BEIJING - First I would like to say thank you to all those who have read my blog over the past year, I appreciate it. I began the year in Beijing preparing to do research for my dissertation, working through multiple versions of an online survey about individuals’ responsibility for solving air pollution, water pollution and climate change. As I end the year in Beijing, I’m now writing up my dissertation, surveying the job market and thinking about future research.
“China’s hot” is the refrain I hear from friends in the US and China as I discuss academic job prospects, yet many days I’m not convinced. One evening I had a conversation with a professor from Italy, and I mentioned to her that China is not the Internet, it’s not a new phenomenon; the University of Washington has had a China department for 100 of its 150 years of existence, and schools like UC Berkeley and Harvard have had programs for fifty plus years.
Over the past year I have tried to understand China a little better. I set out the goal to cover the environmentalism of small things in China. If I gave myself a grade, it would be a C or a D. I wrote blogs about electricity and heating, recycling, efforts to create a bike culture, US-Sino youth tackling climate change together, and the UN climate change treaty negotiations. I also added an audio/video montage about my experiences in China. I would give myself a C or a D because the environmentalism of small things was about ¼ of the blogs I wrote at best. I spent much of my blogging about censorship (see tell me, oldest media, and Thomas Friedman) in various forms while also touching on the one-child policy, visas, suburbanization in China and Occupy Wall Street for good measure.
Looking towards the next year, I have two goals: The first goal is to recognize that I live in Beijing, one of my two favorite cities in the world. My second goal is to try and tell better stories.
The first goal might sound somewhat odd, but perhaps what I have tried to do too much, is try to craft a narrative about all of China, based on my experiences for the most part in Beijing. Beijing, a city of twenty million, in some ways is Rome, the center of a Chinese empire, where people pledge allegiance to varying degrees to a Chinese nation and yet in the home exhibit a multitude of cultural practices reflected in food, dress and language. Beijing then, perhaps is a nexus in China without peers.
My second goal reflects that I don’t really have one story that I wish to follow in the coming year and a recognition that there are news outlets like the NY Times and the BBC, and Twitter feeds and blogs that publish news stories about China on a daily basis (I’ll try to be better at re-tweeting).
A friend once told me that it takes two years to get used to New York City, and after two years I was better able to tolerate it. Now, after having lived in Beijing for about two years, I feel I no longer need to try and anticipate this or that question about China that in some ways I spent much of last year doing, particularly about censorship. Yet restrictions do remain, as some of my blogs have been blocked here in China. Amid stories about my life, and those of others, there will likely be stories about unnamed or pseudonym “friends” not only because I live in China, but because I am subject to US laws.
As the closest thing The Mantle has to a blogger on environmentalism I don’t have any desire to abandon this beat as I further make sense of Beijing, recognizing that individuals affect both their surrounding environment and increasingly distant environment (think mobile phone, iPod raw materials) every day regardless of whether he or she knows it. 我也希望我今年会开始用中文写一些博客（I also hope that I will start writing a few blogs in Chinese this year).
Follow Chris on Twitter @enviroeberhardt