10 Chinese-language podcasts you should listen to

Society & Culture

From interview shows to bite-sized news programs, these are the best Chinese-language podcasts currently being produced.

Illustration for The China Project by Chelsea Feng

I run a newsletter about learning Chinese, so I’m always on the lookout for ways to stay up to date on colloquial language, the slang and phrases used in daily life. One of the most helpful strategies I’ve found is to listen to Chinese-language podcasts — but I’m not talking about those designed specifically for language learners. Podcasts aimed at a Chinese audience are a great source of “real life” content: They bring authentic conversations in China to you on topics that are being talked about inside the country right now.

Immersing yourself in podcasts about China is a great way to learn about contemporary society as well. But there are so many to choose from. Where do you begin?

I have you covered. I’ve spent hours searching for the best Chinese-language podcasts, and put together this list of 10 favorites. The best part? These do not have to strictly be for the language learner. I think everyone will find something in this list to enjoy.

The criteria I used to put this together:

  • The language is authentic: All these podcasts are designed for a native Chinese audience.
  • Conversational: Some pods are interviews, others are conversations between one, two, or three presenters.
  • Relevant to contemporary life: All podcasts in this list reflect elements of life in China, including discussions about gender, work, life, family, and business.
  • Not state-owned: None of these podcasts are state-sponsored or produced. They reflect the views of real people living in China, or Chinese people observing from abroad.
  • Available on mainstream podcasting platforms: All pods are available on Apple and Spotify, as well as major Chinese podcasting platforms, such as Ximalaya.

This list isn’t definitive; it is a small selection out of the hundreds of great Chinese podcasts out there. If your favorite is missing, please let me know. (If you enjoy this list, check out my weekly newsletter about Chinese-language trends, and of course follow my weekly column for The China Project, Phrase of the Week.)

1. Story FM | 故事FM gùshì FM

How it describes itself: “Here, you can use your voice to tell your story.”

Hosted by Kòu Àizhé 寇爱哲, a self-described collector of stories, Story FM is about stories from all walks of life in China. Shows are normally around 40 minutes long. Kou gives a short introduction, and then it’s handed over to the guest to narrate their story.

Our take: With over 750 episodes in the archive, Story FM is a great resource for exposure to real language from everyday people in China about interesting, engaging, and difficult topics. It can be challenging as a language learner because some speakers have heavy accents, but the show is slickly produced, and you’ll usually be able to settle into the rhythms of the storytelling.

Also see:

Kou Aizhe, China’s collector of stories, is building a podcast empire

2. Cyber Pink | 疲惫娇娃 pí bèi jiāo wá

How it describes itself: “A pan-cultural podcast that takes conversations from the dinner table to the depths of the universe, using female voices to expand participation and imagination of the world.”

The format is conversations between the host and usually two to four guest speakers about a wide range of topics, from popular movies or TV shows to relationships, family, and lifestyle. The host is based in the U.S., so topics often have a U.S. focus. Although the blurb suggests it features “women’s voices,” there is normally a mix of men and women guests on the show.

Our take: Great content about current topics, in natural, conversational language. Some themes are familiar to a Western audience (such as movies or TV shows), but they are discussed from a Chinese perspective. Show notes are in Chinese and English, which is helpful if you want to read into the context before listening. Shows are quite long (normally more than an hour), so you might want to split into shorter chunks. You can follow the show on Twitter @CyberPinkFM.

3. Stochastic Volatility | 随机波动 suíjī bōdòng

How it describes itself: “A pan-cultural podcast initiated by three female media professionals, updated every Wednesday at noon.”

Presenters are Fù Shìyě 傅适野, Zhāng Zhīqí 张之琪, and Lěng Jiànguó 冷建国, who are based in China. The format is a conversation on a topic about life in China, usually focused on younger themes such as graduating from university, finding work, fitness and health, and so on. There’s normally a hook, such as a movie the hosts have watched, a book they’ve read, or something in the news. Shows are around an hour long, and there are nearly 200 episodes in the archive.

Our take: Good for listening in on conversations that are probably happening in China every day. It’s helpful that it’s the same three people in each show, so you can get used to how they speak. The downside to this is there is less variety of voices. Three speakers is a good number to help train your ear to keep up with conversations. Anything over three voices can be too challenging. Show notes are helpful but only in Chinese, so a bit more of a challenge.

4. Other Waves | 别的电波 biéde diànbō

How it describes itself: “In the face of boring reality, let’s talk about something else! We are a talk show based on urban youth culture and discussions about youth pop culture.”

The two main presenters are Zhí Lìyuán 直立猿 and Hán Duì 韩队, who are joined by two more members of the production team for each show. The show is produced by a media company, BIEDE别的, based in Beijing, whose stated aim is to provide engaging and interesting content for young people in China. There is a slightly more commercial feel to the content, such as shows being sponsored by Chinese brands.

Our take: Shows are around two hours long. Conversations are free-flowing, normally with four people engaged in lively discussions. Presenters have strong northern accents. Listening to this show takes me back to hard-to-hear conversations in rowdy bars in Beijing. The website is easy to navigate, but show notes are very brief.

5. Bigger Than Us | 声东击西 shēng dōng jī xī

How it describes itself: “The world is big, but people are limited by everyday life and social media. So let us, as reporters, help you open some unexpected windows, access different information, and stimulate different thinking. Here, we talk to all kinds of interesting and informative professionals who can bring inspiration, and there will be mysterious guests appearing from time to time.”

The hosts are Xú Tāo 徐涛 and Zhāng Jīng 张晶, who are seasoned Chinese media professionals. The format is informal interviews on a wide range of current affairs with one or two guest speakers. Recent shows range from discussions about sci-fi to interviewing a Chinese reporter who was in Ukraine covering the war.

Our take: The high-quality production combined with an informal and chatty style make this an easy listen. Conversations do get lively, so it can be a challenge to keep up. The variety of different guests for each show is great exposure to different speaking styles.

6. Out of Time | 不合时宜 bùhé shíyí

How it describes itself: “Out of Time is a podcast co-created by three (former) media people living in different time zones.”

The show’s title, 不合时宜, is an idiom meaning “inappropriate, out of place, or misplaced.” Here, it refers to the show hosts being in different time zones. Conversations tend to revolve around themes of gender and topics linked to life as a young woman in China. Hosts are Ruò Hán 若含, Mèng Cháng 孟常, and Wáng Qìng 王磬. Shows are normally presented by two of the three hosts, with a guest speaker, in a conversational interview style.

Our take: Shows offer a mix of young male (Meng) and female (Ruo and Wang) voices. Topics are engaging and give a good spectrum of what young people are talking about in China today. Conversations tend to be more controlled than some of the other podcasts in this list, so are easier to follow. Show notes are comprehensive, production is high quality.

7. Bumingbai Pod | 不明白播客 bù míngbái bōkè

How it describes itself: “The most interesting conversations in China right now are happening in private. This podcast hopes to share interesting conversations with Chinese listeners around the world, and to shine a little light and warmth in this dark and chaotic era. This podcast is a personal project of several professional journalists. The name ‘Don’t Understand’ is because there are so many unexplainable things worth exploring in this magical country.”

Probably the best known internationally of the podcasts in this list, the creator is New York Times journalist Li Yuan (袁莉 Yuán Lì). The show covers a wide range of topics, often focusing on things that are censored in China or more sensitive political topics. It’s an interview format with Yuan and one other guest, ranging from well-known experts to everyday people. The latter are often speaking under anonymity. There’s also a good range of topics discussed, with recent episodes featuring discussions on the invisible employment ceiling at 35, young people in China who cannot find work, and the connection between food, politics, geopolitics, and identity in Taiwan.

Our take: This is a great show for seasoned China-watchers, exploring topics that are relevant to China but often with an international or geopolitical angle. Conversations offer deep insights. The production is high quality. Interviews sometimes take place in public spaces, so sound quality can be a challenge, and if interviewees are speaking anonymously, their voices are distorted, which can be distracting. But overall, the content is fantastic and engaging.

8. News Sauerkraut Restaurant | 新闻酸菜馆 xīnwén suāncài guǎn

How it describes itself: “News Sauerkraut Restaurant is an internet radio program, independent new media.”

Hosted by two experienced Chinese journalists, Wáng Zhǎngguì 王掌柜 and Dīng Dīng 丁丁, this weekly show explores news topics being discussed in China each week. It’s mostly China-based news, but sometimes the hosts will discuss international stories that are trending in China. Recent episodes include discussions on the Titan submarine implosion, depression among young people in China’s cities, and Coco Lee’s suicide. Shows are around an hour long.

Our take: News Sauerkraut Restaurant is probably the podcast of choice for listening in to conversations about current affairs and news in China, with two hosts with very different speaking styles. Overall, an excellent listen.

9. Lively Morning Coffee | 声动早咖啡 shēng dòng zǎo kā fēi

How it describes itself: “A 15-minute morning ritual to effortlessly synchronize everyday life with the business world. This is an early-morning podcast released every weekday morning, bringing you a light interpretation of business technology closely related to daily life, and helping start a new day full of energy.”

Hosted by Meng Yi, supported by Zelin and Yifan, this show presents highly produced business news from around the world in bite-sized portions (15 minutes).

Our take: If you’re looking for quick takes delivered in standard Mandarin that are livelier and more engaging than a CCTV news broadcast, then this is for you. Each episode is 15 minutes, which means they can be consumed in one sitting. The news-like structure means the shows are easier to follow, but offer little exposure to “conversational” language.

10. One Call Away | 打个电话给你 dǎ gè diàn huà gěi nǐ

How it describes itself: “We are Wendy and Iphie, typical young women currently living in Hong Kong and Beijing. One is engaged in and addicted to movies, the other is passionate about anthropology and social innovation.”

The format of the show is a phone conversation between the two hosts, Iphie and Wendy (one in Beijing, one in Hong Kong). Conversations are free-flowing and engaging, covering what’s going on in the lives of the two hosts. Recent episodes have revolved around a wide range of topics, including empathy, experiences on overseas holidays, and sexual harassment. Discussions are often linked to news events.

Our take: This is excellent content if you’re looking for more informal conversational language. The phone call format makes it feel more personal. Both hosts have clear pronunciation, and their conversations flow freely without cutting across each other. They combine current affairs and news with personal experiences and stories.

That’s my current top 10 favorite native Chinese-language podcasts. I’m always discovering new shows, so if you want to keep up to date with the latest language trends in China, and listen to the latest Chinese-language podcasts, sign up for my free weekly newsletter.

Andrew Methven