Saturday, March 13, 2010

Meet Han Han, the World's Most Popular Blogger


March 12, 2010
Heartthrob’s Blog Challenges China’s Leaders


IT’S not so easy being Han Han, the heartthrob race car driver and pop novelist who just happens to be China’s most widely read blogger.

Traveling incognito is all but impossible. Local officials frequently vie for his endorsement of their latest architectural boondoggles. (He politely declines.) And love-lorn young women often approach him after races with letters bearing his name. (He says the women have been duped by impostors who have assumed his identity.)

But Mr. Han’s most vexing challenge comes from a more formidable nemesis: the unseen censors who delete blog posts they deem objectionable and the publishing police who have held up the release of his new magazine, “A Chorus of Solos,” a provocative collection of essays and photographs. “The government wants China to become a great cultural nation, but our leaders are so uncultured,” he said with a shrug, offering his characteristic Cheshire-cat grin. “If things continue like this, China will only be known for tea and pandas.”

Since he began blogging in 2006, Mr. Han, 28, has been delivering increasingly caustic attacks on China’s leadership and the policies he contends are creating misery for those unlucky enough to lack a powerful government post. With more than 300 million hits to his blog, he may be the most popular living writer in the world.

In a recent interview at his office in Shanghai, he described party officials as “useless” and prone to spouting nonsense, although he used more delicate language to dismiss their relevance. “Their lives are nothing like ours,” he said. “The only thing they have in common with young people is that like us, they too have girlfriends in their 20s, although theirs are on the side.”

Mr. Han has enjoyed widespread fame since he published his first novel at 19, but his popularity has ballooned in recent months through blog posts that seem to capture the zeitgeist of his peers, the so-called post-80s generation born after the economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping.

Theirs is a generation of only children, the result of China’s one-child policy, and one that has known only uninterrupted growth. Whether true or not, it is also a demographic with a reputation for being spoiled, impatient and less accepting of the storyline fed to them by government-run media.

If Mr. Han’s tongue is sharp, he is careful to deliver his barbs through sarcasm and humorous anecdotes that obliquely take on corruption, censorship and everyday injustice.

In one recent post about redevelopment projects that often end in violence and forced evictions, he suggested that the government build public housing in the form of prisons. The benefits would be twofold, he explained: Tenants could make no claim on the apartments and those who make a fuss could simply be locked up in their homes.

His current gambit is a wryly subversive competition that will award $730 to the person who comes up with new lyrics to a song-and-dance routine that was broadcast last month during the reliably soporific Chinese New Year television gala.

The performance, staged by China’s national broadcaster and viewed by an estimated 400 million people, featured merry members of the Uighur minority belting out praise for Communist Party policies.

These were not the policies that many Uighurs bemoan as oppressive — and which may or may not have provoked the deadly riots in the western region of Xinjiang last summer — but ones that supposedly reduced taxes, increased health benefits and according to the singing farmer Maimaiti, filled his donkey sack with cash.

ALTHOUGH his posts are sometimes “harmonized” — a popular euphemism for censorship —his blog, published by one of China’s most popular Web portals, has so far been allowed to continue. Ran Yunfei, a writer and blogger in Sichuan Province, says that Mr. Han is partly insulated by his celebrity, but also by his avoidance of the most politically charged topics.

“He uses humor and wit to laugh at the injustices he sees,” said Mr. Ran, whose own blog is blocked in China and available only to those with the technical means to hop over the Great Firewall. “Perhaps the reason he’s tolerated is because he does not name names directly and he doesn’t go after the heart of the problem, which is China’s one-party dictatorship.”

His other trump card is his financial independence. With 14 books to his name and a successful career as a race car driver, he is not susceptible to pressures that constrain other critics, many of them academics or journalists whose jobs tend to evaporate when their public musings cross an invisible line.


See images and read the full story HERE.

No comments: