“Conversations with Communicators” Talk Series 2020 – Writing China: My Successes and Failures as a Twenty-Year China Hand


16 Oct 2020




Online seminar

Ian Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer
Biography of Speaker:

A Pulitzer Prize-winning writer focusing on society, religion, and history. He works out of Beijing for The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and other publications. He teaches undergraduates at The Beijing Center for Chinese Studies, and has served as an advisor to academic journals and think tanks, such as the Journal of Asian Studies, the Berlin-based think tank Merics, and New York University's Center for Religion and Media. In 2018, he was accepted as a doctoral candidate at Germany's Leipzig University, where he is writing a thesis on Chinese religious groups and their relationship to the state. For more information on Ian Johnson, visit his website:



Event Details:

Main organizer: School of Journalism and Communication
Co-organizer: The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press

Synopsis of Lecture:

When Ian Johnson first went to China as a student in 1984, it was to write a thesis on how North American foreign correspondents covered China. His conclusion: they didn't do such a great job, because many stuck around in Beijing too much, didn't travel, and copied each other’s stories. Despite huge advances, the situation is largely unchanged. Even though they can travel more freely, many are tied to their desks in order to duplicate the latest news on Twitter or to answer questions from their editors. This is true around the world but is especially debilitating in a big, varied country like China, where the capital is not a good place to learn about the country. In this talk, Johnson evaluates the highs and lows of his career, why he decided to focus on religion, faith, and values, as a topic, and how to think about this country's future.