The Little Red Podcast began almost by accident in 2016. Dr Graeme Smith had been toying with the idea of a China politics podcast. So, when research on China’s falling gas emissions failed to get picked up in the media, Smith was keen to get the researchers on air during their visit to Melbourne. “The sound is terrible,” Smith says of the first recording. “You can hear me bumping the table with my foot throughout.” At the same time, he was put in touch with former BBC and NPR China correspondent Louisa Lim, who became the “heart and soul” of the podcast.
To the surprise of its hosts, their podcast won an Australian Podcast Award in the news and current affairs category in May. For Smith, even to be nominated was amazing for an “underfunded and nerdy” China podcast with its promise to introduce listeners to ‘China beyond the Beijing beltway.’ The win was so unexpected, Smith and Lim hadn’t even written acceptance speeches.
Smith joined the Department of Pacific Affairs (DPA) as a full-time research fellow in January, bringing the podcast with him. He has worked with DPA before, describing his return as “moving back home” and is hopeful that a Pacific-focused podcast might also spring up within the department. Podcasting gives scholars the opportunity to “dig into things that are too out in the weeds” to get a run in the mainstream media. In that way, China and the Pacific stand to benefit from the spotlight a podcast can shine. “We need to understand China, and 30-second news grabs won’t get us there,” Smith notes. “There are serious issues in the Australia-China relationship, but sometimes they’re lost in the noise.” It’s impressive, then, that the Little Red Podcast’s listenership is international – with people tuning in from the UK to Singapore. According to Smith, podcast feedback suggests Australians are boundlessly curious about China.
Chinese “sockpuppets,” however, are not fans of the show.