How do we select our pieces – interview

This piece introducing the selection system for publishing pieces on our website was written by Francis Beechinor, from the London School of Asian and African Studies.


Over the past few days, I’ve been speaking to the founder of the Marco Polo Project, Julien Leyre, to find out: where do the Marco Polo articles come from?

In a short mock-interview, this post hopes to give you guys a more profound view on the project and the Chinese internet, from a guy who knows his stuff!

Have a read, comment and tell us about your experiences navigating around the Chinese cyber-world.

So, let’s get started. When you’re looking for material, what are you looking for?

There’re a few factors I consider when searching for new pieces but it mainly revolves around how well the articles will translate, and how long will it keep currency.

The pieces can’t be too long and need structure. I prefer opinion pieces and they need to be for a broad audience too.

If it’s a news article about a group of officials entangled in some complex story, it would be a pain to translate and won’t be any good in the long term!

What are the main sources you use for the website?

It changes, but currently I am using Consensus Network. This website gathers posts and articles from more academic netizens, for instance scholars or high-level journalists.

This gives me access to the blogs of specific, influential people who write about topics such as sociology, culture and current affairs.

And what about the other websites mentioned on the website, such as 1510 or Douban?

Well 1510 was great but got shut down. Too sensitive you see. I’m still in contact with the authors though.

Douban was good as I found plenty of novelists, including some interesting people who write about relationships.

I like China 30s too, they post interviews with young Chinese innovators and entrepreneurs (people in their 30s funnily enough). Social Beta has some good pieces on social media too.

So you’re still in contact with 1510 writers?

Yep, it really was a shame that 1510 got shut down but this doesn’t stop the authors publishing their material elsewhere. Some of the writers I was already in contact with and others I found after a bit of research.

Niubo was similar, I found a few authors through the website but then it got shut down.

Oh right. So individual writers are another source then?

Yes, now I regularly look at the material posted by 10-15 authors who I really like, such as Zhang Tianpan or Muran.

I’m now at the stage where I know what I want and who writes what I want. This was hard at first but it’s easier now.

Great, that’s really interesting. Is there anything else you want to mention?

The next step for us will be to really involve our Chinese writers. At the moment, we ask for permission to republish, but it stops there – I’d like to really start a conversation with the readers. Partly, that’s why we were keen to put together a festival. All ideas are welcome.

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