by Tracy Scott

Before I came to Beijing, I didn’t have much of an online presence. Outside of Facebook, Linkedin and some professional listings, a Google search for me would come up pretty dry.  Then I was accepted to study abroad through the International MBA Exchange Program at Tsinghua University.  I determined the best way to record and share my Beijing experiences with friends and colleagues would be through a common vehicle. Thus the birth of my China blog and resulting significant increase in online exposure.

Late last year, I did a quick search of the blogosphere before coming here and discovered that many of the blogs maintained by westerners in China seemed fairly stock, front-page-news-focused and impersonal.  I was determined to be different – my blog would be dynamic, personal and specific.  It would be a window to China through my eyes.

So I dipped my toe into the blogging world thinking it would be easy – all I needed to do was make a diary entry every few days. But as time has passed, I’ve come to learn why the other blogs in China are the way they are: a blog is a very public medium and China is a very private place. As a result, there are many more constraints than I had anticipated.   I am not a reporter and I don’t represent myself as such.  I want for my Chinese friends and contacts here to feel safe talking with me.  In other words, I will not include their personal information or quote their private opinions in my blog. As a results, many of the most interesting insights and experiences I’ve had cannot be published or must be generically described.

It is the same case with the professionals I encounter.  Much of what is true - and most critical - about Chinese business is never written and rarely said aloud.  The people who know most about the realities of the business culture here also know that exposing those realities is a cultural no-no and would likely mean professional suicide.  In business exchanges, there is so much reading between the lines that even the Chinese sometimes struggle.  One Chinese national who recently returned to China, having lived and worked in the U.S. for ten years, told me he feels he has lost the ability to communicate here.  He said it is not that his language skills have declined, but that keeping up with the layers of meaning, which are constantly changing, is difficult.  Chinese will sit at lunch for hours trying to decipher what their boss is REALLY saying.

China is a complicated and sometimes dangerous place.  Government information control is a daily reality. I wonder how many times my blog has been tagged for review, and which keywords raised flags. If I want to do business in China in the future, I need to be careful with the information and opinions I share.  Likewise, it is critical that I protect the privacy of the people I meet here.  My challenge: maintain a blog that is interesting and insightful without jeopardizing personal privacy or exposing sensitive opinions/information.  Now maybe that’s something I can blog about…