Students in my Blogging China class at the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism conducted an email interview with Qi Hanting, a founder of the Anti-CNN website. The site was founded in the wake of the riots in Tibet in March, “to expose the lies and distortions in the western media,” according to their own description. Qi Hanting is a journalism student at Tsinghua University who studied with Li Xiguang and attended the Salzburg Academy in 2007.
Blogging China student Jenny Leung submitted the following questions to Qi by email. Qi chose to respond with one full-length response that refers to some of the questions but does not answer them one-by-one, thanks to Shilin Jia for the translation from Chinese to English.
Questions submitted to Qi Hanting:
Some people will describe your site as a part of “angry youth”? Do you agree? How would you describe anti-CNN? Truth-seeking? Patriotic? Why?
Where do you see the future of anti-CNN?
Can you describe the online community that anti-CNN is a part of?
What has changed since high school and college on how you view China and its system?
What are the valuable things have you learned from your anti-cnn site experiences?
Can you describe why continue you to moderate the site? Or what are you getting out of being a moderator of anti-CNN?
How is the forum moderated?
How politically involved are you offline? Are you active in other domestic social, political issues or other international issues?
How do you think anti-CNN has contributed to how Chinese people view the world?
Do you think Anti-CNN is successful in communicating the “truth” about China to others? Why or why not?
How do you feel the anti-CNN platform has allowed your personal voice, or others, to be expressed?
Qi Hanting’s response:
First, I want to clarify that I was involved in the establishment of Anti-CNN (hereafter referred to as AC), but I’ve already quit the job. My ideas weren’t fully implemented at AC, but I think all the ACers did it with the mindset of facilitating communication. AC’s original slogan was “Do not oppose media, but oppose factual distortion.” Certainly it may have gone astray later on, but the original intention was good and also played a role. In relation to my explanation of AC, you can search it on the website “ohmynews”, where an old lady who invented the term ‘netizen’ interviewed me and posted it there.
The AC website was born under those certain historical circumstances. We should say that the masses were relatively angry at that time. AC initially started with the front page plus the BBS. Under such circumstances, I can’t deny that most of the audience and participants were “Angry Youth,” but we can’t say that AC is an “Angry Youth” website. If you are interested, you can search for the “Carrefour” event after the Olympics torch was assaulted in April. During the whole process, AC constantly opposed the call to boycott Carrefour and further opposed going to Carrefour to do any damage. We had the attitude that to boycott or not to boycott any merchandise voluntarily is a personal volition. Some of the website founders boycotted, and some didn’t. However, calling for a boycott didn’t help solve the problem. I mentioned this point in the Phoenix TV program too–boycotting is okay, but we don’t endorse a boycott. On the other hand, the site also launched a large-scale activity to protect the torch. We can say that the will of the AC management was to hope to, “be reasonable, be powerful, and also be moderate.”
AC’s current readers have decreased a lot. Before I left at the end of April, I was always rethinking one problem; was AC named correctly? The fact that AC had such a great influence was first because “Anti-CNN” at that time was what many people wanted to say in their minds; the second reason was that the name “Anti-CNN” was able to get the attention of the western media. However, a website cannot build on the foundation of simply opposing somebody. Therefore, I think that the success and failure are all due to one factor. This problem can answer AC’s future. But Anti-CNN played its historical role, providing lessons from experience to many websites afterward, and even providing direction. This is also what I am now carving out. The ideal situation is: AC does not belong to any particular group but to all people. My new website’s name is Global-netizen-media, which is based on this idea.
Chinese education, to make a comparison, is just like the communist party. Many people are dissatisfied, and many think they can do better. But actually [China’s system] in the current stage, although not the best, is the only one that is relatively applicable. My view of Chinese education hasn’t changed too much.
The main experience I got from AC relates to the netizens. Netizens are a group that are very prone to reflecting the butterfly effect. Netizens also, to a great degree, represent the “people’s voice;” I am trying to understand their discipline.
The forum is administrated by volunteers. There are four ranks of volunteers: administrators, moderators, club members, and non-club members. The club member registration is very easy. Some volunteers become moderators by selection. The administrators are Rao Jin and me–the two founders. There is keyword censorship when publishing posts; after that, every moderator will take control; provocative or abusive content will be deleted.
I personally participate in politics to some degree. I attend some meetings and write some articles. I care about facts and further care about some fundamental problems such as energy and food.
In a “Media Criticism” class held by the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University, the professor conducted a survey in the first class asking how many people believe Chinese media, and how many think that the western media is objective and just. It turned out that only 10 percent believed the Chinese, and over 50 percent believed western media. Those (surveyed) were a group of people who have pretty high media literacy in China; those elites in the society also commonly think this way. However, after three months, I believe nobody would think this way anymore. Actually, it is not AC’s contribution but rather was just accomplished by western media itself. All media works for its own profit; all reports are from the reporter’s own angle and bias, I believe. Including AC.
AC’s daily viewers surpassed 5 million in April. Among them, 40 percent came from foreign IP addresses. Surely those would include Chinese students abroad and overseas Chinese, but we can also believe that there was a huge number of foreigners. AC did not necessarily present the real China, but it did two things: Let some people realize their perceptions of China were wrong and break the discourse hegemony, and provide people afterward an opportunity for equal communication.
I’ve only directly participated in AC’s news once. That was the time when AC was attacked by hackers’ DDOS and forced to close down. Normally, I only censored news netizens submitted to AC to guarantee their truthfulness. Usually, I would ask them to provide unprocessed photo and video documents. For any unconfirmed information, I would rather not publish it at all.