Podcasting was all the rage in the mid-noughties. These blog posts for the visually-impaired are integral methods of feeding us information and giving our ears something to do at the office besides listening to co-workers’ nauseating ringtones. This article rounds up the best China-related informational podcasts. The musical podcasts we’ll save for a later issue.
Podcasts got big in China in 2007 and most of the expat mags jumped on board. City Weekend did a terrible situation comedy thing about six years ago, before confining ourselves to useful things like podcasting the international literary festival talks (which we do every year). The Beijinger did a podcast series back when they were called That’s Beijing. These days there’s only That’s Shanghai carrying on the expat mag podcast flame with a semi-regular session that involves some music, some banter and enough cursing to make a SmartShanghai editor blush.
But without a doubt, though, the award for best China-related podcast goes to the dynamic duo of Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn who host the weekly Sinica podcast on PopupChinese. They’ve been quietly at it since April 2010, putting together 40 minutes of civilized, occasionally humorous, always insightful round-table discussion of contemporary issues ranging from Google to science fiction to Chinese reactions to Britain’s riots.
“The Sinica podcast was Kaiser Kuo’s idea,” Goldkorn tells me. “We’d been talking about working together on it for some time. Beijing is home to many journalists and specialists on China subjects, and podcasting is a natural way to bring such voices together.”
Kuo and Goldkorn have been in Beijing forever and know pretty much everybody, and so the “voices” they bring in are top notch. Correspondents for major Western newspapers make regular appearances along with local-based China wonks—all voluntary, all not-for-profit.
They bring out personal sides to the China headlines that flash by every day. Where else can you hear Ed Wong candidly describe the slow and deliberate conversational style of filmmaker Zhao Liang, whom he wrote about recently in the New York Times? You also get revealing moments such as in the recent rock podcast when Kaiser Kuo (who’s also a heavy metal guitarist) and Mike Pettis (founder of D-22) argued over the merits of musicianship (Kuo for, Pettis against).
The only criticism is that all the podcasts tend to gravitate toward musings on the internet, perhaps because Kuo works for Baidu and Goldkorn is the founder of the blog Danwei. Regardless, if you’re not subscribed to this podcast, you’re missing an important piece of the China puzzle.
Their plans for the future? “More of the same,” says Goldkorn. “Try as hard as we can to produce a new episode each week. Stay hungry and foolish.”
Sinica isn’t the only China-related, English-language podcast out there, just the best. For a few other recs, tune in below.
Other Awesome China Podcasts
China Green: This vidcast is wonderful, delivering up 5-10 minute idylls on Chinese human and natural ecology. It’s sponsored by the Asia Society and counts Orville Schell as Editor-in-Chief.
China Business Podcast: This almost daily podcast, produced by a Shanghai-based consulting company, brings in experts to talk about techie business issues.
China Policy Pod: Run by genuine policy wonk Josh Gartner, this podcast is required listening for anyone with political economy aspirations.
China Talking Points: Media analysis from a tag team of a former foreign correspondent and a pro market researcher with loads of China experience between them.
China History Podcast: This Cliff’s Notes of a Wikipedia entry of Chinese history is run by an amateur historian in California. More amusing than informative, but at least he’s dedicated.