Best of the Best

I whittled about 1500 posts down into slightly over 100 for the best-of, but that’s still a lot of Imagethief for any one person. Below are the twenty-five or so most essential posts, representing a condensed digest of Imagethief from 2004 to 2012. These are favorites, but also widely read.

Humor, rants and memoirs

I’m leaving China and it doesn’t mean a thing: In the midst of a fluster over foreigners leaving China, I leave China. And yet, I don’t think it’s a trend. Sooner or later, we all have to go. The valedictory post of my time in China, and an all-time favorite. November, 2012.

The devil’s air conditioner, and other tales of woe: It’s pretty clear to me that the giant air conditioning unit on the balcony of my plush, Beijing apartment has an unslakable thirst for human blood. Published on sister blog May, 2012.

I can haz international funds? There are many unpleasant things in life. Root canals. Colonoscopies. Tax audits. Being kidnapped and tortured by fanatics. All are sunshine and kittens compared to wiring your savings out of China. August, 2011.

Down the Rabbit Hole in Kansai: After a man inconveniently dies of a heart attack on my plane to Osaka, I am stranded overnight in the surreality that is Kansai. An all-time favorite. March, 2010.

How to ensure your reincarnation as a frog: Imagethief reminds Buddhists that throwing small animals to their deaths is not a good way to earn merit. An all-time favorite. March, 2010.

Let me tell ya about Edison Chen’s dirty photos: Hong Kong movie star Edison Chen and his squad of girlfriends all deserved what they got. The most viewed post in the history of Imagethief, with over 100,000 page views. 99,999 of those were from people looking for the photos. I assume one was my mom. But a longtime favorite. February, 2008.

The devil wears Prada and won’t rent me an apartment: In which I and my cats are unworthy of an apartment owned by a woman who works for Vogue China. An all-time favorite from Imagethief’s Shanghai era. March, 2007.

The kid: An hour in the life of a child beggar in Beijing. One of my all-time favorites. August, 2006.

Haircut: In which we learn that I am way, way too old to get my hair cut in the fashion of a Korean pop star. January, 2006.

Dark table-tennis match of the soul: In which a girl who weighs 80 pounds soaking wet and leaves a trail of sparkles wherever she goes thoroughly kicks my ass. August, 2005.

Public relations, business and technology

Facebook’s China playbook: Every time Mark Zuckerberg is sighted in China, the tech press loses its mind. Here is my analysis of why Facebook’s prospects in China are somewhere between snowball + hell. With a handy chart! Published on sister blog March, 2012.

I apologize if anyone felt killed: On the dark art of the PR apology, something most people screw up entirely. Personally, I blame the lawyers. Published on sister blog March, 2012.

So you want to work in PR in China… I often get e-mails from young, western PR pros or students asking how they can get into the PR industry in China. I like replying, but I got tired of writing variations on the same response, so here is my definitive guide. Your mileage may vary. April, 2010.

Google detonates the China corporate communications script: In a country where multinationals usually sprain limbs demonstrating their commitment to the market, Google suddenly, shockingly and publicly withdraws. I analyze the communications. January, 2010.

Melamine in Sanlu milk powder? Now that’s a crisis! People often refer to things as “crises” even when they aren’t. This was a real crisis. My definitive post on the great tainted milk powder scandal of 2008. One of the most amazing business episodes from my years in China. September, 2008.

Tibet and the trouble with unassailable national myths: Following the Tibet riots of 2008 this was my analysis of how the government’s propaganda efforts have painted China into a corner in resolving its ethnic tensions. One of my best pieces of analysis, it picked up a nice inbound link from Salon’s superb “How the World Works” blog. March, 2008.

What if Yahoo abandoned China? With Yahoo under severe pressure due to their missteps in China, I speculate about what might happen if they abandoned China altogether. Five years early, and I picked the wrong Internet company. June, 2006.

The Harbin water crisis: My extensive analysis of the coverup and communication surrounding the nasty Songhua river benzene spill of 2005. The post that established Imagethief as a “serious” China blog. Prompted by a request from Roland Soong. Long. November, 2005.

Are PR and MNCs corrupting Chinese business? My response to a fellow blogger’s post speculating about whether global PR practices are corrupting Chinese businesses. Short answer: We’re not the problem. One of the most discussed posts of 2005 (though original comments are lost). Long. November, 2005.

Propaganda, politics and public affairs

Godzilla vs. the SARFT monster: Why hasn’t there been a Chinese giant monster film with a Chinese giant monster? In a word, politics. An all-time favorite from sister blog Also written before SARFT became SAPPRFT (don’t ask), which would have made for a less mellifluous title. July, 2012.

5/12, 9/11 and three minutes on Monday afternoon: One week after the catastrophic Sichuan earthquake of 2008, I went down to Tian’anmen Square for the memorial ceremony. This is what I saw, and what I thought about the glib comparisons with America’s 9/11. May, 2008.

Why the Yilishen ant-farming scandal was the perfect China story: If you live here a while, you get used to encountering events that could only happen in China. This story is the apotheosis of the “only in China” genre. And it’s all true. December, 2007.

Bang! China shoots its own Olympic PR in the foot: Almost exactly one year before the opening ceremony Chinese cops detain foreign correspondents covering a Reporters Sans Frontiers demonstration in front of the BOCOG headquarters in Beijing. Honestly, it’s like they were trying to make RSF’s protest more successful. August, 2007.

Did the “Genocide Olympics” campaign influence China? In retrospect it’s easy to see that the Olympics didn’t do much to sway China in the long term. But at the time, the NGO Save Darfur’s brilliant “Genocide Olympics” campaign looked to put real pressure on China. One of my favorite pieces of analysis. May, 2007.

Van Nguyen died for your sins: Executions as public communication: An analysis of the use of the death penalty as a communication tool by the Singapore government and others, inspired by the execution of Australian drug smuggler Van Nguyen despite pleas from Australia. December, 2005.


What to make of Edwin Maher? Following an LA Times profile of CCTV 9′s resident Western anchorman, Edwin Maher, a rash of heated comment erupts across the expat blogosphere and Chinese media. I look at the reaction and the “race traitor” phenomenon that seems to dog western performers in China. December, 2007.

Sanitized for my protection: Imagethief’s self-censorship policy explained: How and why do I filter myself as a blogger in China? Written when I was still relatively fresh to China and working in PR consultancy, but still relevant in some ways. June, 2005. (June 4th, no less.)

Rectify my thought

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s