The Sinica Podcast has been a major, if not the major source of - non business related - China information to me for the last few years. I checked today and it seems that I started listening to Kaiser Guo's and Jeremy Goldkorn's podcast already late in 2011 after a friend's recommendation. That’s quite some time and once again, I provide FOC marketing for their project although I am kind of weary about the outlook.
Sinica got me sort of addicted to podcasts in general: they are the perfect news format in an age of information overflow. After daily hours ploughing through emails and industry reports, nobody is anymore up for reading substantial newspaper articles, neither real nor virtual. These times are gone. Podcasts serve well digestible pieces of information, neither too heavy nor too light, because within 45 – 60 minutes any topic can be seriously discussed. Although not yet a mainstream media podcasting will have a bright future according to tech geek Ben Thompson.
Sinica, a weekly briefing on China affairs, as they call it, managed to deliver, but will they be able to keep their quality and character? The show is online since April 2010, when it featured Google China and its Pullout and sort of became infrequent by the end of 2015, after Jeremey had already left China for the US and Kaiser planned to leave. David Moser filled in for Jeremy as co-host most of 2015 and it seems that environmentalist Ada Shen will be a constant Beijing based co-host in future.
It seemed for a while as if Sinica would be discontinued, but the acquisition of the podcast by supchina secures its future (sadly without the comment section), and it was actually me who discontinued to download the shows. Infrequency and less interesting shows contributed to my abstinence. Today, I listened though to Kaiser’ Exit interview, a show which had been recorded in late June and which prompts me to write this substantial comment.
The essence of Sinica was for me the antagonism between smart Kaiser being in vocal denial of things which go really wrong in China (including at Baidu) and Jeremy’s sporadic and delightful rants. Kaiser, a true intellectual with sometimes narcissistic ruminations often cuts in on interviewee’s space, which made the show occasionally heavy. But Jeremy had this natural talent to bring Kaiser’s lofty theories to an abrupt crash by poignantly swearing about some reality bites; most of which made me burst into hearty laughter. They were sort of a perfect match as hosts.
The Chinese government needs hookers. All politicians are married to some women they don't like, because it was better for their career. The entire government would fall apart if they would ban prostitution. [Jeremy Goldkorn]
I feel that this symbiosis has changed substantially. With Jeremy gone, David made up for some ranting, but he too is an intellectual and lacks Jeremy’s gut spilling profanity; but worse: with Jeremy back on the show, I notice that he has lost his edginess. I can understand that living in the US, where nobody shits in front of your door, as he said once on a show when already dwelling in Tennessee, reduces pressure in every sense of being.
Moreover, I think that Sinica will slowly turn into a podcast featuring old China hands who have returned back to the US and share their now not anymore up to date insights and past experiences. Sinica will therefore struggle to keep its frontier information format, which to me sometimes felt like coverage from the war zone. I write this without judging whether this change is for the good or for the bad. Its just an effective change which has already taken place – it will appeal to some long time listeners; it will put off others. One thing is sure though: they won’t be more professional than they were before. They did a good job. So I might continue listening occasionally and blend Sinica with The Bugle.