Wang Xiaofeng

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ANAIS MARTANE FOR TIME

Chinese blogger Wang XiaoFeng in Beijing.

"Chinese people don't do irony like Israelis and the English," says Wang Xiaofeng. "They don't have that making-fun-of-yourself gene." In China the blogosphere is dominated by the dronings of millions of earnest diarists, and there are still many things that can't be said in the mainstream media. Wang, however, enjoys making fun of art, culture, politics—everything that Chinese people are supposed to hold dear. Serious critiques of social problems or political leaders can still be dangerous in China, but serious isn't Wang's style. He might be the most respected blogger in China, precisely because he respects almost nothing.

Wang's site gets about 12,000 visitors a day. It's plastered with pictures of the Simpsons—Wang is a fan of the show, and he likes to think he looks like Bart—but there's also a bit of Borat in him too. He has posted fabricated interviews and deliberately misleading surveys. Some people call him a cynic or a liberal; some people call him names that are shocking even by online standards of incivility.

But labels don't really fit Wang. He doesn't like isms and movements and refuses to join groups or parties. He doesn't have some big, catchall solution. "There's nothing that can be done about a lot of things in China," he says. "Most of what people do on the Internet is complain. At least we have a place to blow off some steam."

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—Reported by Jeremy Caplan and Kathleen Kingsbury/New York, Susan Jakes/Beijing, Jeffrey Ressner/Los Angeles, Grant Rosenberg/Paris and Bryan Walsh/Seoul