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Bloggers of the year in Esquire China

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Lao Luo PK Lian Yue

The December issue of Esquire selects thirty notable men to be its "Esquires of the Year."

In keeping with editor Dou Jiangming's mission to give Esquire a social conscience, the top-ranked name is "The Volunteer," representing the two huge volunteer campaigns that took place this year: the rescue effort following the Wenchuan earthquake in May, and the Beijing Olympics in August.

The rest of the list is a mix of Olympians and Olympic-related artists, earthquake-related figures, social commentators, and the odd economist or philanthropist.

A few names are drawn from the blogging world. Han Han's on the list for claiming the title of most-read Chinese blogger this year, and Oriental Outlook journalist Sun Chunlong is cited for posting a letter to his blog castigating local authorities in Shanxi following an attempt to suppress his story about a landslide.

Esquire editor Dou Jiangming is himself a blogger — he keeps a Bullog blog devoted to searching for workers who have not yet returned home following the Shanxi brick kiln affair, and he named two other Bullog bloggers to the list, both of whom were recently appeared on a list of "China's Top 20 Online Pundits" prepared by Southern Metropolis Weekly.

Luo Yonghao (aka "Lao Luo") became famous for the interesting lectures he gave at the New Oriental language school before he got into blogging. His Bullog blogging platform is home to outspoken commentators on a wide variety of topics ranging from social justice to popular science. This year, the website organized a donation campaign to aid in the Wenchuan earthquake rescue effort.

Lian Yue keeps the most popular blog on Bullog. Well-known for his op-eds and a relationship advice column, he rose to national prominence with his involvement in the effort to stop construction of a PX plant in Xiamen. He continues to use his blog as a platform to promote civic consciousness.

The thirty profiles in the Esquire feature were written by a variety of authors, and for these two, Luo was assigned to interview Lian, and then Lian turned around and interviewed Luo. The two bloggers share an offbeat sense of humor, and their conversation ranges from major social issues to relationships to proper brushing habits, and ultimately to blogging itself.

Lian Yue: Citizen Columnist

Interview by Luo Yonghao / Esquire

In 2006, when I had just started Bullog, most of the first twenty-some writers I invited were friends of mine. I noticed that someone named Lian Yue kept showing up in their blogrolls, and I was pleasantly surprised when I read his posts. But when I asked around, no one seemed to know him; they only knew that he was a columnist in Xiamen. After thinking it over, I had to write bashful letter simply inviting him to run a blog on Bullog, and ultimately, he straighforwardly agreed. Two years later, Lian Yue's blog is Bullog's hit-count king. When Hecaitou and Fang Zhouzi were still on Bullog, Lian Yue's blog was always in third place, so here's a conspiracy theory for you: Lao Luo has a crush on Lian Yue, and to see his sweetheart ranked in first place, he drove out top-ranked Hecaitou and second-place Fang Zhouzi.

Before I met Lian Yue, lots of people who liked him as much as I did told me, "I've heard that even though Lian Yue's writing may be lots of fun, he's not really all that fun in person." Later on I finally met him and discovered that he is a lot of fun. It's only that his approach to fun is kind of different from northerners.

After meeting him for the first time, I thought he was a shy person. But the second time I met him (at the Esquire photo studio), I saw him flirting for the camera completely naturally. When I was put into a seriously ill-fitting brand name suit, I could hardly walk, but Lian Yue simply grinned and said, "The more you cooperate, the quicker it's over, and the less you'll suffer."

Lian Yue's faithful readers, particularly those that read him on Bullog, may believe that he lives off of his current-affairs op-ed columns, but commentary articles are actually only a small part of his output. So small, in fact, that even after he decided to stop selling his commentary to the media and put it up for free on Bullog, he didn't see any appreciable drop in his writing income.

Like eunuchs who critique the emperor's sexual prowess, there were those who believed that Lian Yue was all talk as far as his current affairs commentary is concerned, and that his writing was cowardly and useless. "If you've got the guts, then go march in the street!" they would write in his comments section. After the Xiamen PX affair, they paused, and then ran off to blogs of other commentators to write, "Damn it, if you've got any guts, then be like Lian Yue!"

Luo Yonghao: To my great surprise and admiration, I noticed that you could adopt all kinds of sulty poses for the cameraman. I would like to know what request would drive you to pieces? If they wanted you to wear a shimmery nightgown and hold a thick cigar while you looked into the camera with a gaze of complete understanding, would you have a problem with that?
Lian Yue: I actually think the image you've proposed would be pretty cool. What I wouldn't be able to take would be poses like flipping through a book while leaning against a bookshelf, or pretending to work at a computer. I'm not afraid of being strange or ugly, but I do fear being tacky.

Luo: Aside from Wang Xiaobo, are there any other Chinese authors who have had a big influence on you? Which foreign authors are your favorites?
Lian: I really like Bo Yang. He invented a simple and plain questioning technique. Regardless of how large something started out, he'd ask specific small questions, and the effect was truly excellent when it was a framework of lies. He was a very staunch critic, yet he wasn't flustered. He liked to joke, and even his prison writing is leisurely in tone.

Swift, Bertrand Russell, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw — I like all of them. They're bunch of irreverent people who won't stand for idiocy, and who each have something they're pursuing with all their might. They don't take themselves too seriously, and their sense of humor stems from self-mockery.

Luo: As someone with a sophisticated sense of humor, do you enjoy simple comedy, like Stephen Chow films?
Lian: I've always liked Stephen Chow's films. Humor goes hand in hand with comedy. I like shows like South Park, SpongeBob SquarePants, and The Simpsons that are pure parody and comedy. By its very nature, humor goes after unlimited expression, and this certainly doesn't exclude basic comedy.

Luo: How much time do you spend writing every day?
Lian: Less than an hour a day on average.

Luo: Are you addicted to the Internet?
Lian: No. I've got a pretty good resistance to addiction, perhaps because I'm afraid of losing control.

Luo: The recession has begun to affect a lot of different areas. Have columnists like yourself felt the influence yet? For example, have papers become worse about falling behind in payments?
Lian: I haven't felt any effects. I'm pretty choosy about the media I work with: they've got to fit my tone, have decent rates, and I need to know their editing staff. If I become aware of something amiss, I immediately call off the partnership. Over the years, I've basically been left with trustworthy media.

Luo: Your love advice collection, I Ask Lian Yeah!, is pretty popular, particularly among women. Do you receive lots of love letters from women readers? If so, how do you handle them?
Lian: Sure I receive them. But not "lots." And anyway, the readership of the column is predominantly mature readers, so I don't reply to the letters.

Luo: It's said that mature women make up a large segment of the audience for I Ask Lian Yeah!. Generally speaking, do you like older or younger women more? Overall, do you think you're someone who loves women?
Lian: I might be a feminist: I think that women are slightly higher-evolved than men. I like mature women because things are more interesting when two people's communication skills match up. Young women are always asking "why," and that becomes tiring. It's like you're going around with your daughter.

Luo: What does your wife think of the book?
Lian: She likes quite a bit. She reads the column more than the other stuff I write, which she'll only glance at from time to time.

Luo: In general, love between a psychiatrist and a patient is considered to be against professional ethics. Can the same judgment be made about the author of an advice column and one of its readers?
Lian: Yes. But at the same time I have to respect the wishes of the letter-writers.

Luo: A good friend of yours told me, "I know about that asshole Lian Yue. He got married after just one relationship. I never imagined he'd be writing an advice column!" Is his information accurate? Regardless, what do you think about his opinion — is someone had just one relationship before getting married qualified to write a love advice column?
Lian: This is one of the most common questions I get. Let's look at fiction: Jin Yong doesn't know martial arts, but he writes martial arts novels. Arthur Conan Doyle never killed anyone but he wrote Sherlock Holmes. In real life, being a billionaire is not a prerequisite to becoming an economist. More arrogantly, I've had such a stable, long-term emotional life that I've got even more of a right to speak, right?

Luo: Tell me about the sales figures for your two collections of advice columns. I'm just starting out in the world of relationship advice and I need some encouraging information.
Lian: I Ask Lian Yeah! is about to go into its tenth printing and has sold 50,000 copies. I Ask Lian Yeah Too! has sold 36,000 copies. I'm proud to say that these are both real numbers: when one printing sells out, more copies are printed, so these are not stacks of waste paper lying in a warehouse. The numbers aren't huge, but I'm not sure that someone new to the field would be able to catch up.

Luo: Many readers know that before you became a freelance writer, you worked as a teacher, a public prosecutor, a journalist, and an editor, but they probably haven't heard you mention anything earlier than that. Could you talk a little about your family, and your childhood and youth? (As much as possible, please.)
Lian: I'm from a Hakka family that lived in a little town called Changding in western Fujian. My father is a village middle school teacher and is about to retire. I think he is a good, kind, hard-working teacher. My mother, once she found out she was going to marry my father, remained in the village working at the supply co-op, and after she retired, she looked after their home. She's smart, but it's too bad her fate wasn't any better.

I Ask Lian Yeah Too!
I Ask Lian Yeah!

When I was about five, I was sent to Longyan to live with my mother's folks. My parents had intended for me to get a better education in the city, but my grandparents were unfortunately ill-tempered. And there were too many people in the home, and I was an obstinate child, so we never became close. I spent an extremely long, boring, tedious, and sometimes painful childhood and youth. In middle school, I couldn't keep up with my classes — I'd always been a mediocre student. Then I returned to attend Changding #1 High School, where I got punished for smoking. My goal at the time was to get work fixing cars after graduation. But then I had a stroke of dumb luck on the college entrance exam and tested into Longyan Teachers College. That's the highest education I've had.

My two younger sisters, who stayed with my parents, were good students. The older one got all the way to doctoral studies at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, did six years of post-doc work in the US, and now works doing research she loves at a British company. The younger one is a university teacher. She had a son a few years ago and named him "Chen Yixin," which I chose.

I'm not really obedient. I'm used to making my own decisions. And I'm a confirmed DINK, which has got to really distress my parents, so my relationship with them will probably always be pretty lackluster. But I've said too much.

Luo: You've been a freelance writer for many years now. Compared to your previous lines of work, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of freelancing? (As much as possible, please.) How different is this from the expectations you had when you quit your job?
Lian: I'm good at it, you see, so it's been pretty smooth. I'm fairly self-motivated in my relationships with the media, so I've never seen any disadvantages. I pretty much have free rein over everything, except for deadlines. When I resigned, I never imagined that my income would be as much as it is today, and I never expected I'd be so relaxed.

Luo: What virtues do you possess that others have not noticed, if you have any (considering how low-key you are, I'm sure you do).
Lian: Lots. I'm good at reduction. I benefit from Occam's Razor: "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily." This allows me to get rid of lots of burdens and troubles pretty easily.

Luo: Tell us about a few important things you've done in 2008 (they can be little things).
Lian: When major news stories have broken, I've been better at updating my blog in a timely fashion. Other than that, I don't think there's anything else.

Luo: You're nearly 40. Have you had a mid-life crisis yet?
Lian: No. I adapt to the changing times.

Luo: As an atheist, have you ever thought about death? Can you say a little something about your views?
Lian: Of course I've thought about it. I don't have a personal schedule for what I want to do or save. At the same time, I've experienced a lot of nice things, so if I were to kick it right now, I wouldn't be afraid.

Luo: Among high-output columnists, you are one of the few who's able to maintain the overall quality of your articles. What do you take away from this? Is it innate? Learned? Or is there a lot of work behind the scenes?
Lian: First, it's a mix of innateness and a desire to learn, but most importantly, when I write, I think of an individual. I imagine that he's my reader, and I think about how to talk to him, how to get him to spend a few minutes reading my writing. I like him and want to please him, so I'm not going to condescend to him.

Luo: What did you do during the Olympics? Did the Olympics have any direct effect on your life in Xiamen?
Lian: I watched the events I liked, but other than that, nothing. Xiamen is too far away. As far as I could tell, there wasn't much of an effect at all.

Luo: During "Sex-Photo-gate," did you look at the pictures? Zhou Kecheng says that those of us who saw the photos should apologize to the victims. What do you think?
Lian: I saw them. I don't think I have to apologize. Sex-Photo-gate is simple, really: (1) the people who took the photos are normal; (2) people who looked at the photos are normal; (3) people who refused to look at the photos are also normal; (4) intentionally stealing and leaking an individual's private matters is not normal. Only that abnormal person needs to apologize.

Luo: Did you encounter any trouble after the PX affair? It's been almost a year. Has anything else happened that's worth telling us?
Lian: I only had one direct encounter with the police. They said they wanted to come in for a chat, and after I refused, they didn't bother me again. My wife always talked to the cop on duty, and even though he was there to observe and monitor, he was always very friendly. Xiamen police are polite to us. It's their job, so maybe it's something they can't avoid.

My wife had it pretty bad. She's a lawyer, and there were two times that she was at the PSB on business and overheard cops saying "Lian Yue's been arrested." They're unconfirmed rumors, but you still feel like you've got no place to run. I talked it over with my wife countless times, and we decided on a few things: First, what I was doing wasn't wrong. Second, it was entirely understandable for the local government to find ways to put pressure on me to give up. Third, I would work carefully, only accepting interviews from domestic media and mainstream foreign media (the standard being that their websites were reachable from the mainland) and not straying from the topic of environmental protection and civic participation. Then I could do what I needed to. I'd be able to eat and sleep, and the six pounds I lost would come back quickly.

My complete emergence from fear came at the end of 2007 when the environmental assessment was released. My wife and I applied to take part in the public environmental discussion, and then a reliable source told us that we were going to be taken in. When we heard this news, my wife and I arranged to meet at the Pizza Hut near the ferry, where we discussed what few option we had: what she'd do if I was arrested, what I'd do if she was arrested, and what we'd do if we both were taken in. Even so, we felt relieved, and in an instant all the stress was lifted. My wife said, with your temper, you'll never make it if you're shut up. I replied, with my temper, I should have been shut up long ago.

Then we calmly prepared our environmental statements. As a lawyer, she wasn't afraid of public speaking, but I went through it again and again and then practiced it in front of her once.

Luo: If you made a mistake in a critical essay, would you have a problem admitting it and apologizing?
Lian: There are twp types of criticism. One type is where you look upward and question public power and those who wield it in the guise of a public spokesperson, to demonstrate that you have not abandoned your rights as a citizen. A second type is where you look downward and sieze on an ordinary person to hammer at anything unscientific, undemocratic, unobjective, or untrue to demonstrate your masterful arguments. I only allow myself to be the first kind of critic. When facing public criticism, the government must demonstrate that it is blameless, but the critic does not need to prove that he is necessarily correct. Even if I made a careless mistake, I wouldn't apologize to the government. If I had the misfortune to mistakenly become the type of critic I disdain, and if I then made a mistake, a swift apology would be the best way to preserve a reputation.

Luo: I've noticed that you've said in an interview, "I become privately upset when certain readers repeatedly correct minor mistakes." So are you infuriated by the comments of idiotic blog commenters? If you are, how do you typically resolve the issue?
Lian: If you page back through the past few years of my blog, you'll find that I sometimes fight back at the commenters. For a while I closed off comments, and I've stated that I reserve the right to delete comments. Why? Because the criticism got to me. I have a pretty high standard for criticism, and I can't stand criticism that's moronic, taken out of context, obscene, or purely contrarian. I let all of that remain now, even the commenters who use proxies to continually change IP addresses, and even those that concoct criticism that I've accepted money from such-and-such an organization. I let them all stand, or in other words, I don't delete anything. Sure, I'm unhappy when I read those comments. I'm a normal human being, after all. I'm not abnormal. It's just that over the years I've come to realize that freedom of speech is an offensive beauty. Criticism that offends me is also an exercise of freedom of speech. If I don't tolerate it, then I lose the right to pursue my own freedom of speech. Of course, I don't think that my own standard should apply to everyone, but I have to abide by my own discipline. I will never be someone who will eliminate voices.

Luo: Do you exercise regularly?
Lian: Yes. I spend half an hour or more taking strolls and doing push-ups.

Luo: What's your main entertainment outside of work? Overall, do you think you are a highly self-disciplined person?
Lian: I watch American TV dramas and talk shows. I have lax self-discipline. But I have the patience to complete a lifetime of work.

Luo: 2008 is nearly over. Can you recommend some other interesting writers, like Fanfan, for Bullog?
Lian: Not at the moment.

Luo Yonghao: The Rise of the Bulls

Interview by Lian Yue / Esquire

My personal blog is hosted on Bullog, and I've refused to allow other websites to mirror it. By appearances, it looks like I know Lao Luo well.

It's not just appearances. I think I really do know him well. Not in the traditional sense — I don't know about his life as well as his students do, and I don't know his romantic history, or how much he weighs. We've met only twice, the first time in December, 2007, in Beijing, and the second in November, 2008, in Beijing. Altogether, we talked for less than half an hour, and then we went to dinner with mutual friends. When I'd had enough to drink I went back to my hotel to sleep, and then left Beijing the next morning.

I find it difficult to get close to people, first because I dread the feeling of being in a group, and second because I have no patience with people. Yet the first time I met Lao Luo I felt that this was a friend (and of course, I also arrogantly thought that Lao Luo took me for a friend the first time he met me. A little gay, but we're both heterosexual). The first glance is probably enough to know that you'll be friends with Lao Luo, because his qualities are so obvious that you'll know in an instant if you're kindred spirits.

He's an innocent. His success inspires envy from people who probably feel he's been lucky, but what they don't know is that he's not worldly, and he hasn't been poisoned by worldly things. When he imagines that something must be good, he has the courage to go and try it himself rather than defer to the tastes of others. In a paralyzed society where everyone's preoccupied with calculating how much profit they can make, opportunities are left for the forthright.

And he even naively believes that good things must be loudly praised, even if everyone thinks that doing so will only bring bad luck upon him. So his words became sayings, and everyone laughed merrily. And in fact, we have be waiting for just such an innocent to call forth the remnants of innocence within us. Nothing is more normal than to like this person from the moment you meet him.

Lian Yue: At the photo shoot, I noticed that you're actually pretty shy. Last year you told me that when you first stood on the podium, you were sweating from stage fright. How did you conquer your fear and become a skillful speaker?
Luo Yonghao: I've never found a good way to conquer fear, so I can only force myself to risk embarrassment until I pass through that stage.

Lian: If a magazine were willing to print them, would you pose for nude photos? What poses would you adopt?
Luo: I wouldn't. Pretty much anything that would disgust an innocent public is something I wouldn't do. But if I happened to be a hunk, and if my parents were both dead, I wouldn't mind taking nude photos.

Lian: I just found out that you once worked as a laborer. What aspects of your character, if any, do you think come from that part of your life?
Luo: I worked for a month at a construction site, for a year in the packing shop at a stainless-steel product factory, and most of what I found there was basically in line with my expectations. I don't think the two jobs had much in the way of long-term effects, or that they honed or changed any particular personal qualities.

Lian: There's a sort of educational terrorism through which we repeatedly suggest to children and their parents that if they don't get into a good college, their whole life is ruined. You weren't a victim of this terrorism; in fact, you're a success (if only according to a worldly, utilitarian metric). What anti-terror strategies or techniques do you have?
Luo: When I was young, I was one of those kids who read an awful lot (at least in my small town). That foundation allowed me to communicate with kids generally accepted as high-achievers (usually the ones with good scores who were sure to get into a good school), and gave me more confidence. And sometimes I actually had to take some time for self-reflection to conquer those silly feelings of superiority. Hints and outright statements from my parents and teachers basically had no effect. When I was young I'd often or show off my smarts, or fail to rein in my own cleverness, so they never thought I'd be ruined if I didn't make it into a good college. Sure, later on when I left the small town behind, I realized that my cleverness, smarts, and extensive reading were actually quite limited. In addition, we feel powerless at the reason behind the continued presence of that educational terrorism: at least in China, going to college in the city is one of the few ways a young person from the countryside or a small town to completely change your fate. Looking back now, what I truly believed back then was identical to what my parents and teachers said they believed: "knowledge can change fate." But I was always butting heads with them because what they actually believed was not that knowledge can change fate, but that a degree can change fate.

Lian: Would you spend 5,000 yuan on a piece of clothing? What kind of clothes are cool for a man? (Note: please don't say something infantile like whatever's comfortable.)
Luo: I would never spend that much, unless I was buying it for my wife. But if I had an annual income of 50 million, I most likely wouldn't mind buying one for myself. As someone who isn't cool no matter what he wears, I don't know how to answer your second question.

Lian: I think that English is particularly important in contemporary society, but I've never spent much money studying English — I use online resources. Do you detest students like me? Why?
Luo: No. It's like when you open a restaurant. You welcome all the guests who eat at your place, but you don't need to hate people who stay at home and cook for themselves.

Lian: What was your primary method of learning English? Self-study?
Luo: Yes.

Lian: Have you ever thought about losing weight? Have you ever been discriminated against because of your weight? Tell us about it, if you have.
Luo: I've lost weight very successfully several times, but each time I got fat again. Discrimination? I don't know whether my experiences have been discrimination. For example, when I was thin, I'd always get love letters from students, but I got virtually none at all when I was fat.

Lian: Do you think Yang Jia is a hero? Do you think that slaughtering a group (be they police, chengguan, obstinate citizens, children of influential families, or terrorists) has garnered enough emotional support from society that the time is ripe it to spread? If such widespread support is present, how do you propose to reconcile the situation?
Luo: Of course I don't think he's a hero. He and the police he killed are all victims. As for the people you mentioned (except perhaps the obstinate citizens), I think that we're on the cusp of having enough support in China, but even if we had total support, those actions would not spread. Although those groups may mentally imagine that everyone else is Yang Jia, they aren't likely to force people to actually become Yang Jia through their actions, unless the situation worsens to the point that people no longer want to live. Of course, this kind of social mentality is very dangerous, and I think that the only way to address to build restrictions and monitoring of those groups into the system to raise the public's opinion of them.

Lian: If you knew that 1,000 years in the future, society will have made no progress, what would you do? Would you maintain a happy, healthy state of mind?
Luo: If the entire world wouldn't make any progress, I'd first earn enough money and then use the rest of my life to emigrate, each time to a slightly better country. The precondition for this choice would be that my own efforts would cause no social progress, but that's obviously impossible.

Lian: Do you eat fruit every day? Is there any kind you particularly like?
Luo: Not every day. I live in Beijing now, but my wife's in Tianjin, and it's too much trouble to get fruit for myself. I like watermelon and Huangyan Mandarin oranges best, but those are only available in the fall.

Lian: If you were deprived of your liberty for three years, how would you occupy your time?
Luo: Reading, writing, and exercise.

Lian: Do you brush your teeth before you go to bed? Do you bathe every day?
Luo: Yes. And yes.

Lian: If your girlfriend agrees, tell us about her. What kind of a person is she?
Luo: She doesn't agree. She's a good person.

Lian: Bullog once thought about turning reader comments off completely, but then it didn't. What was the reason for that turnaround?
Luo: We thought about turning off comments because we felt that the majority of reader comments didn't have much value. Later, we thought about how the very existence of reader comments has value.

Lian: What do you most want a Bullog reader to get out of it? What do you get?
Luo: First off, it's a given that I hope that they can find advancement and intellectual pleasure through reading outstanding writing. In addition, I also hope that when people who may feel that they are "a small handful" of "elements" in real life come to the website, they will realize that they are not alone. Both of these goals are achievable, I think, but I also think they might find this second point a little unctuous. I mean, I don't mind if Bullog becomes a meeting place for rightist angry youth with mental abilities, but I certainly do not want Bullog to become a camp for rightist angry little shits who lack reason and judgment and simply cling to a position.

Lian: As an atheist, what do you think of theists like Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Archbishop Tutu, and the Dharma Master Cheng Yen of Tzu Chi? What opinion do you have of the strength they receive from religion?
Luo: I think that they are all remarkable, great individuals, even though they aren't as perfect as their fervent followers have made them out to be. The power of religion is quite efficient and effective for upholding faith and calmly facing death, so as an atheist who requires frequent monitoring, reminders, and self-adjustments to realize those same goals, I'm envious of the strength that religion brings. However, religion also gives the same effective strength to those bastards who uphold evil faiths and who calmly face the pain and death they bring onto others. And from a historical perspective, the suffering brought to humanity by religion far exceeds its benefits, at least in my opinion.

Lian: Books on wellness and traditional Chinese medicine and sell quite well. Directly repudiating them isn't really very effective. What means do you have of getting people to be more passionate about modern science?
Luo: I've never been able to find a better way, and since I'm unwilling to simply sit by and watch pseudoscience run amok, I have no choice but to repudiate them directly. I think that the work done by Ji Shisan and others at the Science Squirrel Society is pretty good and does as much as possible to make science articles interesting, or even cool. At any rate, writing popular science articles in a sober, scholarly tone isn't the most effective way of winning over foolish men and women.

Lian: Would you be angry if your girlfriend read the astrology column in the newspaper and wanted to discuss it with you?
Luo: No. But I'd find it hard to disguise my impatience, and as a result, she'd get angry.

Lian: Are you afraid of long-term relationships, either friendship or love?
Luo: In love, I like long-term relationships, but before deciding on a long-term relationship, I'd be very cautious. I'd be afraid of the harm caused by making casual promises. In friendship, I'm not afraid of anything.

Lian: How long do you spend online every day? What English-language websites do you visit? Do you find it hard to concentrate when you're online?
Luo: I spend about four hours a day. I don't visit English-language websites that often; when I do, it's usually CNN, and the New York Times. After the Financial Times reported on Bullog, I started visiting their website. When I'm online, I often get distracted by unplanned things, and this substantially delays my original work.

Lian: In 2008, what men made the deepest impression on you? (Note: apart from Lian Yue.)
Luo: Apart from Lian Yue, right now I can only think of Edison Chen.

Lian: What do you think of V, who has stubbornly followed the brick kiln slave case and who is also a figure in the men's fashion world?
Luo: I was initially surprised, but I quickly decided that it was normal, and I was pleased. I hope that people in all fields will concern themselves with social realities, and I hope that people concerned with social realities will join the ranks of every field.

Lian: If someone who is concerned with disadvantaged groups drinks thousands of yuan worth of wine in a single evening, would you think he has a split personality.
Luo: No.

Lian: How often do you visit adult web sites? How long do you spend each time?
Luo: Very infrequently the past few years. When I did visit often, it never was all that steady. Sometimes three or four times a week, but other times only twice a month.

Lian: If one day no one knows or cares who Lao Luo is, and if they have excellent English, what will you do?
Luo: Spend time with my wife, and continue running Bullog.

Lian: Men may keep their envy of other people's fame and wealth hidden deep down inside, but when they let it out it gets ugly. As I see it, you don't seem to have this problem. Is that innate, or did you learn it later?
Luo: It's mostly because I didn't grow up knowing my friends, and by the time I met them, they were already pretty awesome. So even if I were psychopathic, there'd be no chance of an outbreak. If things were different — if, for example, you were my cousin from the countryside and I took you out to see the world and the wonderful realm of the Internet, and then in the space of a few years you obliterated my reputation, I'd find it difficult not to hire someone to hack you to death.

Lian: Are you afraid of declining virility? When you get to be as old as Yang Zhenning, would you be able to resist Weng Fan?
Luo: I'm not that afraid. We've got the great western medicine Viagra now, so this is an age where old men can maintain their composure. Except perhaps for those strange old Chinese men who still drink deer penis liquor. I don't know about your second question. I'm not really sure how, half a century from now, I'll face the temptation presented by young women. Nevertheless, I'm sure that if I meet a Weng Fan of my own when I'm over eighty, I won't publicly declare anything like "She returns the happiness of youth to my old soul," although even if Yang Zhenning was a million times sappier than that I still wouldn't say that he did anything wrong.

Lian: Without talking about luck, which of your traits do you think are the most beneficial to you? Do you have any way to spread them around?
Luo: Standing firm in my principles, probably. I'm not sure about the second question, because I don't know how other people define "most beneficial."

Lian: Do you know Korean? How do you write "Luo Yonghao" in Korean? If you don't know, do you feel guilty about it?
Luo: I know Korean. I grew up in a bilingual area. Korean writing uses an alphabet created to comply completely with pronunciation rules, so people who speak Korean need only to learn the alphabet and then they basically know how to write. My current computer system doesn't have Korean input. If I didn't know how to write, I wouldn't feel guilty, even though ever since I was little I've heard my ethnic Korean elders say garbage like, "You're Korean. How come you can't write in Korean?" If I emigrated to a country that spoke English, I wouldn't force my kid to study Chinese characters, unless he really was interested.

Lian: If Lao Luo English Training makes money this year, how will you spend your first profits?
Luo: There's no chance of that this year. We only really started working after the Olympics, so it'll be at least next summer holiday before that's a possibility. If it makes money, the company will improve our student services and increase what we offer our staff. My own cut will be used to improve Bullog equipment and services. If there's lots of profit, I may throw a big bash next year to celebrate Bullog's anniversary.

Esquire, December 2008

The full "Esquire of the Year" list:

  • The Volunteer (志愿者)
  • Jet Li (李连杰), actor
  • Chen Guangbiao (陈光标), entrepreneur and philanthropist
  • Wu Jinglian (吴敬琏), economist
  • Leung Man-to (梁文道), TV host and commentator
  • Ai Weiwei (艾未未), artist
  • Ma Jun(马军), environmentalist
  • Wang Canfa (王灿发), professor and environmental activist
  • Lian Yue (连岳), columnist
  • Luo Yonghao (罗永浩), educator and blogger
  • Jian Guangzhou (简光洲), Oriental Morning Post reporter
  • Sun Chunlong (孙春龙), Oriental Outlook reporter
  • John Woo (吴宇森), film director
  • Fang Zhongxin (方中信), actor
  • Zhang Hanyu (张涵予), actor
  • Xu Bing (徐冰), artist
  • Zhao Yinyin (赵胤胤), pianist
  • Zou Shiming (邹市明), champion boxer
  • Lin Dan (林丹), badminton champion
  • Yao Ming (姚明), basketball star
  • Zhang Xiangxiang (张湘祥), champion weightlifter
  • Li Ning (李宁), gymnast, torch-bearer
  • Ye Zhiping (叶志平), school principal in Sichuan
  • Chen Xie (陈燮), Xinhua journalist
  • Zou Kai (邹凯), champion gymnast
  • Zhong Man (仲满), champion sabre fencer
  • Cai Guoqiang (蔡国强), artist
  • Zhang Yimou (张艺谋), film and Opening Ceremony director
  • Han Han (韩寒), writer and racecar driver
  • Jia Zhangke (贾樟柯), film director
Links and Sources
There are currently 1 Comments for Bloggers of the year in Esquire China.

Comments on Bloggers of the year in Esquire China

Lian's answers are a bit too facile and self-assured in their would-be (moral) clarity for my taste.

this type of dude could've easily turned out as a successful mid-level apparatchik had his grades been better in school.

"me? i sleep well every night."

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