Tag Archives: Site News

A new blogroll: With focus—without the fat

It’s been years since I completely reviewed the blogroll on Transpacifica. Today, I decided to cut it in size and cut out the fat. Before, I had almost fifty links, all of which were at one time important. But many of these sites don’t make the cut anymore, and I thought it would be more useful to pick the 25 best sites I would recommend checking for up-to-date information and smart commentary on East Asia.

Allow me to bid farewell to some of the former blogrollers.

First, there are the sites that just aren’t sites anymore: The China Beat stopped publishing; Julian Wong’s Green Leap Forward is now apparently offline (and it was long dormant); Rebecca MacKinnon’s excellent RConversation is now dormant while she writes at her book’s blog, but rarely about China. Evgeny Morozov’s Net Effect stopped updating some time ago.

Then, there are the sites that have suffered from the writers’ new projects, or that aren’t as frequently updated as others. Jeremiah Jenne’s Granite Studio gave way to his new collaborative project with others, Rectified.name. Jun Okumura’s fiery Son of a Gadfly on the Wall may be getting some love these days, but it’s long been relatively quiet.

Next, I removed links to non-transpacific-focused sites and sites that I run or work for. The exception is 八八吧 :: 88 Bar, which would deserve a place on this list even if I weren’t a new contributor there.

There are others, that need not be listed, that don’t have the same place in my reading diet they used to.

We’re left with a solid list of 25 sites, though I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

For now, a few of the new additions:

  • ChinaFile, currently in beta, is a project of Asia Society, and it has both original content and solid aggregation, including a non-paywalled tunnel to New York Review of Books articles up to fairly recently.
  • China Real Time and Japan Real Time, from the Wall Street Journal, are category-leading news feeds that follow the news day by day. The China blog especially is about as up-to-date a product as you can get from a mainstream source.
  • Sigma1 takes my friend Tobias Harris (Observing Japan)’s spot for detailed tracking through Japan’s ever-swerving political story. [Toby is welcome back if he starts writing again. -ed.]
  • And Tea Leaf Nation barges onto the scene with its voluminous China social media monitoring.

So what’s changed?

For one thing, this reader and the cast of writers have changed. When this list was last carefully checked, I was just back to the United States from Beijing, where the hurried China blogging community before the Olympics was full of different faces, many of whom have moved on to various other pursuits. And at the time, I was still writing Sinobyte for CNET, which led me to follow too many tech blogs. Now, I watch U.S.–China relations and technology and politics trends, and this means a greater attention to international relations, military affairs, economics, and elite politics. Finally, I read far less about Japan than when this all began in 2006.

Substantively, though, I think the blogosphere on East Asia has shifted from a public square of mostly male soapboxers to a series of more diverse groups collaborating either informally or through an institution. I think this is great, because (Bill Bishop’s Sinocism notwithstanding) it’s usually better to think, produce, and read in groups than all alone. This also opens bigger online platforms—like Tea Leaf Nation, ChinaFile, and even the WSJ Real Time blogs—to people who don’t have the sickness required to blog constantly.

This blog used to have a lot more readers during the period that I had the blogging bug. Perhaps some will come back through collaborative work here or on various platforms, but for now, click those links at the right.

More on China's environment tax: a response and a repost

A few notes of follow-up on my first experiment in translation: the People’s Daily Online interview looking at the prospects for an environmental tax being included in the next Chinese 5-year plan.

  1. My friend and former classmate Ella Chou offered much more context on this discussion than I could have given off the top of my head. At her Harvard Law blog, she noted that anticipation of the eventual arrival of an environmental taxation regime are nothing new. Moreover, she pointed out that existing taxes include some environment-related elements. Finally, she gives us two important issues to look out for:

    1. Measurement of the pollutants or environmental impact, which would be the basis for the tax, requires not only competent agents of action, be it local environmental bureau or other agencies, but also strong and vibrant citizen participation. As seen from the utilization of the current Environmental Impact Assessment Law, local environmental bureaus are extremely weak (as opposed to the local enterprises), with the exception of Beijing Environmental Bureau, and so far voluntary citizen groups have been the primary agents in provoking this law to protect their living environment. To make the environmental tax system work, China has to give environmental NGOs and private citizens more space to act as a check on the industries.

    2. Revenue-neutral. In the interview Graham translated, Su Ming said the taxation would receive support among local governments because of their revenue increase. Yet it is crucial that the taxation does not increase the already immense inequality. We can all name a dozen reasons why a proposed environmental tax would affect the poor much more than the rich. But in China, because of the type of jobs those heavy industries or coal fire plants offer, it is very likely that those factories and power plants would just shift the extra tax burden onto their uneducated, short-contracted (many even without a contract) workers. So this calls for more rigorous enforcement of Labor Law and Labor Contract Law in addition to a social welfare net to ensure that the cost does not shift to the poor. Many proposals of balancing the environmental tax revenue suggest using the revenue in environmental restoration or reallocating neighborhoods around the heavy-industry factories. Either way, this should be of main concern to the policy makers.

  2. Related post at Change.org: I published a related post at Change.org about the prospects for China to take action on marketizing environmental costs soon, while the U.S. process may continue to lag.
  3. Reposted at World Policy Journal’s blog: The translation also was the first of what I hope will be many contributions to the blog at the World Policy Journal and World Policy Institute website. Thanks to the WPJ staff for their interest and assistance in re-posting, and look out for more contributions over there in the future.

A Trans-American move for Transpacifica

Most readers who would find this news important already have heard, but for the under-informed and those who don’t care, I offer an update on moves in my life.

In May, I finished my master’s degree in Regional Studies–East Asia at Harvard. This month, after a long summer of travel, freelancing, research, and high-intensity relaxation, I will begin a Ph.D. in the Political Science Department at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Thus I have moved from Somerville to Seattle, where I welcome proximity to the Pacific itself, to mountains, and to excellent coffee and beer. I am also honored to join the UW’s community of scholars on East Asia and global affairs, both as a member of my new department and as an associate of the China Program at the Jackson School of International Studies.

That’s all for now, but look out soon for some news regarding my contributions to other blogs, and watch this fall for some academic work of mine to weasel its way into the public eye.

Finally, if you’re in Seattle, or if you’re coming through, drop me a line!

And now, a preview of my new digs: