Tag Archives: blogroll

Japanese constitutional revision, and welcoming Tobias Harris and Observing Japan back to blogville

Harris headshotAfter a reasonably long hiatus that led me to remove Observing Japan from the Transpacifica blogroll (which I have capped at 25 in an effort to list only the most valuable sources), author and friend Tobias Harris is back, and with a vengeance.

Reasons to welcome him back:

(1) While he apparently did not win on Jeopardy on Monday, this guy was on Jeopardy!

(2) More pertinently, read his latest post: Is constitution revision actually possible? He writes:

[W]e’re probably seeing the emergence of what will likely be a persistent pattern should Abe remain in power. Abe and his lieutenants will talk about the need to revise the constitution, Komeito will express its unease about revision, what’s left of the left wing will sound the alarm, public opinion polls will reveal skepticism about revision, LDP grandees will suggest backing down…and rinse and repeat.

The underlying issue is the much-discussed revision of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which reads:

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

As is obvious to all in the region, land, sea, and air forces are very well maintained in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, so the letter of this law is in some sense moot. But Article 9 still has force and, because of judicial interpretations, limits the status and activities of the SDF. Just as importantly, Article 9 frustrates efforts by the Japanese right to return their country to “normal country” status among states.

The post is actually about an intermediate step that would likely be necessary to get to Article 9 revision: a change to Article 96 of the constitution, which sets a two-thirds vote in the Diet followed by a referendum as the threshold for constitutional revision. The right apparently doesn’t have two-thirds for Article 9 revision, so some are seeking support to change Article 96 to allow a simple majority to trigger a referendum.

So as you can see, if Toby is right, the constitutional revision issue is an opportunity for Prime Minister Abe to play to the conservative base of the Liberal Democratic Party without the likelihood of success. It’s something Abe or other LDP leaders could do periodically to placate the far right, and in that sense is perhaps a welcome alternative (from the perspective of the left, or of China and Korea) to former Prime Minister Koizumi’s annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine. And as he writes of the crumbled opposition, “Defending the constitution may be one of the few areas in which the Japanese left is still be able to mobilize citizens.”

So follow Observing Japan for regional issues, Abenomics, and whatever else comes up in Japanese politics. (And anyone is welcome to correct me, if I’ve bungled details on constitutional revision here.)

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.

On Removing Good Feeds From RSS

Warning: not about anything particularly Transpacific.

For some weeks, I found blogging overwhelming. For someone who gets significant income writing a blog affiliated with a major tech news site and committed to developing this site, this is a disconcerting phenomenon.

So I decided to take drastic measures. Google Reader had grown unmanageable. At somewhere around 185 feeds and more than 1,000 entries on an average day, I decided it was time to start deleting things. After a painstaking process of removing everything I could bare to, I’m down to about 150. That’s still a lot of traffic, but by removing high-traffic feeds that tended to include doubled content from other feeds, I have cut my RSS reading stress by a huge margin.

A few gripes:

  • Each story in the The International Herald Tribune‘s Asia-Pacific section tended to appear four or five times for the last few weeks. I figure between some strategic keyword-based feeds and the fact that I haven’t yet nuked the New York Times top stories feed I won’t miss much. But IHT and other large organizations should probably get their feeds working well enough not to spam me. I may forgive smaller publishers. Then again, I may not…
  • Today I unsubscribed from an extremely low-traffic mailing list belonging to FreeCulture, and interesting student group I’d started watching more than a year ago. Why unsubscribe when there’s little traffic? Every month, rather than any sort of update from the organization, which seems pretty dormant, I received an e-mail reminding me that I was subscribed. After more than ten of those, I got sick of hearing about it and gave up. Yearly reminders, fine. Monthly? This is not necessary.

A few thoughts:

  • I moved all of my U.S. politics reading off of RSS and started visiting a few blogs regularly. I kept a few feeds from my home state of Colorado, but in this hyperactive political season, I think I will do OK with occasional visits to key sites and those run by people I actually know.

Finally, I’ve cut in half the Transpacifica blogroll. Before I had up here a list of things that at times sought to be comprehensive. I’ve realized that’s impossible and I’m not the guy to do it. Not that we might not spend time profiling other sites in the future and enlarge the list, but sites like China Law Blog are doing a good job already highlighting newcomers and lesser-known sites. What you see on the right now is a culled list, though possibly incomplete, of what I see as key sites, admittedly China-heavy, that engage transpacific issues.

We’ll see how much time passes before I give in and start adding feeds again. Until the feed medium advances in some radical ways, this will be an endless battle.