A Guide To China’s Blog Trolls

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

April 1st, 2016

As many of my readers and those who know me from my business credentials, I have been high profile in China for the best part of two decades. That’s fine, I came to live and work in China when it wasn’t a popular thing to do, and have subsequently built a business from next to nothing. Along with that has gone an extraordinary amount of content – I began China Briefing as a complimentary business magazine, then online blog back in 1999, and have written many many books about business in China.

The problem with that is the jealousy this can create. Not everyone is happy to see success, and come the mid 2000’s, competition amongst expatriate consultants in China started to become rather vicious. That attitude, coupled with lax internet laws and an ability to hide behind proxy servers and fake names, resulted in a number of unsavory characters emerging. Some were paid to write unpleasant articles and content by various competitors, others just wanted to make a fast name for themselves by attacking well known personalities in China. Most used false names. None of them personally knew me, and none of them contacted me to verify details of their unpleasant content (presumably because when you tell lies and promote half-truths and innuendo, you can’t).

These people also specifically “search engine optimized” their articles – an internet technique that keeps the offending pieces high in search engine results. I even received, anonymous, personal emails when a certain goal had been achieved – at one point ten of the top ten Google searches for my name were defamatory. “Ha ha ha!” went the email, gloating in tone and unpleasant in the extreme. At one point, someone even put online and onto the news wires a story I had committed suicide in Delhi. My sister read that before I even knew about it, and I had reporters phoning up my offices to get the story.

However, a little bit of digging about uncovers even the worst offenders. So, China based internet trolls, you’ve had your say, now I’m going to have mine.


Gilman Grundy – aka FOARP

grundyGilman Grundy was a British expatriate student at Nanjing University and would have come across my China Briefing and other online posts. Upon graduation, he applied for a position with my firm, only to be rejected. Having already established his “FOARP” (Fear of a Red Planet”) blog, which I felt inappropriate for someone wanting to commence a career in China, he teamed up with online competition and proceeded to make life very difficult. He was very careful not to use his own name and went to extraordinary steps to cover it – apparently believing it is OK to hide your own identity while posting deliberately misleading and untrue articles under his pseudonym. Claiming to have “uncovered truths” about me he wrote on regardless – but having never checked facts. Gilman Grundy also lied and swore online about me in very unflattering terms, let alone get his facts very wrong. In one, rather bizarre post, he wrote I’m not a lawyer and accused me of lying for suggesting I was. Actually, I attended law school but dropped out of my finals following the death of my Mother. I had intended to go back and complete them, but was offered roles in Hong Kong with a couple of law firms there instead, mainly doing due diligence and administration, not legal work. I then formed Dezan Shira, which is an accounting, not law firm. What I am however, is the Legally Responsible Person for my firm in China, which in the pre-opening up days meant I took an exam set by the Chinese State. At that time all Lawyers worked for the Government and all were known as “Legally Responsible Persons”. It’s a position I still hold today, the Chinese Government having renewed this status for me annually for the past 25 years. Gilman Grundy’s article suggested I told lies. I didn’t – and it is his insinuations and assumptions that are incorrect. It’s the Chinese Government who issue such licenses, and if Gilman or anyone else wants to complain then they should do so to them directly. I didn’t make up the terminology, after all. I have asked Grundy to take the post down and pointed out his errors. He refused. When I had my lawyers issue a ‘cease and desist’ letter, he replied with this post calling me a “two bit thug” and suggested I was “stalking” him. Its hard to win against such people, they continue to react and blow things up, the louder they shout the more right their claims must be. He additionally allowed slanderous comments and other very rude words about me to appear in his moderated comments section, apparently taking delight in my discomfort.

It took me awhile and some professional investigative work to track him down and reveal his real identity, after which he gave up his China ambitions and moved to Wroclaw, in Poland. These days, he is based in the UK and apparently works for Kenwood. I wonder if their HR department is aware of his online capabilities and the existence of his online alter-ego?  Certainly, as he still maintains his blog – which remains the work of an angry young man and is not especially compatible with any corporate eyes on China in particular, one must be wary of people like Grundy taking up positions of their own legal responsibility. His past behavior suggests he is not capable of conducting research, does not conduct any verification, has a tendency to believe he alone is right, and will bend the truth and lie to promote his own agenda. I leave others to make up their minds if this is someone who should be working in the legal department of a large British multinational. Google “FOARP” and you’ll see what other mischief he’s been up to – for someone working at an MNC he sure seems to be spending a lot of time making abusive online comments all over the blogosphere.


Ryan McLaughlin

mclaughlinRyan produced the “Lost Laowai” blog about expatriate life in China, which began in a good way. However he also provided back end website work for a competitor and it wasn’t long before his articles began to get rather more personal when it came to me, although once again, I never met him.
One disparaging article he wrote produced a number of offensive comments, which he allowed online. One of those asked readers to track down my eleven year old daughter (at that time studying at school in Beijing). I don’t mind a bit of banter about me online, but this was just too much, and potentially dangerous. At that point I sent Ryan a Cease and Desist letter, asking him to take down the content. He did, but wrote another article about how I was bullying him with legal threats.

Way to go, Ryan. I was trying to protect my daughter. But anything to kick me in the teeth and make me look like a bully, right?

McLaughlin is now back to North America – where he is now married with a young child. Such people like to dish it out to others, while at the same time would not be tolerant of such behavior being sent their way. Bloggers make up their own rules about what is and isn’t acceptable, and seem to think the unacceptable behavior part doesn’t apply to them.


Robert Foyle Hunwick aka RFH

robert-foyle-hunwickRFH wrote an extremely vindictive article about me when I left China, in response to a piece I had written on China Briefing as to why I was moving on. Again, I’ve never met him, and he didn’t contact me for any verifications.  “So Long, and Thanks For All The Bullshit” – which stole a copyright image of me to illustrate the piece, was without doubt a nasty hatchet job. It also contained numerous inaccuracies, gossip, and nasty innuendo. In fact its so over the top it becomes obvious what it is, but that hasn’t stopped it being high in search rankings. As a Brit trying to make a name for himself in journalism in Asia, trust me Robert this is not the way to go. It might help in future if you leave your prejudices at the front door, do research on your subject, and don’t make up stories. If anyone wants to research the suitability of Hunwick in terms of his journalistic credentials, then look no further than his piece about me Or this interview here, where he talks about the Chinese “eye-fucking” the Mongolians.

Robert Foyle Hunwicks journalistic capabilities run to hachet jobs on people he’s never met, has completed no research on, relies on innuendo and heresay, a complete absence of any investigative capabilities artfully coupled with very bad language and a superior attitude. That may win him high fives in a bar amongst his expat drinking buddies, but it is not good writing. Commissioning Editors beware.


Anthony Tao

anthony-taoA Chinese-American who landed in Beijing and whose blog seems to delight in writing scurrilous content about other expats. Setting out his stall that you ‘don’t count in China until I’ve roasted you’ Tao hasn’t so much as written about me but encouraged others to do so – and not in any sense of the term in a fair and balanced way. Being referred to as a Paedophile for example on his blogs comments. That’s a pretty sick insult. Being deliberately nasty to other people online is not a great career move, and neither is peppering your headlines with excessive swear words. If you enjoy articles sprinkled with a liberal helping of “fuck” and “cunt” in them then Anthony Tao is your man. Quite why he represents the esteemed “Bookworm” brand in Beijing – perhaps they are unaware of his true literary level – is beyond me and doesn’t do them any favors. If Anthony Tao is working for you – be careful. He seems to associate with a lot of bad mouthed hooligans.

These are the worst and most consistent Trolls as applicable to me personally. They continue to be active. But guys – all is not lost - if you stop telling lies about me, I’ll stop telling the truth about you. Until then, these profiles stay on my website under the justification of reciprocal acknowledgement of your ‘so-called talents’. Which amount to spreading lies, rumour, and innuendo, not having the guts to conduct any research, and hiding behind assumed identities. I’ve never actually met any of you. You are cowards, and this article stands as testimony as to your real character. I hope you enjoy being outed as much as you enjoyed trolling me.