Category Archives: Distraction

Painful Irony: My Editorial Becomes Element in an Entrance Examination

Oh. I can’t bear it!

Through a very circuitous route, I have learned that a 2010 editorial I wrote for the on-line English edition of the Asahi was used in the English portion of an entrance examination. Wow, is that karmic retribution for the impure thoughts I have been thinking about supplementary education?

In the 2012 entrance examination for Aichi Education (!) University (愛知教育大学), my editorial shows up. It doesn’t have a title, nor an author or attribution listed and I will have to find out why that is, but it then includes the typical exam question strategy of fill-in-the-blank for the appropriate proposition (“Continued opposition […] the existence of the juku system has been one of the few areas of policy where the Japanese Teachers Union (Nikkyoso) finds itself in agreement […] education ministry officials.”)

Some sentences have been selected to be translated by the exam sitters.

My 2011 in Social Media

This past year, I got blogging and tweeting more seriously. This has had me become more and more interested in the professional use of social media, i.e. for research, publication and advocacy.

Not surprisingly, my social media efforts are focused primarily on supplementary education, Japan, and Mongolia.

My Facebook Author Page

First though, bridging traditional publishing and social media, my book author Facebook page is liked by more than 100 of you (thanks!). If you all were book buyers (of my book, that is) that would represent about 1/4 of sales.


I forget when exactly I set up my Twitter account, but I initially lurked primarily and found Twitter an interesting way to follow some foreign correspondents, primarily in Asia, recognizing that most of them publish a fraction of the stories they come across, but that they’re increasingly tweeting about stories.

Asia Pacific Memo

Some of this realization also led us at the Institute of Asian Research to create the Asia Pacific Memo in July 2010 as an attempt to change the culture of academic publishing, but supplementing important traditional channels like peer-reviewed journals, with forms of communication that are aimed more explicitly at an interested public. With Asia Pacific Memo we do this through very short written pieces (<350 words) or brief video interviews. I’ve been involved in this process from the beginning, have written some Memos and continue to be very interested in how to make Asia Pacific Memo more present in social media (FB, Twitter, YouTube). Interestingly, one of my very early Memos continues to have one of the longest lives of any Memo with more than 50 pageviews per month more than a year after publication. Part of the “success” of this Memo appears to be the use of the term “hypereducation” in this Memo which I have adopted for the Jukupedia blog as well. A lesson about academic branding in social media?

This year, I was involved directly in the following Memos:

Back to twitter…

On March 11, Japan was struck by a massive earthquake that caused a tsunami and triggered a nuclear crisis. At the time, I was teaching at the University of Toulouse as a visiting professor and felt quite cut off from news other than the sensationalist news channels. Fortunately, Japanese news channels were streaming on-line. Largely as a form of therapy for myself to combat the feeling of helplessness in the face of such a disaster in Japan, I started translating little bits of Japanese news announcements on Twitter. Soon enough, a couple of news organizations (Mark Mackinnon of the Globe & Mail may have been first) listed me as tweets to follow and my number of followers shot up from the around 100 where it had hovered for quite a while, to over 500 where it sits now. British journalist Kate Bussmann published “A Year in Twitter” at the end of the year and included a couple of my #JPQuake tweets in that collection.

Interestingly, few people who followed me during the #JPQuake seem to be unfollowing even when my tweets are a mix of observations, news, pointers on Japan and Mongolia.

At year end I have tweeted more than 900 times and have nearly 600 followers.

MAAPPS Twitter

For the entire year, we’ve also been tweeting about the MA Asia Pacific Policy Studies that I direct. It has been mostly me and program assistant, Kerry, who have been tweeting though the students occasionally chirp in as well. We’ve intended this graduate program tweet to give prospective applicants a sense of the daily goings-on in the program and some of the highlights in a more informal way than static web pages provide. At this point nearly 80 people are following the account, though that includes a number of institutional UBC accounts and current/former students.

We’ve also experimented with virtual office hours for prospective applicants this fall, giving interested students a chance to ask questions about the program and get very quick, to-the-point responses. This has been mildly successful, though I’ve certainly enjoyed it.

Jukupedia Blog

Sometime in April, I started blogging about supplementary education ( I started this blog after and during attending large conferences this Spring (AAS and CIES) and recognizing that a) I always have lots to say about juku in Japan and supplementary education more broadly, and b) not all of what I have to say fits into traditional publication outlets.

That desire to ruminate, share information, discuss supplementary education has led to 80 posts and over 1,300 visitors to the Jukupedia.

Spikes in traffic occurred especially when I commented on newspaper pieces and linked my comments to a more extensive blog post.

So far, the existence of the blog has also led some researchers and graduate students to contact me about related topics they’re interested in to conduct research on.

The most widely read blog posts are a group of mixed topics with some where it is clear why they received a lot of traffic (incoming links/referrals from colleagues/contacts), while others have less obvious explanations.

 Mongolia Blog

This year I have been delighted to have Byamba visiting from the Univ of Hokkaido. He used the desk in front of my office and combined with the presence of Mendee who was finishing up the MAAPPS program and now started graduate work in Political Science, this provided many opportunities to talk about current developments in Mongolia. Finally, we decided that we should record/share our discussions and started the Mongolia Today blog.

Since August, we’ve already had over 2,000 visitors to that blog and I very much hope to be able to continue to write even after Byamba has returned to Japan and as we head into the 2012 parliamentary election campaign.

New Look

Dear Readers,

you will have noted that
a) I’ve been slacking off in writing, and
b) Jukupedia now has a new look.

Ad a)

It’s summer time and while juku are always on my mind, the mind-to-keyboard connection is a bit slower in the summer.

Ad b)

The main purpose of the switch to a different theme was to make it easier for readers to comment. In the previous theme, I don’t think anyone actually noticed that they could comment, so please take the more obvious “Leave a Comment” link seriously and do leave some comments.

Clashes in Inner Mongolia: Geography

The other day, I expanded upon an Asia Pacific Memo I co-authored with Jargalsaikhan Mendee (a student in our MA Asia Pacific Policy Studies) and Dalaibuyan Byambajav (PhD program, Sociology, Hokkaido University, Japan). In this memo we argued that conflicts in Inner Mongolia (and in Mongolia itself) seem to be primarily erupting about livelihood disagreements rather than along ethnic lines.

A post by Mu Chushan in the “China Power” blog of The Diplomat. The post is relatively brief and argues that the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (IMAR) is a particularly important test case for the CPC’s strategy and argument for ethnic harmony based on economic growth. Of the potential “trouble spots”, the IMAR has shown the strongest economic growth.

This post didn’t speak to another issue that I also have been thinking about beyond my expansion on the memo on this blog last week: geography.

While the IMAR is often portrayed as quite remote in Chinese conversations, some parts of it are actually quite close to the big cities of the Chinese coast. Xilin Hot – the centre of recent protests – is less than 500km away from Beijing. Even the furthest reaches of the IMAR are only about 1,600 km to the West (close to where Gansu provinces, the IMAR, and Xinjiang don’t quite meet) and about 1,500 km to the Northeast where Heilongjiang, the IMAR and the Russian Far East meet. Of the major IMAR cities, Baotou is further West, but less than 600 km from Beijing.

Contrast this with Lhasa which is approx. 2,500 km from Beijing as is Urumqi.

I cite all these differences here to illustrate that the IMAR is not remote from a Beijing perspective. This relative proximity is an element in the relative prosperity of the IMAR compared to other seemingly remote regions of China. Among Chinese provinces the IMAR thus has the 6th-highest per capita GDP, ahead of powerhouse Guandong, for example.

The IMAR’s geographic location along with the factors I wrote about the other day, all contribute to the importance of the IMAR that was highlighted in The Diplomat. Perhaps this explains the swift reaction by Chinese authorities in the sentencing of the perpetrator of the death of Mergen, as well as the prompt discussion and revision of some elements in mining policy in the IMAR.

Conflicts between pastoral herders and mining in Inner Mongolia and Mongolia

Yes, this is an off-(supplementary education)-topic post, but it focuses on a subject matter that is a frequent distraction for me, Mongolia.

Together with two Mongolian graduate students, Jargalsaikhan Mendee (a student in our MA Asia Pacific Policy Studies) and Dalaibuyan Byambajav (PhD program, Sociology, Hokkaido University, Japan) I wrote an Asia Pacific Memo on “Livelihood Clashes in Inner Mongolia and Mongolia“.

In the memo we are arguing that recent clashes in Inner Mongolia as well as an incident last year are widely being portrayed as ethnic conflict but are rooted more in differences in livelihoods, i.e. pastoral herding vs. mining.

If we didn’t restrict ourselves to the very short length of the Asia Pacific Memo, I would have liked to write a bit more about some of the following related topics:

  • the lack of real information about the current clashes in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (China). All the information seems to be coming from the Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center, a U.S.-based human rights group. News agencies and Beijing-based reporters are then relying on the SMHRIC reports to write updates. While I have nothing against the SMHRIC and appreciate their work on behalf of Mongolians in the PRC, I sure would be eager to hear about the conflict from other sources as well, and I don’t mean Chinese state sources either.
  • given my interest in Mongolia, I have an obvious side-interest in Inner Mongolia. The photo that appears alongside the Asia Pacific Memo (note that I’m the one wearing the hat) was actually taken in Mongolia on a trip right after I visited Inner Mongolia with my colleague, Pitman Potter. I have not been back to the IMAR since then, but found this trip very interesting. Mongolia-IMAR relations are clearly fascinating. Mongolians in China are the only major ethnic minority that has a viable patron state dominated by co-ethnics. By contrast Tibetans count on the support of their exiled leadership in India, and Uyghurs are making primarily a historical claim related to East Turkestan. Ethnic Koreans in China may be the other group that can look to a potential patron state. However, out of respect for China, Mongolia does not really act as a patron state to Mongolians in the PRC. For example, there is no special provision for ethnic Mongolians from China to acquire Mongolian citizenship. Nor do they receive preferential treatment in asylum cases.
  • the relationship with China and the situation of Mongolians in China is fast fodder for populist claims by Mongolian politicians. According to Mendee and Byamba, there is a lively debate in the Mongolian blogosphere regarding the stance that the Mongolian government should take vis-a-vis the clashes in the IMAR. Mendee is writing his MA thesis on anti-Chinese sentiment in Mongolia, so this is an area where he is very knowledgeable.
  • mobilization around mining-herding clashes is a subject that the brief memo couldn’t really do justice. This is Byamba’s area of expertise as he’s writing his dissertation on the development of civil society and is focused on environmental NGOs in particular in one chapter of the dissertation. Some of the current discussions in Mongolia seem to be focusing on the fact that protests have been relatively rare in Mongolia itself, even compared with the much more repressed situation that Mongolians in China find themselves in. We hinted at the fact of greater urbanization and concentration of infrastructure in the IMAR compared to Mongolia in our memo, but that clearly is not a satisfactory explanation in and of itself.