Friday, July 31, 2015

Job Opportunity: Sigur Center Staff Assistant (Part-Time, Federal Work Study Award Required)

Position Description:

The Staff Assistant position is located in the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs. This position is primarily responsible for staffing the center's front desk which encompasses answering the main phone line, greeting visitors, and processing mail. Other administrative duties and special projects as assigned, such as creating spreadsheets and reports, data entry, editing, etc. as well as supporting Sigur Center events. The Staff Assistant also plays a central role in managing the Sigur Center's social enterprise -- our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr accounts. This is a great opportunity for someone interested in Asian Studies and International Affairs to work closely with Asian Studies faculty, staff, and students as well as visiting scholars from Asia.

Approximate Hours Per Week: 10

Hourly Wage: $10.50/hour


* Interest in/knowledge of International Affairs and Asia
* Some knowledge of an Asian foreign language
* Experience living, working, or studying in Asia
* Strong customer service and interpersonal skills
* Administrative experience
* Must possess a Federal Work Study Award for the 2015-2016 academic year

Application Procedures:

* Apply via GWork to position number 824677 ASAP
* Include the amount of your FWS award in your cover letter
* Specify the dates/times you are available to work in your cover letter
* Email with any questions.

China’s “Northeast Phenomenon”

Here is my interpretation of China’s “dongbei xianxiang (northeast phenomenon).”  As a follow up to my previous post, Beijing is my favorite city in China, but the northeast is the most special.  I first studied Chinese in 2001 in Harbin, where the most standard Mandarin is spoken according to the language program I joined, and where I hoped to also deepen my understanding of my native Korean. 

While the changes in Beijing since then are immediately noticeable, things seem more or less the same up in the northeast.  More than ten years into China’s “Northeast Revitalization” plan, domestic debate has indeed centered on a new “northeast phenomenon” of economic stagnation after Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang ranked among the country’s slowest growing regions last year.  Although most people in Shenyang claim that the northeast development plan no longer exists, Xi Jinping was in Changchun and Shenyang this month to promote his own plans to re-revitalize the northeast. 

Northeast China bears the burdens of an “elder brother” that make it so special.  Named China’s “eldest son” and “old industrial base” from the socialist era, the northeast is first an “elder brother” to China’s other regions.  A consensus among northeast officials and businesses is that their economic problems are primarily structural, including the dominance of state-owned, heavy industry.  But this has been the northeast’s biggest excuse for the past three decades.  Most people especially outside the region see local conservatism as the primary source of the northeast’s stagnation.  Rather than policy constraints from Beijing, local governments are not willing to open up the economy.  Or as some northeasterners will admit, people are just lazy. 

Others will point to the northeast’s foreign neighbors.  Across the border from the northeast is China’s “little brother,” North Korea, who is too busy making nuclear weapons to cooperate.  Yet China’s northeast is one of the few places where North Korea and South Korea co-exist.  While the UNDP’s Tumen Development Programme in the 1990s marked one of the earliest official meetings between the two Koreas, North and South Korean businesses operate side by side in Xita, Shenyang’s Korea town.  But outside northeast China, even if local leaders wanted to open, there is no-one to open to. 

Perhaps for the above reasons, Beijing is just not interested in revitalizing the northeast anymore.  Xi Jinping seems preoccupied right now with promoting his “One Belt, One Road” elsewhere.  But the northeast is still stuck on the very problems that Hu Jintao sought to address in 2003, and remains a puzzling phenomenon worth studying.

In Xita, Shenyang
See-Won Byun, Ph.D. Political Science
Sigur Center 2015 Asian Field Research Fellow
Peking University, Beijing, and Liaoning University, Shenyang.

Seven Signs of Change in China Since 2001…Or At Least Beijing

I’m back in Beijing after spending two months in Shenyang researching the northeast part of my dissertation on the foreign economic strategies of China’s border regions.  Here are my first impressions on the changes over the past decade in China’s capital.  The last time I took the route between Beijing airport and Peking University was in 2003, when I left during the SARS scare.  There was no Olympics stadium, now a proud symbol of the past. 

First, more cars have replaced bicycles.  The only way I could identify my old apartment across campus was by the green bicycle stands.  But these are now covered by cars, mostly SUVs.  International students now drive scooters, or what they refer to as glorified bikes.  Rush hour traffic is still terrible, but instead of packed bicycles there are lines of people at the metro, where the number of metro lines has grown from 3 to 15.

Second, things are more expensive.  For a one hundred dollar bill, you now get 600 RMB instead of 800.  When I went to get my hair cut, they gave me a choice of 150, 200, 280, or 350 RMB.  I remembered the first time I cut my hair in China, when they asked, do you want the 8 or 4 RMB version?

Third, people approach each other with “nihao (hello)” and address women as “meinu (literally, beautiful woman).”  People only said nihao before in English when greeting foreigners.  Hello has now become a way of addressing each other.  I was flattered when I first heard “meinu” until I realized it’s just common expression.  Before it was either “xiaojie (miss)” or “xiao meimei (little sister).”  

Fourth, people stand in line.  You don’t see a triangle of crowds at counters anymore.  Now it’s more or less a straight line.  The good thing is there is less chaos; the bad thing is you can’t really cut in line when desperate.  

Fifth, people are obsessed with We Chat.  It’s amazing how widely We Chat is used in a country where the internet is so restricted, but perhaps not so surprising given the limited options.  I am hardly connected to social media outside of China, but had to get We Chat here to communicate with my landlord. 

Sixth, there are more foreigners.  Foreigners have increased not only in number but also diversity.  In the past you could tell where a classmate was from by the color of his/her dictionary: red for American, purple for Korean, orange for Japanese, blue for Russian.  It’s now harder to tell, because there are so many of them and because most are talking to each other in broken English rather than broken Chinese.

But these changes are less apparent a five-hour train ride away in Shenyang, the biggest city in China’s northeast.  You not only see bikes but the occasional donkey cart, and can have a full meal for less than 10 RMB.  People will look at you strangely if you say nihao, and it’s fine to cut in line.  Internet access is more limited.  Most foreigners are African exchange students, missionaries, or reportedly spies. 

But one obvious change even in the northeast is that college students don’t want to go to Hong Kong anymore after they graduate.  In 2001, most of my Chinese classmates in Harbin wanted to move to Hong Kong or somewhere south to work.  Most students now plan to move on to graduate school to study, or feel disenfranchised to see that the opportunities to get rich at home have already been taken. 

Passing the Forbidden City

See-Won Byun, Ph.D. Political Science
Sigur Center Summer 2015 Asian Field Research Fellow
Beijing and Shenyang, China

Overview of Cambodia

Hello Everyone,

My name is Ron Leonhardt, and I am a History PhD student currently in Cambodia on the Estelle Sigur Language Grant studying Khmer. This is my first blog post, so I thought I would start by providing some information on the contemporary issues that contribute to Cambodia’s status as one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world. I will also relate these issues to my research and how these issues impact language programs in Cambodia.

This is now my third summer in Cambodia, and I spend most of my time in the capital, Phnom Penh. My first summer in Cambodia happened to coincide with Cambodia’s elections for seats in the National Assembly and for the next Prime Minister of Cambodia. Hun Sen, the current Prime Minister, has been in power for over twenty-five years. The director of my language program at that time had a physical handicap that prevented her from walking. Since Cambodia does not have handicap-accessible buildings, she had not voted in the previous several elections. However, this election, she received a letter from the government “encouraging” her to vote. Her failure to vote could result in her losing her ability to operate a language school in Cambodia. On the day of elections, another student and myself had to carry her up to the third story of an elementary school where the polling booth was located so she could vote. Voter fraud was also rampant, and in some Cambodian provinces there were more votes than people. Unsurprisingly, Hun Sen was reelected as Prime Minister.

However, social media was used extensively during the 2013 elections—especially among younger generations expressing their support for the opposition candidate, Sam Rainsy. Coincidentally, since the last election, the Cambodian government has begun the process of enacting a series of laws that would severely restrict Cambodian civil society and those critical of the Government’s numerous abuses of power. Any “insult” on social media may soon result in judicial prosecution and any NGO working in Cambodia may soon be forced to approve their activities through the government. Sex-trafficking (especially among girls and boys under the age of fifteen), illegal logging, poor access to safe medical care, drug abuse and drug trafficking (especially heroin, MDMA, and methamphetamines) remain serious problems not often discussed in relation to the problems plaguing Cambodia. These problems have made treatable diseases more deadly and diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C have continued to spread.

My research focuses on the Cold War history of the Khmer Krom, an ethnic minority group living in both Cambodia and the lower portion of Vietnam. Often denied citizenship in both Vietnam and Cambodia, the Khmer Krom living around Phnom Penh often do not receive access to health care and are forced to live outside of Phnom Penh in an area that the government has, essentially, designated for “undesirables” to live. Government abuses against ethnic minorities in Cambodia has been a serious problem for years, which makes researching the history of the Khmer Krom and interviewing Khmer Krom a difficult task at times. Language schools in Cambodia are not allowed to teach or discuss vocabulary or lessons related to ethnic minorities, if the school did, they could lose their license and their school. I have included several articles that go into more detail regarding some of these issues:

Related to sex-trafficking in Cambodia:

Unsafe medical practices/HIV outbreaks:

New NGO Law:

Hun Sen owes money from betting on the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight (John Oliver Clip):

Freedom House Index (Cambodia is purple, meaning “not free”):

In my next blog posting, I will talk more about my language program and what else I’m doing to improve my language skills.

Ron Leonhardt, 2nd Year PhD Student in History
Sigur Center 2015 Khmer Language Fellow,
Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Monday, July 27, 2015

Abe Fellowship

The next deadline is September 1, 2015.

The Abe Fellowship is designed to encourage international multidisciplinary research on topics of pressing global concern. The Abe Fellowship Program seeks to foster the development of a new generation of researchers who are interested in policy-relevant topics of long-range importance and who are willing to become key members of a bilateral and global research network built around such topics.

Fellowship Terms

Terms of the fellowship are flexible and are designed to meet the needs of Japanese and American researchers at different stages in their careers.

The program provides Abe Fellows with a minimum of 3 and maximum of 12 months of full-time support over a 24-month period.

Part-time residence abroad in the United States or Japan is required.

Research Agenda

Please note our new research agenda for 2015. Applicants are invited to submit proposals for research in the social sciences and related fields relevant to any of the following four themes:

  • Threats to Personal, Societal, and International Security
  • Social, Scientific, and Cultural Trends and Transformations
  • Growth and Sustainable Development
  • Governance, Empowerment, and Participation

Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or Japan. (Nationals of other countries MUST demonstrate a serious, long-term affiliation with research communities in the United States or Japan.) Applicants must hold a PhD or the terminal degree in their field, or equivalent professional experience at the time of application.

Find out more and apply HERE.

Language Specialist Position with United States Forces Korea (USFK)

This position is located at United States Forces Korea (USFK), Combined Forces Command (CFC), United Nations Command (UNC) UCJ-5. The incumbent will serve as principal Korean-English, English-Korean interpreter/translator for United States Forces Korea (USFK), Combined Forces Command (CFC), United Nations Command (UNC) UCJ-5. Responsible for accurate and rapid translations of written communications from or into English, Korean characters (Hangul), mixed Korean and Chinese characters (Hanmun), or phonetics prior to and during meetings. Must be capable of providing oral, nearly simultaneous interpretation.  

If an applicant is hired from the United States, relocation and other benefits are available.

Interested applicants can see the whole position description and apply at

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fulong 福隆 and Jiufen 九份

Hi everybody! I’m about halfway through with my time in Taiwan, which feels crazy and makes me unbelievably sad. I still feel like there is so much more to see here and really still so much left to learn. I wanna spend this blog talking about some trips I took to Fulong 福隆 and Jiufen 九份

I've seen a lot of things in Taiwan but these two trips have truly meant the most to me.  I went to both of these places over one weekend after having a pretty bad week.  I was reaching my month and a half point in Taiwan and was feeling a bit off. All of the study abroad advisors say that is when the initial excitement of being in a new place wears off and you begin feeling some of the negative parts of studying abroad. Some people feel homesick or lonely.  I've never really been a homesick person, but the week before, one of my very first (and best) friends in Taiwan left to go to China for the rest of summer.  So I guess I was feeling a bit unsettled. Also, I didn't talk about this in the last blog because I was so excited about Dragon Boating, but I didn't expect living alone to be so isolating. That seems like an obvious thing to predict, but I've been living in a cramped dorm for the past two years! Now I'm in an apartment building where I don't really know any of my neighbors. This is my first time living alone, in a place where I don't know a lot of people and don't speak the language fluently. But through some introspection and tea drinking, I've really been able to transition and definitely feel more comfortable with not just living alone but with myself.  Check one off the "Study Abroad Must-Have Lessons" checklist! 

I mark these trips as a turning point for my summer in Taiwan. Mostly in terms of starting to get out of my comfort zone and going out and making things happen, be it practicing Mandarin with a stranger or just being honest about what means most to me. That week I actually met a new classmate from Switzerland and we went on these trips together. 

After missing our first train by mere seconds, my classmate (Michele) and I had to wait an hour in Taipei Main Station for the next one. Taipei Main has an obscene amount of tiny stores and surprisingly good restaurants so we didn’t suffer much. Once safely aboard our train headed towards Fulong, being the good student that I am, I decided to take out some of my notebooks and practice writing characters. The train was crowded that Friday so a lot people were standing in the aisle, teetering between the handrails above my friend’s and my heads. Michele and I were hung up over the correct pronunciation of ‘teapot.’ 

“Yeah wait I don’t think that's the right word. How do you say ‘teapot’?” 
!” a voice from above us said. We looked up into the face of a smiling older gentleman. “It’s ‘cha hu. 们都会写!?” 

We introduced ourselves and he was really impressed with how intensely we were studying. Turns out a lot of Taiwanese people are genuinely impressed if you have even a small writing and reading ability. We told him we were going to Fulong and he gave us a bunch of tips on how to rent bicycles there. He talked to us for the rest of our journey about studying and eventually began teaching us some new characters.  It was a typical example of how nice people are in Taiwan.  Every person I practice Mandarin with in Taiwan teaches me something. Mostly correct pronunciations but sometimes (like on the train to Fulong) they've even taught me the characters for 'butterfly'. 

That's me! 

So I know how to ride a bike, but being on them makes me nervous.  I think I fell too many times as a kid. But I didn't tell my friend about my fear of riding bicycles until we had already rented them.. the old saying “_____is like riding a bike!” really held true in my situation.  I got off to a teetering start, possibly made one tandem bike go off the path, but after my nervous laughter subsided I was able to get on the road and actually bike. It was a really tiny feat but I was embarrassingly proud of myself. I had a huge smile for the rest of the day. ALSO we rented bicycles for the whole day all for less than $3 USD and nothing makes me happier than a deal.               


We stuck to a bike path which took us through a tunnel, around the eastern coast and through tiny fishing villages. It was gorgeous and I wish I took more pictures, but there are only so many times you can start and stop on a bike.  What we did stop for was a giant bush filled with dozens of butterflies.  The man on the train's lesson! He also told us that Taiwan is known as the kingdom of butterflies which I really didn't believe until I saw them for myself. 


Turtle Island in the distance
It was a great day not only because I rode a bike, but because we met so many great people like that man on the train who genuinely wanted to help us.  It's not everywhere you go that people are that friendly, but in Taiwan it's really been the norm and this trip really cemented that in my mind. Also the feeling of riding a bike along a coastline is incredible and everyone should try it. Perfect ratio of salty air and beautiful views. 

The next day (Saturday) Michele and I decided to head out to Jiufen 九份. I had been wanting to go there for a really long time.  The city in the movie “Spirited Away” was inspired by Jiufen’s brightly lit street lamps and since I’m a huge Miyazaki fan, going there was a must.  They have a saying in Jiufen, "越夜越漂亮" which means "the darker it gets, the more beautiful it gets." It's so true.  I was not disappointed by the night view or 夜景 in Jiufen and could absolutely see how it inspires. My overall impression of Jiufen is a bit hard to describe.  I want to describe Jiufen as sleepy, as it often drizzles and there are no large streets filled with honking cars or motorcycles. But Jiufen has a quiet, buzzing energy that lets you know it's awake.  

Michele and I on the steps

At the 茶馆 

Jiufen began as a mining town and as such, is literally on the side of a mountain.  The town is filled with staircases making an afternoon stroll feel more like a hike.   Jiufen is mostly known for its nighttime lights, but few people know that the first movie theater in Taiwan was built there.  We didn't get a chance to go inside but I quickly snapped a pic. The town is full of tiny souvenir shops, restaurants, and to my friend's delight: teahouses. Michele is really into tea making, tea buying, tea drinking, really anything tea related. So while in Jiufen, we had to stop and 泡茶.

First movie theater in Taiwan
Staircase "Streets"


View from 茶馆

The 茶管 we went to was gorgeous.  We were able to sit outside on the balcony and had a breathtaking view of the ocean and mountainside.  We sat with three other people and spent the afternoon sipping tea and chatting about anything we could think of. I’m pretty sure that’s why teahouses were invented because it was perfect. Right before the sunset, it began to drizzle a little. Michele and I were a little bummed at first, thinking we wouldn't be able to explore as much, but we were reassured by our company that rain in Jiufen was normal.  One friend described rainfall in Jiufen as “a special feeling.” Even he didn't have a concrete way to describe Jiufen. But as I gazed out at the ocean view and sipped some tea, I knew what he meant.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Classes at 師大!

Hi Everyone! It's been a couple weeks since I last posted, so I thought that you would enjoy an update! I talk a little about my classes in the following video, as classes have been taking up a lot of my time.

Until next time! 謝謝!  

Betsy Janus, M. A. Asian Studies 2016

Sigur Center 2015 Chinese Language Fellow

National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ADB NARO Student Associate Program

The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) North American Representative Office (NARO) in Washington, D.C. is seeking applicants who are nationals of the United States or Canada to participate in a student associate program at ADB’s office in Washington, D.C.

ADB seeks to engage a student interested in international development, on a voluntary part-time basis. The associate will gain close insight into the work of a major international development organization, work collaboratively with experienced professionals, gain a deeper understanding of development finance; and contribute to ADB's work through research and support of external relations activities.

ADB welcomes motivated, open-minded and self-directed students to apply. The student associate program is an opportunity for graduate students to research thematic and
development issues and to network with representatives from other international organizations in the Washington, D.C. area.


• Must be enrolled in a Master's- or PhD-level program at a school in the United States or Canada, both prior to and after the internship assignment;
• Must be engaged in academic study in a field directly related to ADB's work;
• Must be a United States or Canadian national. ADB is unfortunately unable to sponsor this work;
• Must possess an excellent command of English, both orally and written; and
• Should have relevant professional experience.

Preference will be given to students majoring in development studies, development economics, international relations, political science, or other related fields. Students should demonstrate research and writing skills, and knowledge of Microsoft office applications.

Scope of Work

The associate will work closely and collaboratively with ADB NARO staff including the Representative and Deputy Representative. Duties include (and are not limited to):

• Gathers information on new international development discussions, events and news in North America to inform ADB staff based at headquarters and at resident missions.
• Attends events and briefings at think tank organizations, universities, congressional
hearings and government agencies and produce written event summaries.
• Assists with media outreach including editing press releases and in disseminating
information through NARO’s various social media channels
• Works closely with NARO staff in planning and implementing special projects or
• Assists with other tasks including administration needs, such as staffing the front desk, if needed, and supporting administrative staff during special functions.

Duration of Program and Transportation Reimbursement

The associate program will commence on or around June 1 for the Summer semester, September 8 for the Fall semester, and January 5 for the Spring semester. Start and end dates are flexible. Work hours are on a part-time schedule and may be flexible to accommodate class schedules and work requirements.

Associates will be reimbursed for transportation costs to attend work-related events and meetings on behalf of ADB in Washington, D.C. The program will not pay for any other
expenses including relocation or living expenses.


The program will be located at ADB’s North American Representative Office in downtown Washington, D.C. The office is accessible by Metro’s subway and bus lines.

To Apply

Please apply by submitting a cover letter, resume, and two writing samples to Michael Reyes at Indicate in your cover letter the university and program you are enrolled in including expected graduation date, and what days and times you would be available to work.

Please submit documentation before the deadlines below:

                                       2015 Fall Semester = Deadline: July 31, 2015

                                   2016 Spring Semester = Deadline: October 31, 2015

No calls please. Because of the large volume of applications, only those being considered will be contacted for an interview.

Please note that ADB does not accept applications from close relatives of ADB personnel.

About ADB

ADB's vision is an Asia and Pacific region free of poverty. Its mission is to help its developing member countries reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of their people. Despite the region’s many successes, it remains home to approximately two-thirds of the world's poor: 1.6 billion people who live on less than $2 a day, with 733 million struggling on less than $1.25 a day. ADB is committed to reducing poverty through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Based in Manila, ADB is owned by 67 members, including 48 from the region. Its main instruments for helping its developing member countries are policy dialogue, loans, equity investments, guarantees, grants, and technical assistance.

ADB’s North American Representative Office (NARO) was established in 1995 in Washington, D.C., to enhance ADB's presence in Canada and the United States. The office acts as a liaison between ADB's Manila headquarters and American policymakers and major stakeholders. It serves to strengthen collaboration with other multilateral institutions based in North America, and conducts public and media outreach.

Further Afield: Hong Kong

Hi from Hong Kong! I’m enjoying a short stay here at the end of my month of research, taking in one of the most interesting cities in the world and still managing to get a little more work done.

The view from my 19th floor hotel window, looking north to the "mid-levels."
 I arrived in Hong Kong yesterday with one goal: talk to some of the people behind the Weiboscope project at Hong Kong University. As I mentioned in my earlier post, my own research deals with online public opinion, and Weiboscope is probably the biggest name out there for public research into the China’s Sina Weibo social media platform. I’ve been working with my own set of data from Sina Weibo, and today I was very pleased to be able to compare notes with one of the individuals responsible for working on Weiboscope. He was able to give me a number of useful tips as I consider how to analyze my own data and also had some information to share about the HKU team’s experience collecting this data across a number of years. It was a relatively short visit to HKU but definitely worth my time.
The original main building at HKU.
A lotus pond dedicated to Sun Yat-Sen, with a statue of the man himself at left.

Since I didn’t have any further work appointments today, I took the time to wander around the university and the city for a bit. This is my second trip to Hong Kong, but my first was a brief couple of days staying in Kowloon nearly ten years ago. This time I’m staying on and exploring Hong Kong Island itself, which is a very cool place to be if you enjoy cities. To me, Hong Kong feels like the vertical scale (and grit!) of Manhattan built on the street plan of London, populated mainly by Chinese and some other Asian nationalities (Korean, Vietnamese, Indian etc.) with a notable Western minority. It really is a unique mix. It also has an interesting geography in which the original city and downtown area, now called “Central” as in “Occupy Central,” is built on a thin strip of land and reclaimed harbor wedged between the water and the island’s mountain, Victoria Peak. This makes it easy to orient yourself – downhill is north, uphill is south! – but can also make it a bit of a hike to get around if you’re headed in the wrong direction. On the other hand, east-west transportation is ably served by the Hong Kong MTR Island Line, easily one of the finest subways in the world.

For my explorations, this meant simply walking east since I’m staying at the west end of the island. The sheer density is both entrancing and overwhelming. Countless tiny Chinese congee restaurants, noodle shops, electronics stores and pharmacies are packed in between Japanese fine dining, Indian lunch buffets, luxury outlets, and all the other trappings of globalization like 7-Eleven, Starbucks, etc. Looking down an alley between two buildings reveals lanes of stalls with every kind of knick-knack for sale, and crowds of people rush to catch double decker buses that drive on the left. An eclectic mix, to say the least. The fact that despite a decade of Mandarin Chinese study I can’t speak a word of Cantonese, the main language here, only adds to the experience. It simply doesn’t feel like anywhere else in the world, Chinese, British, or otherwise. And at night, it has what must be the greatest skyline on the globe.

A typical view looking up one of Hong Kong's narrow streets.
It's not all buildings and people: here's some natural beauty away from the city itself, on Lantau Island.
Anyway, you probably get the picture! It’s a city worth a visit.

I’m happy to be heading back to the US on Friday. Overall, this has been an extremely successful research trip with nearly 25 interviews conducted in 30 days across three different cities, along with getting a lot of great feedback on a research paper presented in Shanghai with Prof. Dickson. Thanks again to the Sigur Center for the invaluable support!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Max's Second Update: 90% Studying, 10% Fun

Hello everyone, greetings from Taipei! Below is my second update of my time here in Taipei. Enjoy!

Until the next update.

From Taipei,

Max Grossman, B.A. International Affairs and Geography 2017, 

Sigur Center 2015 Chinese Language Fellow, 

National Taiwan University, Taiwan.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Research on the Mainland: Beijing and Shanghai

Hello from Shanghai! My name is Jackson Woods and I’m a Ph.D. student in political science, conducting summer field research for my dissertation with the help of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies.

My research deals with Chinese public opinion online, especially around foreign policy issues. In the midst of my fourth week here in China, I look back and find myself amazed at how much I’ve learned in such a short period of time. My first twenty-two days were spent in Beijing, and during that time I got to conduct nearly twenty-five interviews with experts ranging from professors at big-name universities to founders of well-known media publications to notable independent voices who’ve found themselves challenging the state. As important as all the other data is for my research – news articles and reports, millions of social media postings, and more – there’s nothing like hearing about these issues straight from those involved in China’s domestic foreign policy debates.

Getting to do this research involved a lot of different pieces that have to fall into place and not a little bit of luck. Mostly, it’s a story of using connections to make connections. For example, a friend who I met on a previous trip to Beijing with my committee chair introduced me to a professor in his department at Tsinghua University on my second day here. In the middle of our conversation, that professor sent me the WeChat contact information for a researcher at the Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences. (Note that WeChat is an absolutely essential smartphone app in China which everybody uses to the complete exclusion of texting, phone, etc.) After accepting my friend request on WeChat, that researcher in turn talked to her institute head, which meant that two weeks later I found myself at lunch with the research institute staff and a visiting scholar from Taiwan, talking with another expert who’s written multiple books about online opinion in China! Flexibility and follow-up are the key phrases for this kind of work.

Renmin University - site of a few interviews during my stay in Beijing

More broadly, it's great to be back in China. I've lived in Beijing for two years (2008-2009 and 2013-2014) and, while it will never really feel "like home," it's certainly familiar. Between hitting all of my culinary favorites and catching up with friends working in the city, I got to enjoy an unprecedentedly beautiful couple of weeks. Anyone who has read about China probably knows about the terrible air pollution, but with a few exceptions we had nearly three weeks of blue skies during my visit. The city felt entirely different, as residents walked down the street pointing their camera phones at the sky and fluffy blue clouds floated over familiar buildings that I'm more used to seeing shrouded in grayish-brown haze. I don't know if this was the result of policy or just a string of great luck, but I'm not complaining either way.

The view from my window in the Liudaokou neighborhood.

A more typical view on a previous visit to Beijing.
After keeping busy in Beijing, I’m now in Shanghai attending a conference at Shanghai Jiaotong University with scholars from both the US and China presenting their latest research, and next week I’ll be heading to Hong Kong. Already I've made a lot of useful connections with professors on both sides of the Pacific, which is nearly as valuable as the interviews. I also enjoy the contrast between Beijing and Shanghai quite a bit – where Beijing carries the weight of hundreds of years as China’s capital under a modern veneer, Shanghai feels like a true “world city.” I like them both in their own way, and I had a great time in Beijing, but it's cool to see the "leading edge" of the PRC. Of course, there’ve been a lot of cool experiences besides just work and nice weather, but those will have to wait for the next post(s). Until then!

Myself, my adviser Prof. Bruce Dickson, and Chunhua Chen, another GWU political science Ph.D. student who's currently doing field research in Beijing for the entire year. On the campus of Peking University.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Department of State's Virtual Student Foreign Service eInternship

VSFS is a digital internship for U.S. citizen college students, full or part-time, online or traditional.  There are over 330 projects with 15 U.S. Government agencies:  We are so excited that the VSFS concept continues to expand.  Each agency really counts; see what we mean on our facebook<> page!

Students can apply for their top three projects on USAJobs<> between July 2 - 22 (applicants should check out the project offerings on first).  Last year, 610 students were chosen and this year even more positions are available.  eInterns make a real difference.  They do real work and are mentored by US Government employees who value their contribution.

Selected eInterns work 10 hours per week from September 2015 through May 2016.  This year for the first time, projects in diplomacy, development, space, journalism, trade, environment, health, agriculture, technology, and housing are available:

*         National Aeronautics and Space Administration
*         National Institute of Standards and Technology
*         National Institutes of Health
*         National Weather Service
*         Peace Corps
*         The Smithsonian Institution
*         U.S. Agency for International Development
*         U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
*         U.S. Department of Agriculture
*         U.S. Department of Commerce
*         U.S. Department of Education
*         U.S. Department of Homeland Security
*         U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
*         U.S. Department of State
*         U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The fine print: Applicants must  be U.S. citizens enrolled in university level courses in the U.S. or abroad.  Last year, we had students from undergraduate to PhD to part-time online students.  A resume, transcript, and statement of interest are required as part of the application process.  Interviews may be conducted in August.  eInternships are unpaid and do not require a security clearance or travel.