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

Is Democracy Chinese?

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Chang Ping is one of China’s best-known commentators on contemporary affairs. Chang, whose real name is Zhang Ping, first established himself in the late 1990s in Guangzhou, where his hard-hitting stories exposed scandals and championed freedom of...

Notes from a Chinese Cave: Qigong’s Quiet Return

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Lift up your head Calm your eyes Look far away, as far as you can Look beyond the walls What do you see?The Jinhua caves are located in a wooded, hilly area about 200 miles southwest of Shanghai. The most famous cave, Double Dragon Cave, is entered...

Do China’s Village Protests Help the Regime?

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Over the past two weeks, the Western press has focused on a striking story out of China: a riveting series of protests in Wukan, a fishing village in the country’s prosperous south. The story is depressingly familiar: Corrupt cadres sell off public...

China Gets Religion!

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
This autumn, China has been marking the one hundredth anniversary of the collapse of its last imperial dynasty, the Qing, with a series of grand celebrations. The government has released an epic film showing how the revolution of 1911 prepared the...

Are China’s Rulers Getting Religion?

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
With worsening inflation, a slowing economy, and growing concerns about possible social unrest, China’s leaders have a lot on their plates these days. And yet when the Communist Party met at its annual plenum earlier this week, the issue given...

My First Trip


Deng's Heyday

Ian Johnson
When I began thinking about writing this piece, my first trip to China in 1984 had seemed like a disappointment. Unlike today, this was the China of Great Events: the launch of bold reforms and an era of intellectual ferment unlike any since. Before...

‘I’m Not Interested in Them; I Wish They Weren’t Interested in Me’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Amid the recent crackdown on dissidents by the Chinese government, the case of Liao Yiwu, the well-known poet and chronicler of contemporary China, is particularly interesting. For years, Liao’s work, which draws on extensive interviews with...

The High Price of the New Beijing

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
One recent weekend, I went for a walk through the alleys around the Qianmen shopping district, once Beijing’s commercial heart and still home to nationally known traditional shops. One of its chief side streets, Dazhalan, had been turned into a Ye...

China’s Glorious New Past

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
I first went to Datong in 1984 and was immediately taken by this gritty city in China’s northern Shanxi Province. Along with half a dozen classmates from Peking University, I traveled eight hours on an overnight train, arriving in a place that felt...

China Misunderstood: Did We Contribute to Ai Weiwei’s Arrest?

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Like many artists, Ai Weiwei enjoys provoking. It isn’t just his finger-to-the-Chinese-government images that he has become known for but also how he does it: his obsessive-compulsive documentation of himself in photos, blogs, tweets, and rants into...

Finding the Facts About Mao’s Victims

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Yang Jisheng is an editor of Annals of the Yellow Emperor, one of the few reform-oriented political magazines in China. Before that, the seventy-year-old native of Hubei province was a national correspondent with the government-run Xinhua news...

Rumblings of Reform in Beijing?

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Over the past six weeks, China’s thin class of the politically aware has been gripped by a faint hope that maybe, against all odds, some sort of political opening might be in the cards this year. Monday’s conclusion of a key Communist Party meeting...