Ian Johnson is a Pulitzer-Prize winning correspondent, writing for The New York TimesThe New York Review of Books, The New Yorker and other publications. He is also an advising editor of the Journal of Asian Studies and a senior policy fellow at Merics, a Berlin foundation specializing in China.

 Johnson has spent half of the past thirty years in the Greater China region, first as a student in Beijing in 1984 to '85, and in Taipei from 1986 to 1988. He later worked as a correspondent in China from 1994 to 2001, first with Baltimore's The Sun and then The Wall Street Journal, where he covered macro economics, China's WTO accession and social issues.

He studied and reported from Berlin between 1988 and 1992, covering the fall of the Berln Wall and German unification for Baltimore's The Sun and other newspapers. He moved back to Berlin in 2001, where he served as The Wall Street Journal's Germany bureau chief for five years, heading coverage of European macro-economics, introduction of the euro, German economic restructuring, and social issues such as Islamist terrorism. He returned to China in 2009.

 In 2001, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of China. He has been a Nieman fellow at Harvard and received grants from the Open Society Foundation and the Alicia Patterson Foundation.

 Johnson has published two books, one on civil society and grassroots protest in China (Wild Grass, 2004) and another on Islamism and the Cold War in Europe (A Mosque in Munich, 2010), and contributed chapters to three other books: My First Trip to China (2011), Chinese Characters (2012), and the forthcoming Oxford Illustrated History of China (2016). 

 

Last Updated: May 22, 2015

‘The Biggest Taboo’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
One of China’s most influential artists is forty-eight-year-old Qiu Zhijie. A native of southern China’s Fujian province, Qiu studied art in the eastern city of Hangzhou before moving to Beijing in 1994 to pursue a career as a contemporary artist...

Sexual Life in Modern China

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, Chinese writers grappled with the traumas of the Mao period, seeking to make sense of their suffering. As in the imperial era, most had been servants of the state, loyalists who might criticize but never seek to...

Features

09.08.17

A Drag Queen for the Dearly Departed

Ian Johnson & Tomoko Kikuchi
In the good old days, about three thousand years ago, people really knew how to mourn the dead. That was back in the Zhou dynasty, when there was no laughing in the dead person’s house, no sighing while eating, and no singing while walking down a...

When the Law Meets the Party

Ian Johnson
Like an army defeated but undestroyed, China’s decades-long human rights movement keeps reassembling its lines after each disastrous loss, miraculously fielding new forces in the battle against an illiberal state. Each time, foot soldiers and...

Liu Xiaobo: The Man Who Stayed

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
In 1898, some of China’s most brilliant minds allied themselves with the Emperor Guangxu, a young ruler who was trying to assert himself by forcing through reforms to open up China’s political, economic, and educational systems. But opponents...

Novels from China’s Moral Abyss

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Modern China was built on the nearly thirty ruthless years of Mao’s rule. The country’s elite—the “literati” of educated small landowners who held the empire together at the local level—was brutally eliminated. Almost everyone’s personal life was...

Recreating China’s Imagined Empire

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
China’s influence in the world has become a persistent theme of these early days of the Donald Trump era. During his campaign, Trump portrayed China (not entirely incorrectly) as the leading malefactor in the politics of international trade—holding...

Media

04.19.17

ChinaFile Presents: Ian Johnson on ‘The Souls of China’

Ian Johnson & Ian Buruma
On April 13, ChinaFile and The New York Review of Books co-hosted the launch of author Ian Johnson’s new book The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao at the Asia Society’s New York headquarters. Johnson discussed the book with Ian...

Liberating China’s Past

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
With the closing of this month’s National People’s Congress, China’s political season is upon us. It will culminate in the autumn with Xi Jinping’s almost certain reappointment to another five-year term. With Xi rapidly becoming the most important...

Conversation

03.22.17

China Writers Remember Robert Silvers

Ian Johnson, Orville Schell & more
Robert Silvers died on Monday, March 20, after serving as The New York Review of Books Editor since 1963. Over almost six decades, Silvers cultivated one of the most interesting, reflective, and lustrous stables of China writers in the world, some...

Xi Jinping: The Illusion of Greatness

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Politics is always about pomp and pageantry, but as pure, stultifying ritual few occasions can compare to the convening of the Chinese parliament, the National People’s Congress, which ended this week. No matter what is happening in China or the...

Conversation

03.15.17

How Does China’s Imperial Past Shape Its Foreign Policy Today?

Pamela Kyle Crossley, Jeremiah Jenne & more
Throughout most of history China dominated Asia, up until what many Chinese refer to as the “century of humiliation”—when Japan and Western powers invaded or otherwise interfered between 1839 and 1949. Now, with China on the rise again, are Beijing’...

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