ChinaTalk 2.0 – We have made some changes

As you might have noticed on the ChinaTalk website we have made some recent changes here at ChinaTalk.

Most importantly, we have changed our default language to English. Since 2013 we have been publishing most of our articles (over 250 by now) in the Dutch language. In recent years, we have been asked more and more often why we don’t publish in English. We have had to disappoint non-Dutch speaking clients, international students of our guest lectures, Twitter followers and people that have contacted us after viewing our English videos on YouTube. We have often advised them to get a very decent machine translation by pasting the URLs of an article in Google Translate, but it’s far from the optimal service.

We have also found that by limiting ourselves to the Dutch language we are of course also limiting our reach. Some of our English language videos on YouTube have been viewed thousands or even ten thousands of times, while our Dutch language videos normally get stuck in hundreds of views. Furthermore, we engage a lot with the international community of China watchers, students and writers in online communities and on Twitter and it feels like a serious limitation to not be able to share our thoughts with them.

And to make no bones about it, under the new circumstances that we’ve found ourselves in since the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting ourselves to the Dutch and Flemish market is no longer going to cut it. Not only is the Dutch-speaking community limited in size, compared to other markets we have also found that the interest in topics we discuss and services we offer is limited in The Netherlands. It was no surprise when the Dutch government came to the conclusion that there is a serious lack of knowledge about China in our country…

So, from the summer of 2021 we will write most of our content in English. There might still be content and news that is only relevant to The Netherlands, like our appearances in national news, podcasts and other media. We will therefor maintain a Dutch language section of the website where you will find these new posts as well as the whole archive of previous publications.

We realize that this change in primary language might disappoint some of our readers and some publications that have been syndicating some of our content with our permission. Nevertheless, we feel that the time has come to shift our horizons a bit.

Another change that we’ve made is putting some of our content behind ‘semi-paywalls’. For 8 years our business model has been based on providing educational services, presentations, guest lectures and study tours. Besides these paid services we have shared hundreds of articles and over a hundred videos on this website and our YouTube channel. That’s an enormous amount of freely available content.

Even though we passionately share all this content with those who are interested in nuanced, unbiased views on China’s (digital) development, we are also convinced this knowledge has a certain value. Unfortunately, previous experiments with requests for voluntary donation for our free (Dutch) e-books, which bundle all our writing and have been downloaded hundreds of times, have proven unsuccessful, not counting a handful of donations by acquaintances and friends. We have therefore decided to put all these e-books, as well as our full 5-hour e-learning course in E-Commerce in China behind a paywall. The bad news: you can’t freely download these anymore. The good news: you decide what you think the value is and what you are willing to pay.

We have also created a page with some suggestions on how to support us. People’s willingness to reciprocate will eventually determine how much free content we can continue to provide in the future. Many independent writers found themselves having to put all their content behind paywalls and in paid newsletters, but we hope we won’t have to take that step. But at the end of the day pageviews alone don’t pay the bills.

We have become a lot more selective with organisations that approach us for free services and free content. We have stopped providing student interviews if these are part of internships for commercial organisations. We have stopped writing articles and columns and provide other forms of content for most commercial media outlets and event organisers that don’t somehow return the favour and think that we can survive on exposure alone. As we often say, our content is hopefully a high quality final product, not some freebee form of lead-generation.

We hope you aren’t too disappointed by these changes and hope for your continued support.

Best wishes,

Ed Sander & Jessica Sun