Ecampaigning Forum: Fish Yu, Greenpeace China

For the next couple of days I’m at the ecampaigning forum in Oxford and am going to attempt to live blog the main sessions as far as possible. These notes are largely unedited, so they’re likely to be a bit sketchy. For context, feel free to post a comment and I’ll catch up with them when I can.

The sun over the Forbidden CityUsed to work for first generation internet company in China – China’s – as sales planning manager. Then went to Canada to do a marketing degree. Started to think differently about what’s happening in China and got interested in civil society. Became first staff member for public engagement in Greenpeace China.

1999 – 1.18 million Chinese internet users

Dec 2007 – 200 million Chinese internet users

Prefers ComScore figure from Feb ’08 – 98 million – people over 15 who use internet at home or office. More than 30% of Chinese internet users use internet cafes, not home connections. Big usage areas

  • IM sees biggest internet usage – 81.4%
  • Search engine – Baidu most popular – 72.4%
  • Posting (BBS, photos, video) – 65.7%
  • Email – 56.5%
  • Blogging – 23.5%

Shows map of China. Economy strongest in East. 60% of GDP. Beijing has highest internet usage, then Shanghai (not mentioning Hong Kong). Internet users primarily students (28.8%), and then white collar workers.

Unique Challenges

  • Legal status. NGO’s must be registered to Ministry of Civil Affairs. Must get a “supervising entity” to report to — must report to specific entity about what you’re doing.
  • Running a website. Registration can be complicated.
  • Great Firewall (Golden Shield). Blocks any negative news. Blocks BBC (in Chinese), Voice of America, Youtube. Youtube blocked by keyword — eg. hard to find info on tibet. Many political sites blocked, including Chinese language taiwanese government pages. Human rights sites (amnesty), religion (gospelcom, vatican), reference sites (wikipedia, google cached pages).

Why Did Greenpeace Start Online Communication?

  • Low cost. A large country with several environmental crisis
  • Right audience. Need a supporter base. No other convenient access to local community
  • Awareness, and beyond; people don’t trust media and want to know more


  • Audience; white collars (not middle class–that means older peope); major consumers, students
  • Recruit supporters starting with simple, concrete issues. Climate change is complicated so tend to use simple ideas (examples later)
  • To cultivate & maintain them for further difficult issues (supporters will learn more about complex issues)
  • Access: offline + online – still think offline is very important
  • Tactics: stay within the rules, but push the edges

Over 50% of audience has been to China.


1.4 billion users. 80 billion pairs of disposal chopsticks made in China every year. That’s 16 million trees.

Fish (Xin Yu) of Greenpeace ChinaProject – I’m Not Disposable – engage a group of “environment lovers” and provide a way for them to start taking actions. Make it trendy to bring your own chopsticks. Greenpeace produced branded chopsticks with sustainable wood. Co-operated with to sell, not to make money but for delivery. During Christmastime GP chopsticks became best seller in their amazon category.

Also went to restaurant guide websites which let people tag restaurants, got people to say whether restaurants use re-usable chopsticks. Covered 3,000 restaurants in Beijing alone around Christmas/New Year. Over 2000 people signed up on website. Gave people HTML to include campaign ident on their blog. Good take up.

Made matching card for offline use so people can carry it. Same size as credit card. Went to big corporate offices (MS, Motorola, etc.) and distributed them to employees and got peope to sign up. Went to campuses and gave same materials to student leaders, who organised various activities. Over 15,000 student supporters. Within 2 months over 300 restaurants came to GP and signed contract to say not using disposable chopsticks any more. Go coverage in WSJ, NPR, French TV, and others without inviting it.

Got people together to lobby restaurant owners. Groups of up to 50 people went to restaurants, met each other for the first time, and lobbied restaurants. Bring their own chopsticks (of course!) and were given GP lobbying materials.


How do Chinese disaporic populations, maybe already in environment moment, relate to work within China?
Going to set up website for Chinese people overseas. Trying to contact local Chinese communities in Canada and Australia to talk about what’s going on, but have only just started. Many of them concerned with their local circumstance.
How might you work with other Chinese NGOs? How difficult is that?
Trying hard to get NGOs together. Sometimes do capacity building workshops, but are from different areas and even environmental groups are working on different levels. Most grassroots NGOs facing serious fundraising challenges.
You said campaign is about personal commitments, and restaurant commitments. Which level has been most successful and how do you see it rolling forward?
This is a public engagement project, rather than one of our major campaigns (Climate Change, toxins, GM food). This is for engaging people. Helps people get closer to, say, forestry issues. Restaurants are not the main target as they’re not a huge deal, but rather aiming to recruit people. Then try to move them from chopsticks to other issues.
How do you get funding? Here it’s usually from government or supporters?
Fundraise specifically in Hong Kong. Direct Dialogue Communication – recruit donors from streets in HK. 70% of funding comes that way. Also get money from Greenpeace International and some international foundations operating in China, such as Ford. Fundraising in mainland China may cause problems so not really doing that.
What works well for moving people from public engagement to wider campaigning?
Don’t have specific answer–that’s the real question at the moment. Now doing a “change your lightbulb” project hoping to cultivate chopsticks supporters and give them a next step. Give them something interesting to keep them going. Later this year going to launch a campaign on forestry, asking people to think about paper usage, publications, etc. Might ask new supporters to do letter-writing to publishers/authors/etc.

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