Leah Thompson is a multimedia producer and the Associate Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society. At the Center, she has produced videos on issues ranging from arts and culture to the Beijing Olympics, climate change, and foreign investment. Her recent work on the rural-urban divide in China has been published on ChinaFile and translated for the Chinese edition of The New York Times. In 2013, she received a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, along with her colleague Sun Yunfan, to continue their work covering a counter-urbanization effort in rural China.

Thompson is also the project director of COAL+ICE, an ongoing multimedia photography exhibition that opened at Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Beijing in 2011.

She holds a B.A. in History and American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.A. in History from San Francisco State University. She lives in Brooklyn.

Last Updated: July 10, 2015

Video

12.15.14

Down to the Countryside

Sun Yunfan & Leah Thompson
The world has heard much of late about the scale and scope of China’s mass migration from the poor rural countryside to its booming cities. Some think the number of these migrant workers will soon reach some 400 million souls. They have created...

Earthbound China

12.15.14

A Map of China’s Back-to-the-Land Efforts

Leah Thompson
In our short film “Down to the Countryside,” Sun Yunfan and I follow Ou Ning, an artist and curator who moved from Beijing to the village of Bishan in rural Anhui province in 2013, where he experiments with preserving and revitalizing local heritage...

Features

05.29.14

Why Defenders of Killer Whales Are Worried About China

Leah Thompson
Late last year, the circus came to Hengqin. Trained elephants from Thailand, Russian jugglers and monkies, Kazakh horses, Bengal tigers, and Cuban acrobats descended on the once-sleepy island near Macau for China’s “First International Circus...

Conversation

08.15.13

What Should China Do to Reverse its Tourism Deficit?

Leah Thompson, Damien Ma & more
Recent news stories and industry studies show that fewer international visitors are choosing China as their destination. January-June arrivals in Beijing are down 15% from the same period in 2012 and more Chinese than ever before are spending their...

Earthbound China

04.11.13

Moving House: Preserving Huizhou’s Vernacular Architecture

Leah Thompson & Sun Yunfan
In 1996, art historian Nancy Berliner, working with the Peabody Essex Museum, purchased a vacant Qing dynasty merchant’s house from the Huizhou region of China and, piece by piece, moved it to the United States to be meticulously reconstructed at...

Earthbound China

04.11.13

There Goes the Neighborhood

Sun Yunfan & Leah Thompson
When, in 1996, art historian Nancy Berliner purchased a late Qing dynasty merchants’ house from Huangcun, a village in Anhui province, it was just one ordinary house among thousands like it in the picturesque Huizhou region of China. It took...

Environment

02.14.13

A Progress Report on U.S.-China Energy & Climate Change Cooperation

Leah Thompson
In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama committed to confronting climate change, stating, “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it...

Earthbound China

01.23.13

Appalachia Comes to Anhui

Leah Thompson
This past fall, my colleague Sun Yunfan and I were preparing to bring Coal+Ice, the documentary photography exhibition we produce for Asia Society, to rural Anhui Province to participate in the Yixian International Photography Festival. Upon hearing...

Earthbound China

12.17.12

Unlikely Harvest

Leah Thompson
A little over month ago, I found myself traveling to rural Anhui province. Coal+Ice, the documentary photography exhibition I had produced for Asia Society, had been invited to exhibit at the Yixian International Photography Festival. Logistically,...