Ian Johnson is a Beijing-based writer who specializes in civil society, culture and religion. For 13 years, Johnson worked at The Wall Street Journal, where he was a page-one feature writer and bureau chief.
Johnson started writing full-time in 1981 at The Independent Florida Alligator, a student-run newspaper based in Gainesville, Florida. At the same time, he earned a degree in Asian Studies and Journalism from the University of Florida, including a stay from 1984 to 1985 at Peking University.
After graduating, he worked in a county bureau of The Orlando Sentinel before leaving in 1986 to study Chinese language at Taiwan National Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center. In 1988 he moved to Berlin, Germany where, while earning a Master’s in Chinese Studies (Sinologie) at the Freie Universität Berlin, he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and German unification for Baltimore’s The Sun and The St. Petersburg Times. In 1992, The Sun hired him as its New York-based financial correspondent and in 1994 sent him to its Beijing bureau.
In 1997, Johnson moved to The Wall Street Journal, covering Chinese macro-economics, China’s accession to the World Trade Organization and social movements. In 2000 and 2001, he won several prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Overseas Press Club’s Hal Boyle Award and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Foreign Correspondence award, for his coverage of the suppression of the Falun Gong movement and the rise of civil society in China.
In 2001, Johnson moved to Berlin to head the Journal’s Germany bureau, overseeing European economic coverage and social issues like the anti-globalization movement. After the 9/11 attacks, he ran a 12-person investigative team on terrorism and co-won the German Marshall Fund’s Peter R. Seitz Award for reporting on trans-Atlantic issues.
Johnson is the author of Wild Grass: Three Portraits of Change in Modern China (Pantheon, 2004; Vintage/Penguin, 2005) and A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010).
In 2006-2007, Johnson was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He returned to the Journal in 2007 as a senior correspondent, moving back to China in 2009. Johnson left the paper in 2010 to pursue magazine and book writing on cultural and social affairs. He was a 2011-2012 Open Society Fellow.
Johnson was born in Montreal, Canada. He is fluent in German and Chinese and conversational in French.