About a year ago, I wrote about the limited “internet entrepôts of China,” those landing places where digital transmissions come ashore in fiber optic lines. I’ve long depended on the excellent maps from Telegeography to visualize the physical linkages that underlie the supposedly etherial network, and they’ve got a new map out. I just clipped a little (you should really look at the whole thing), but you can see that the cable network in East Asia and across the Pacific is increasingly dense. (This year’s map first, last year’s second.)
See also, from 2008, my take on the Trans-Pacific Express cable, which had just gained U.S. approval. A map from the Technology Review:
An extra-high resolution sensor built for the U.S. Naval Observatory is now part of a Chinese mission to put an observatory in Antarctica. The use of the U.S. technology, however, was uncertain.
According to a South China Morning Post article (subscription required), the U.S. government considered whether the sensor counted as a civilian-military “dual use” technology, which would make its export to China problematic.
Digital cameras in civilian use typically range up to 12 megapixels, but the CCD shipped to China by California-based Semiconductor Technology Associates (STA) has a capacity of 100 megapixels, suitable for producing extra-high-definition photos of the sky. However, when not gazing at distant galaxies, a sensitive telescope equipped with STA’s imager could be used to track, identify and lock onto enemy countries’ satellites orbiting the earth.
The device is so sensitive that the NOAC scientists thought the administration of US President Barack Obama might declare the imager to be dual-use technology, meaning it could have both civilian and military applications, and would therefore be refused an export licence to China.
One reason the US administration may have approved the STA 1600’s export to China is that the device captures only visible light and is blind to infrared radiation, [STA President Richard Bredthauer] said.
An infrared sensitive CCD can be used on spy satellites that see in the dark and can distinguish civilian installations from military ones. Bredthauer declined to comment on whether a CCD that was sensitive only to visible light could also be used for military purposes. [emphasis added]
The export to China of imaging technology used for surveillance and hardware used for internet filtering is controversial, as some argue that U.S. firms should be barred from profiting from surveillance in authoritarian countries.
They said this day would never come.
Perhaps the biggest fight I’ve ever picked in the blogosphere was when I wrote an opinion piece while a writing intern at Editor & Publisher in 2005 arguing that newspapers should get over blogging and put more energy into innovation. It ran under the provocative headline “Forget Blogs,” and declared, “Blogs are a horrible way to deliver journalism. Forget them.” You can imagine the kind of reception this got from bloggers.
The argument was a bit more subtle, and I think it has stood the test of two and a half years. I was trying to convince editors and publishers to put more resources into non-blog online content. And many newspapers have. Many people know about innovations made by The New York Times, but fewer keep track of the minor successes of hundreds of smaller newspapers using non-blog online media to do journalism. Bravo!
I was a blogger then, and obviously am now. I just thought big media companies should be able to put together more engaging media than I can in my spare time. This doesn’t entirely eliminate the irony that now, as a freelance writer and freelance student living in Beijing, I’m launching a blog that will be my most consistent work. In a real sense, a guy who argued that blogs aren’t all that has become a professional blogger.
So here it is. As part of the CNET Blog Network, I am now the author of Sinobyte, which will follow technology in China and Asia from my perspective as a student of media, politics, and society. All I have there so far is an introductory page, but check back later this week for an account of an impending trip to a mobile phone market and several other interesting developments that have been churning in early 2008. Subscribe to Sinobyte’s RSS feed here.
What does this mean for Transpacifica? Not much. I’ll still be writing here on transpacific relations and political and social issues in Asia. But I won’t be writing so much about the Chinese internet here. That work, and much more, will from now on show up on Sinobyte. Enjoy!
After the recent In These Times piece on Guiyu, a center for the recovery of valuable substances in old electronics, comes an Associated Press report that does some more digging on the noxious conditions for workers there. The article, by Christopher Bodeen, includes some good sourcing and a short mention of reporting conditions for some visitors:
Those who control the business in Guiyu are hostile to outside scrutiny. Reporters visiting the area with a Greenpeace volunteer were trailed by tough-looking youths who notified local police, leading to a six-hour detention for questioning.
Government departments from the provincial to township levels refused to answer questions. The central government’s Environmental Protection Agency did not reply to faxed questions.
The article also reminds us that China produces its own e-waste—some 1 million tons a year, according to Greenpeace China. It also quotes a Qingdao businessman who says he is not breaking even with a business that recycles electronics safely, and it points out that many people in Shanghai prefer “guerrilla recyclers” who offer good prices, despite the city’s opening of a dedicated e-waste recycling center. Anecdotal evidence from this central Beijing hutong suggests the same type of recycling is common here.
(If the detained reporter story sounds a bit familiar, that’s because it’s not an isolated incident. In one high-profile case, New York Times reporter David Barboza publicly told the story of being detained by a factory staff. And in his case, even the police were not able to arrange for his immediate release.)
h/t to my mom for forwarding the story.