Foreign Policy magazine has earned the ire of the Indian blog the Acorn by unflatteringly comparing the purported total number of Chinese bloggers -- 30 million -- with Indian bloggers --1.2 million. The shame, the shame!
The Acorn does some statistical analysis aimed at demonstrating that the real problem is the lack of Internet and computer penetration in India, and a reasonably interesting discussion is taking place in the comments area. (My favorite line, in response to one poster asking the pertinent question "Who cares?" noted, one hopes with tongue in cheek, that "In social sciences in general, 'number of bloggers' is now frequently being used as an index of personal liberties, education, enlightenment, Internet access etc. etc. It has almost taken a place up there with indicators like child mortality and primary literacy.)
But what I really want to know are the relative numbers for Chinese and Indian bloggers blogging in English. Because I'm sure that India, where English proficiency is widespread, wins that comparison easily. And in a world where English is the lingua franca, that makes a significant difference.
Or at least it does so for me. I spent a decade studying Mandarin in the 1980s, but my current fluency is frustratingly inadequate for efficient consumption of Chinese-language blogs. Thus, in terms of my blog-feeds, I rely mostly on outsider takes on China from native-English speakers to keep me abreast of what's hopping in the culture. Whereas for India, I gorge myself every day on commentary and analysis of Indian affairs by Indians. Thus, paradoxically, though I have spent a significant portion of my life studying China, I feel increasingly closer, via the blogosphere, to the subcontinent than I do to the Middle Kingdom.
I don't pretend that this is an ideal situation. In this information overload age, our consciousness is increasingly the sum of our info-feeds, and great care must be taken in ensuring that what streams at us actually represents the world as it is, and not just the world as we want it to be, or the world as interpreted in English. But until that universal translation technology gets perfected, I guess I'm just going to have to brush up on my Chinese.