韩寒”,再一步步进入“世界主流媒体”,成为美国媒体塑造的文化英雄、拥有世界影响力的中国青年……

Naturally, there's an argument that goes, Han Han isn't anything special, all he ever says is just “common sense”, and all he really relies upon are his handsome looks and his equally handsome writing. The reason he has as much “influence” as he does today is the result of media hype; New Concept Writing made Han Han famous overnight, Sina.com made Han Han a top grassroots blogger, and then Southern Media Group turned him into “Citizen Han”, and from there onto “global mainstream media” and becoming a cultural hero crafted by American media, a Chinese youth of global influence…

微博上面流传有一段十年前的视频,那是韩寒当年参加央视的节目,与“专家学者”,以及某位“品学兼优”的好学生进行对话,看了当年那个节目,我们不难发现韩寒影响力的真正来源,韩寒领先于他的时代,因为他立足常识,反对体制以及体制为这社会绝大多数人准备的评价体系。而这个体系一直到今天还在规则者人们的生活。而另一方面,通过那段对话我们不难感觉到,在今天中国,常识是多么稀缺可贵,在现实中要获得常识,不仅仅需要勇气,更需要智慧。

Circulating around the microblogs has been a 10 year-old video clip of Han Han taking part in a CCTV program discussion along with one “specialist scholar” and an “all-round overachieving” high school student. Having watched this old program, it's not hard for us to see where Han Han's influence truly comes from, that he truly is ahead of his time, being able to oppose the system as well as the comments the system has in store for the vast number of people in this society, and he does it with a footing in common sense. Not to mention, this being a system which even until today continues to regulate the lives of the people in it. Further, something which could be felt from watching that clip, in China today, is how rare and precious common sense is, and that in order to possess common sense in life takes not just courage, but more so wisdom.

当然,我们也可以说,韩寒的影响力在某种程度上是时代造就的,不过,这种“造就”是以某种奇妙的方式完成的:当社会造就大批缺乏常识,心灵扭曲的人们,却又依稀让这些人看到真正世界的时候,当这个社会通过种种方式让我们都跪下又在一定程度上渴望站立,一个站立的,健康的,生机勃勃的脱离体制并有可能与体制作对韩寒就拥有了影响力。这样看来,韩寒的影响力,不是什么媒体给他们的,更重要的是,他个人奋斗与粉丝如我的双向选择的结果,是一种“共谋”的产物,而且,只要有体制继续存在,韩寒的影响力就不会衰竭,只要体制继续膨胀,我们内心不断纠结,韩寒的影响力也会继续扩大下去。

Of course, we could also say that Han Han's influence, to a certain extent, is a product of the times, however, this kind of “product” has also come about in a rather remarkable way: with society putting out large numbers of people with warped minds and lacking common sense all the while giving them the faintest of glimpses of the real world, forcing us through various means to kneel down, but to a certain extent also making us wish to stand up; as someone standing tall, healthy, having successfully gotten free of the system and even possibly come to oppose it, Han Han was able to become influential. From this perspective, Han Han's influence came not from any particular media but, rather more importantly, something of a conspiracy borne of his personal struggles and conscious decisions made by fans such as myself; furthermore, as long as the system continues to exist, Han Han's influence will remain strong. As long as the system continues to swell and our minds remain burdened, Han Han's influence will only continue to soar.

Tough thing to try and pin down, but something that author and Chinese-American Wang Boqing is certain that exists:

美国《时代》周刊一年一度的100位“全球最具影响力人物”评选,前天公布了“全球最具影响力人物”的200名候选人名单,作家韩寒代表中国入选榜单。韩寒对我有影响,不是因为他是作家,这几十年来中国的作家多去了,不管他们自己感觉怎么样,我不看他们的东西,因为作品里没有东西。所以,我也没看韩寒的作品,他有什么文学作品我也不知道。我被影响不是因为他常发网络言论,网上发言的多去了,从芙蓉姐姐到什么哥哥,忙碌的大多数谁关心?网络代表啥民意?网络最不代表沉默的大多数。我被影响是因为他一个八零后,关心民间的正义与公平,他敢于表达自己的观点,分析深刻、语言鲜明,能一下抓住人性和人心。很多 50-70后麻木得连自己的权利都不关心。

韩寒的确有影响,不仅影响了我这个不受影响的人,还正在影响海外的华人。这次回美国,参加朋友聚会,都是定居美国的中国老留学生,唯一谈到的中国人物是韩寒,大家很注意这个人。我记不清在最近十年那个知识分子被这样关注过。排开幕式的张艺谋?他算吗?那些诺贝尔奖的华人,甲乙丙丁没人知道!科学有限、思想无敌。

Han Han influences me, not because he's a writer, China's had enough of those over the past several decades and despite what they might think of themselves, I don't read their stuff because there isn't anything in their works to see. Which is why I haven't read any of Han Han's works, I don't even know what he's written. He's influenced me not through his online writings—everybody's writing online these days, everything from Sister Lotus to Brother whatever, and anyway who has the time to pay attention? How could the Internet possibly represent public opinion? The people least represented by the Internet are the silent majority. What influences me is that as a ‘post-80s’ who concerns himself with social justice and equality, he dares to make his own viewpoints known; by doing so through thorough analysis and the use of vivid language, he captures people's empathy and support. Many born from the 1950s through the 1970s are so desensitized now that they don't even care about their own rights.

Han Han definitely has influence, and not just over people like me not prone to being influenced, but even overseas Chinese. On my latest trip back to the USA, I went to a friend's party; everyone there were longtime residents, former international students, yet the only the Chinese person talked about was Han Han; everyone was very interested in discussing him, the kind of attention I can't remember having been paid to any intellectual in at least ten years. Zhang Yimou, maybe, with his opening ceremony for the Olympics? Those overseas Chinese Nobel laureates? Nobody's heard of them! Science has its limits, but ideas know no boundaries.

Maybe Han can be called a dissident now—or will be, if he ranks high enough come May 1 or beats out someone like Bo Xilai; here's part of a post of his from 3am on April 5, the day the news of his Time 100 nomination broke in Chinese, ‘Letter from a Stranger’:

我们国家有一个部门,叫做信访办。古代老百姓受了当地官员的冤屈以后,就会上京告御状,运气好的还能拦到当官的轿子,运气最好的能遇见微服私访的皇帝,这些小概率事件乃是支持整个社会对公平正义向往的精神支柱。到了现代,领导们都换上了好车,不能再用拦轿子的方式自杀了,更大的领导由于电视曝光率很高,也不能微服私访了,就算下乡,最多也是去一些当地领导特地安排的影视基地,和一些农民艺术家们进行表演,但那都是影帝们在飙戏,和老百姓的关系不大,信访办是很多遭受了不公正待遇的人们唯一的出路。

There's a department in our country, it's called the Letters and Petitions Office. In ancient times, when common folk found themselves having been wronged by local officials, they would travel to Beijing to try and make their case known to the Emperor. The lucky ones would find an official's sedan chair to try and stop, and the really lucky ones would come across the Emperor himself, in disguise to go out in public. These low-probability incidents were what provided all of society with moral support on matters of justice and equality. Today, leaders drive nice cars, people can't commit suicide by throwing themselves in front of sedans anymore, and due to high exposure on television, the highest leaders can no longer travel incognito among the public; even if they go out to the countryside, at most all they get to see are film sets and peasant-artist performances specially arranged by local leaders, then again those are just big screen stars on a whirlwind tour that doesn't have much to do with common folk. In many case, the Letters and Petitions Office is the only option for people who have born the brunt of unfair treatment.

当然,很明显,他们想的太天真了,在一个司法不独立的国家,你怎么能指望突然会有一个政府部门为你出头呢,一个小朋友打你一下,他妈妈骂你一句,他爸爸还揍你一拳,你去他爷爷那里举报他儿子和孙子,你明显是还欠踹你一脚。虽然他们那挑高三十米的办公楼大堂里可能挂着诸如为你服务等文字,但人家是把这个当书法作品在欣赏,你怎么能把这个误会成人家的行动纲领呢。

Of course, clearly, these people are too naive; in a country with no independent judiciary, how could one possibly expect a government to stand up for you? Say a kid hits you, his mom curses at you then his dad punches you, and you go to the grandpa to rat on his grandson, obviously you'd still have a big kick swinging your way. Even though those office lobbies with their 30-meter-high ceilings might have signs proclaiming the ways they exist to service you, in fact those are just calligraphy works of art for people to admire; it's not clear how some people mistake those for work guidelines…

于是,在明白了上访乃是自投罗网主动进入黑名单以后,越来越多的人碰壁以后想到了媒体,追求公正就变成了和追求女人一样,只要搞大了,这事就成了。毫无疑问,中国的媒体人和中国的公务员是有着本质区别的,每个职业都有每个职业的追求和素养,媒体人基本上是有自己的媒体理想和新闻追求的,虽然他们也不能违反每天下发的禁令,但是只要在他们的能力范围以内,他们都是嫉恶如仇的。再比如车手,职业追求就是开的快,演员,职业追求就是演的好,但是我始终无法知道公务员们的职业追求是什么,是办公务么。也许他们的职业追求就是好吃好喝,游手好闲,察言观色,见风使舵,最终顺利变成官员,可以有权有势有灰色收入。恰恰因为他们没有正当的职业追求,所以他们没有职业素养。基本上,上访者在他们眼里都是没有大局观的刁民。

So, once people figured out that petitioning is a trap which lets you get yourself blacklisted, they began approaching the media, pursuing justice just like they would pursue a woman: make a big enough scene and you can get what you want. Without question, there's a big difference between China's media workers and its civil servants; each profession has its goals and qualities. Media workers for the most part have their journalistic ideals and pursue stories; even if they can't go against the banned topics that are sent down each day, they continue to fight against evil as long as it's still within their power to do so.[…]

很多受到了不公正待遇的朋友们把我当作了媒体,在杂志的稿件和我每天收到的信中,有不少都是希望我主持正义,帮他们写一写,让他们的遭遇引起媒体的关注。我每封信都认真的看了,但是我非常的无奈,这些事情在你们家庭的身上是个沉重的负担,但是对于新闻媒体,这已经失去了新闻价值,我相信就算我为你写一些什么,也不会有传统媒体的关注。而一件事情的解决,往往需要很多传统媒体的帮助才可以,领导才会出来装腔作势的急群众所急,想群众所想。信中最多的是某个小区交房质量很差,某个小区边上是个垃圾站或者变电站,还有最多的就是我被强拆了。你如果被强拆了,那不是新闻,那是生活。如果你本人没有烧焦,还能收发邮件,全家老小全部健全,那就是幸福生活,你应该感谢国家。

Many people who have received unfair treatment see me as a media outlet, and between articles sent into the magazine and letters sent to me personally, there are a lot who have hope that I can bring them justice, write about their story or get it some media coverage. I read every letter carefully, but I just feel helpless. It's a heavy weight to bear for these things to have happened to your family, but for news media, these things have already lost their news value, and I believe that even if I were to write something, it still wouldn't make traditional media pay it any attention. It takes a lot of help from traditional media for any one problem to be resolved or to get leaders to put on a show of feeling people's urgency or sharing the same views. The majority of letters are about about poor quality of building structures in a certain small community or trash dumps or power stations being built near another, and then there are those from people being forcibly evicted. If you've been forcibly evicted, that's not news, that's just life. If you personally haven't gone up in flames, if you can still send and receive mail, if your whole family is still in one piece, then you should consider yourself lucky and thank your country.

最惨的一封来信来自于一个外地来的朋友,所有的材料都很全,内容是一家人被强拆了,还有人受伤,家里的大部分面积被算成了违章建筑,他们去北京上访,结果材料被退回到省,省退回到市,市退回到县,县退回到村,然后每逢国家重大节假日,他们一家都被联防队监控起来,以防破坏和谐气氛。最后他们告到了法院,法院居然受理了。

天哪,法院居然受理了,法院难道不是政府的一个服务机构么,怎么会受理此案呢?我迫不及待了翻到了下一页。

在这一页里,法院居然很快判决了,判决的结果是原本政府要赔受害者二十万的,现在政府只需要赔十万。

The most upsetting letter I've gotten comes from someone outside Shanghai. All the documents were provided, a family was forcibly evicted, people were injured, most of the home was ruled illegal structure and not considered for compensation. They went to Beijing, only to have their case sent down to the provincial level, from there back to the municipality, then from there the county and down on to the village. Since then, every time a major holiday comes around, their entire family gets put under surveillance by police to stop them from spoiling the harmonious spirit. In the end they took this to court, where it was actually accepted.

My god, the court actually accepted the case, but don't the courts serve the government? How could they accept to hear this case? I couldn't wait to find out so I flipped through to the next page.

And there I saw it, sure enough the court was quick to make a ruling, taking the original ruling which had ordered the government to pay the victims RMB 200,000 in compensation, and reducing that to RMB 100,000.

在我收到的这些信件中,我并不能公布的另外一个重要原因是我并没有核实过,但是我个人又没有能力去核实这些。虽然我相信大部分都是真实的,甚至全部都是真实的,最多就是在艺术上多写了一些对自己有利的内容,但是对事情的大局上并无影响,操蛋的肯定是对方。对于这些需要帮助的信件,我觉得自己非常的无力。当然,他们并不是希望我能够为他们带来曙光,他们只是在不停的向所有他们能想到的渠道尝试。

With these letters I receive, one of the main reasons I can't make them public is because I haven't verified the stories, and I don't have the ability to do so myself. Though I believe that most of them are truthful, maybe even all of them, or at most have been written with a little creative flair to help make one's case, which doesn't change the larger picture to the story, that being that the bad guys will end up winning. Faced with these letters asking for help, I feel extremely powerless. Of course, they're not asking me to save them, they're just trying every possible avenue they can think of.

For more on Han, consider checking out:

Wandering China, Novelist Han Han:A City Built on a Heap of Money Won’t Shine

Danwei, Han Han on Google leaving China – deleted post

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