In a sudden move clearly intended to stave off criticism at the G20 meeting in Toronto, China loosened the yuan's 23-month-old peg to the American dollar earlier this month, allowing its currency to appreciate against the greenback. This week's Sinica Podcast looks at the domestic drivers - both in China and in the U.S. - of the fracas over China's currency move. We also look at the Southern Media Group's surprising, but unsuccessful, bid to purchase Newsweek from the Washington Post, which has been looking for a buyer for the money-losing publication for several months.

Joining Kaiser to discuss these topics are New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos, who has written recently on the Chinese Newsweek bid, and Gady Epstein, the Beijing bureau chief for Forbes magazine and close follower of Chinese monetary policy. So join us for a lively and enlightening podcast that talks about Chinese money and what it can and can't yet buy.

As always, if you enjoy the Sinica podcast and would like to subscribe to the show through RSS, just open up iTunes, click on the "Advanced" menu and select the option "Subscribe to Podcast". When prompted, copy the URL into the box. And alternately, if you'd like to download this mp3 directly from our site you can also grab it as a standalone mp3 file. Enjoy!

 said on
July 4, 2010
My comment here is not really related to the podcast, and I hope you take what I have to say in earnestness

I first discovered popup chinese shortly before the end of last year. At that point I found it a really good site and was very optimistic about how it would develop. Though not as stacked as other popular chinese learning sites I am a meber of (I wont mention names), being based in Bejing I found the material more suited to the language I hear every day, the podcasts are much more natural and real life than those on any other sites.

However ive slowly and surely become more dissallusioned with the website. I am an advanced level learner and at the moment find that the amount of material suited to my level is becoming less and less. Aside from listening based podcasts some of the other tools (HSK prep test etc) are useful but not necessary (One can buy a book to do reading tests).

My main feeling is that the site has lost its focus. A web based chinese learning site should focus on listening podcasts, anything else should be considered supplementary. I used to really enjoy (as im sure many other advanced level learners did) the Advanced lvel and Short story podcasts, however there hasnt been a new Short Story posted since December 17th 2009. In contrast 4 of these new Sinica podcasts (although interesting)which practically have no actual language related value what so ever have been posted in the last 3 weeks.

I dont understand why? some of the Sinica lessons are 30minutes plus discussions in English? surely its just as easy to spend time in the recording studio having a chinese dialogue read out and translation added??? they are interesting but why not link them to the site instead of having them form the majority of the site output in the last month!!

The question is (comparing short story lessons and sinica podcasts) which one has more language value and which one do you think language learners want to find on a chinese podcast based LANGUAGE learning site?

Though you have added 3 advanced level lessons since April 6th which is still not anywhere near enough, there was a gap from 6th December 2009 to April 6th with no new Advanced lesson on the site.

I like the fact that your are trying to be innovative in the supplementary stuff you have on the site but the simple fact is you dont have enough backlogue of old lessons on the site to be spending so much time on this stuff, combined this with the fact that your new lessons are to infrequently posted it means that I for one will never be a paying member (unless things change)

When I first started using the site I hoped that with development lessons would become more frequent but strangely this has been the opposite and I now only seldomly check the site to see if any useful stuff has been added (which I usually find is not the case). I used to recommend the site to new language learners and though I still do if people ask me which site should they pay for I simply reccomend others (though I do point out that for earlier level learners this site is still quite useful)

I hope that you take my criticisms well and consider them carefully, advanced learners probably do not have as many queries and questions as those at lower levels as they have already fine tuned their study techniques and developed there own methods to learn thus you probably wont hear their feedback on site development so much, however as I felt the site had so much potential when I first used it I felt compelled to give you some opinions in the hope that you might reconsider the change in direction and change in focus that the site has (in most likelihood unconsciously) taken

 said on
July 5, 2010

Thanks for taking the time to write such a lengthy comment. I want to reply in detail since there are some important points here, but first a word in defense of Sinica.

By creating a space for adult discussion of current affairs in China and being willing to speak openly and opinionatedly about them, Kaiser, Jeremy, Bill, Gady and everyone else involved are doing us a big favor by helping to dis-infantilize media coverage of China at some personal risk. There is a patronizing subtext to a lot of media reporting on China. I don't agree with Kaiser on all of his positions (I'm much more pessimistic about the extent of corruption outside Beijing) and think Gady is far too hard on Krugman (look at U6, Gady!), but that isn't the point. Sinica is a breath of fresh air and we are proud to support it.

Otherwise, you're right that there have been less advanced materials since January. Part of the reason is that we've been expanding our archive of more elementary and beginner materials, and part is that we tend to throw out stuff we don't think is good enough, and that hit our podcasts at the high end from January to March. As mentioned in last Monday's podcast, we do have more advanced podcasts coming up that will feature more substantive discussions with a broader range of guests. And the next installment of The Monkey King will also be released shortly. If you have any suggestions for other topics or stories you'd like covered, please send them to us at We take requests.

Ideally, I'd like us to release materials at all difficulty levels every week. In the meantime, we are growing and the amount of work we are doing is expanding. That said, we are still a small and self-funded organization competing against organizations with significant amounts of venture investment and government funding. Despite this, I don't think we are actually disadvantaged in comparison. The other sites of which I'm aware have some good resources for learning Chinese, but they don't teach Chinese the way it is actually spoken.I can't think of a single other podcast that actually uses the standard dialect or even proper erhua-ization. One standard line you'll hear is that erhua-ization is the "Beijing dialect". This is appallingly wrong. Other sites are also far too expensive. For roughly the cost of a premium membership at a company like ChinesePod, someone can get three months of one-on-one tutoring at Popup Chinese. And our content is better!

The approach most other companies take is to charge high prices, spend significantly on advertising and branding and attempt to position their products as exclusive learning methods in order to justify an exhorbitant price tag. Our general bias is to produce a variety of free and high quality lessons and tools, and lower prices as we grow in order to make what we're doing affordable for people who really want to learn. We can afford to do this because we are smaller and are less commercial in the sense that money isn't our primary motivation for what we are doing: our vision of where we're going is driven mostly by our own experiences learning Chinese as well as the feedback we get from everyone here. This is the same reason we're proud to support Sinica -- we think it is important that this sort of discussion exist.

All that being said, if you want to help us improve Popup Chinese, the best thing is to continue to be vocal about your suggestions for improvements, as above. We already have hundreds upon hundreds of podcasts and hundreds more HSK tests, etc. so there are already massive resources here for anyone seriously interested in learning Chinese. And we're always developing more. We will make a greater effort to have more regular advanced content if you've noticed a lack of it. The next version of our site is set for a September launch and development is already underway, which makes this a good time to make other suggestions as well.

Thanks again,


 said on
July 5, 2010
Hi David

I am glad to see that you have noted and relpied to my comments, however i still feel you have misunderstood me. I am in no way criticising any of the content of the site. If you read my comments I fully praise your methods and lesson styles, in fact I believe that in pop up chinese podcasts are the best on the market in terms of effective teaching style and format. Asides from the listening podcasts I also believe the extra tools and additional materials are useful and well designed. However these should always be cosidered superfluos to the listening podcasts

In addition I posted my comments on the Sinica page merely because it was the latest lesson and not because I had any issue with these podcasts.

For those of us who have been in China for a while or who keep a keen and close eye on the nitty gritty of what is actually going on in this country the Sinica podcasts are extremely insightful, well informed and in many ways groundbreaking. I myself am a big fan. However if the inclusion of these lessons (which most likely appeal to those of us who are at the advanced level) come at the sacrfifce of Advanced level listening material then there is a problem. It should take the same studio time for a Chinese reader to read out a dialogue as it does to record a Sinica podcast

There is no reason why one short story a week can not be added to the site, if that means losing one Sinica lesson every now and again so it should be. In quoting "Sinica is a breath of fresh air and we are proud to support it" you are failing to consider the fact that the end user is the most important consideration to take. If you are not careful you run the risk of becoming similar to a popular musician who diverges off into experimetal areas he gains more personal satisfaction from, thus losing the support and loyalty of his original fans.

Once again there is no need for yourselves to compare with other sites, but if you so chose to do so then you need to consider content and backlogue of lessons. As an Advanced learner I ate up all your material that was relevant for me within 2 months, after that point I am left hungry and picking at scraps that are thrown to me every few weeks. I know solely check in to the site to listen in on the Sinica podcasts.

Compare this with Chinese pod, if I were to be a new member it would take me close to a year to cash up with all there material regardless of which level I were at simply because they have the backlogue.

This is why Im suggesting more short stories, they require less time than lessons to complete (particularly in terms of preparation), yet a langague learner can spend days going over them. Just adding text with back up notes and explanation notes to accompany xiangsheng skits would probably go down very well with higher level learners

I hope you consider my comments and that more emphasis is placed or material for higher level learners
 said on
July 5, 2010
I pondered for a while whether to post this comment, seeing as it doesn't tell you anything you don't already know.

Firstly, I love Sinica; the discussions are fascinating and pretty well-balanced. Thanks Kaiser and the rest of the guests!

I've got to say though that I'm feeling the lack of Intermediate lessons. Maybe June has just been a busy month for you guys?

Basically, I just wanted to say that I love the site but if there's any way you can put more Intermediate lessons up....The site's other features are great but I subscribed mostly for the podcasts
 said on
July 5, 2010
"If you are not careful you run the risk of becoming similar to a popular musician who diverges off into experimental areas he gains more personal satisfaction from, thus losing the support and loyalty of his original fans."

^Probably the hardest thing about creating a product in this society - we consumers demand originality and constant evolution, yet still want things to stay the same...

But yes, I agree with what whatsthis and Tristan have said so far. I love the HSK tests and the Sinica podcasts, they're absolutely fantastic (and great additions towards the site), but we'd love to see more upper level podcasts (I'm leaning towards more advanced lessons, but intermediate is good too!). I think the issue is just lack of recent lessons, rather than issues with the content. Also, Sinica is great (they've definitely been an eye opener for me), but don't let it get in the way of other lessons being published, two lessons in a day never hurt anyone ;) Ha.

Anyway, I love what Popup Chinese does! The content is great and the team behind it is fantastic :) I can't wait to see what you guys have lined up next :D
 said on
July 5, 2010
The dearth of intermediate and advanced podcasts lately is entirely my fault -- I've been out of town or otherwise unavailable for recording, which has slowed things down considerably. Dave and Echo and company have been doing the best they can to make up for my truancy. I'll be back in Beijing in a couple of weeks and look forward to recording a massive bolus of intermediate and advanced content then -- in the meantime, please hold tight and accept my sincere apologies.
 said on
July 5, 2010
All of this sort of feedback is very welcome and much appreciated. Sinica will not be going anywhere, but we'll do our best to crank up the production of more difficult lesson materials.

Thanks as always,

 said on
July 7, 2010
I will chime in as a beginner-intermediate student. That hyphen indicates that I am indeed a beginner, but long to consider myself intermediate, but still can't objectively justify it based on HSK or TOP scores.

Anyway, wanted to share a few thoughts on the site for general consideration

- The quality of the content and the price to value ratio are both outstanding in my opinion. After spending several semesters in classroom at a local university, I find studying here far more efficient, cost effective, convenient and engaging. Therefore, not changing a darn thing would be just fine.

- Love the Sinica podcasts. I use them as little reward for myself after slugging thru the latest HSK disaster. My only regret is that they have bumped Film Friday from the rotation, which was a great format for language learning.

- The audio readings that accompany the reading comprehension HSK exercises were a great addition. Listening comprehension is key.

- I am not a fan personally of KTV Wednesdays, but wouldn't mind having some of the music that PPCh uses posted on the site. The lead in for the Sinica podcasts would be nice to hear in its entirety. So too some of the traditional Chinese fare that introduces some lessons.

I guess that's it - thanks again for a great product.
 said on
July 10, 2010
Love this podcast! I really enjoy it.

I have a request: can you provide a link to The Onion article that you mention?

 said on
July 11, 2010

Here's the link to the Onion page mentioned in the podcast. I remember they changed the header for that week too, although it seem to be the normal one. Lots of great pieces, my personal favourite it probably "American Consumer Masses Agree: It Fish Time!"



 said on
January 5, 2012
This hasn't seen comments in a while so not sure if anyone will read this.

I understand these complaints, but I think that if we want to compare it to music, this site isn't like a rockstar who goes off into things that no one understands. It's more like a musician who has big dreams but rather than sign away to a major record label, decides to do it themself, their way with less compromise. If they can succeed, the end result will be superior, and much more honest. I think this website is already way past the first steps. They have already made some amazing stuff and are well on their way to their full potential.

I just want to let you guys know that your devotion to actually teaching shows through and I think all your dreams for the site will be realized. I am getting ready to make the jump to intermediate lessons and look forward to all 6 pages of them. It seems like you may be starting to pick up the pace with advanced dialogues these 2 months and that's great, it would be nice to have 6 pages of those too! Make it happen ;-D

As long as you stay substance-over-hype (and as long as I have enough money to eat), you have my full support!
Mark Lesson Studied