Jonathan Mirsky was born in New York in 1932 and educated at Columbia University, Cambridge University, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught Chinese and Vietnamese history, Comparative Literature, and Chinese at Cambridge University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Dartmouth College.

In 1974, Mirsky moved to England. From 1993 to 1998 he was based in Hong Kong as the East Asia editor of The Times (London). Previously he wrote for The Observer, The Economist, and The Independent. He is a regular writer for The New York Review of Books, Literary Review, and The Spectator, as well as a contributor to a range of other journals.

Mirsky broadcasts frequently on radio and TV and was part of the BBC team in China during the Queen of England's visit in 1986. He has accompanied Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries to Beijing, has interviewed the Dalai Lama, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, and Lee Teng-hui, and has visited Tibet six times throughout the course of his long residence and travel in Asia.

Mirsky has lectured to the Royal National Defense College, the Institute for International Affairs, and at many universities. In 1989, he was named British newspapers' International Reporter of the Year for his coverage of the Tiananmen uprising. In 1999, Dr. Mirsky was a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard and in 2002 he was the I.F. Stone Fellow in the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Last Updated: April 3, 2014

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...

How Tibet Is Being Crushed—While the Dalai Lama Survives

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
If you read every page of Tsering Woeser’s latest book and skip the first and last chapters of Tsering Topgyal’s, the ultimate message about the situation in Tibet is often the same. Chinese rule, writes Woeser, is no less than “ethnic oppression,”...

China: The Benefits of Persecution?

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
During decades of reading and reviewing books on China I have learned a great deal, even from those I didn’t like. Only a few have surprised me. Mao’s Lost Children is such a book, and those like me who believe that the Mao period was bad for China...

The Bloodthirsty Deng We Didn’t Know

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
“Deng was…a bloody dictator who, along with Mao, was responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people, thanks to the terrible social reforms and unprecedented famine of 1958–1962.” This is the conclusion of Alexander Pantsov and Steven...

Pope Francis’ China Problem

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
China-watchers, friends of Tibet, and admirers of Pope Francis were amazed and disappointed last week when the Pope announced he would not be meeting the Dalai Lama during the Tibetan leader’s visit to Rome. The Dalai Lama was there with other...

Taking Aim at Hong Kong

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
A surge of emotion washed through me on Sunday night as I watched tens of thousands of protesters fill the streets of Hong Kong on television. It was the same feeling I had in Beijing on the nights leading up to the killings in Tiananmen Square on...

Tibet Resists

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
Tsering Woeser was born in Lhasa in 1966, the daughter of a senior officer in the Chinese army. She became a passionate supporter of the Dalai Lama. When she was very young the family moved to Tibetan towns inside China proper. In school, only...

Conversation

06.23.14

The Debate Over Confucius Institutes

Robert Kapp, Jeffrey Wasserstrom & more
Last week, the American Association of University Professors joined a growing chorus of voices calling on North American universities to rethink their relationship with Confucius Institutes, the state-sponsored Chinese-language programs...

Tiananmen: How Wrong We Were

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
Twenty-five years ago to the day I write this, I watched and listened as thousands of Chinese citizens in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square dared to condemn their leaders. Some shouted “Premier Li Peng resign.” Even braver ones cried “Down with Deng...

China: Five Pounds of Facts

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
No one seems to have measured exactly how old Chinese civilization is, but Endymion Wilkinson can probably give a more precise answer than anyone else. “1.6 billion minutes separate us from the Zhou conquest of the Shang,” he informs us at the...

The Surprising Empress

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
In the mid-1950s, when I was a graduate student of Chinese history, the Manchu Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908) was invariably condemned as a reactionary hate figure; Mao Zedong was admired. In the textbooks of that time, leading American scholars...

Who’s Afraid of Chinese Money?

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
“China is what it is. We have to be here or nowhere.” Chancellor George Osborne, Britain’s second-highest official, was laying out the British government’s view last week, near the end of his trip aimed at selling Britain to Chinese companies...