Michael Zhao is a multimedia producer who focuses on environmental issues in China. From 2003 to 2005, he was a News Assistant in the Beijing Bureau of The New York Times, where he worked with Pulitzer Prize winners Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley. While reporting with Yardley on the shrinking Crescent Lake in Dunhuang, Gansu province, a tourist spot along the ancient Silk Road in Northwestern China, Zhao took a picture with his point-and-shoot camera that ended up being used on the front page of the Times despite his lack of professional training in photography at that time.

Zhao later attended the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied multimedia journalism and switched focus from print to new media. He finished a thesis project in multimedia about electronic waste from developed countries being dumped in China. This project was advised by Orville Schell, who was then Dean of the School of Journalism. Zhao now works for Schell in the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York. With the Center, Zhao has launched China Green, a site focusing on China’s environmental issues. He has also recently launched China Air Daily, an interactive website on air pollution.

Last Updated: May 2, 2014

Environment

07.19.16

Schoolkids Suffer Toxic Air at Recycled Rubber Athletic Tracks

Michael Zhao
Chinese are known for recycling, and recycling everything. The industry is even responsible for making billionaires, like China’s “wastepaper queen” Zhang Yin.Yet when factories recycle irresponsibly, the consequences can be dire. Reports...

Green Space

05.18.16

Time Traveling Through Dramatic Urbanization in China Over Decades

Michael Zhao
Twenty-six years ago, only 26 percent of the Chinese population lived in urban areas. Since then, China’s urbanization rate has risen to almost 56 percent, meaning hundreds of millions of people have packed themselves into the country’s 662 cities...

Green Space

05.11.16

The Dark Side of Country Life

Michael Zhao
The last time we peeked at Lei Hu’s photo blog, Lei was giving us a cheery look at a China that we rarely get to see: the countryside and its beauty. But there’s a dark side to country life in China, as well, and a new blog post from Lei explores...

Green Space

04.13.16

Chinese Love Affair with Cars, and Tesla

Michael Zhao
Chinese love their cars. With the emergence of a large middle class, and in spite of restrictions on daily car use in some cities, many Chinese households are choosing to keep a second and sometimes even a third automobile. The world’s most populous...

Green Space

03.25.16

Facebook CEO Defies China Smog; Spoof Projects Nostril-Hair Air Filters

Michael Zhao
At least a few of Facebook’s 1.5 billion users now know that founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg ran several miles in some of Beijing’s most notorious smog on Friday March 18 while he was in the city attending a conference. Famously sharing his...

Green Space

03.14.16

Leonardo DiCaprio Wins Oscar and Green Chinese Hearts

Michael Zhao
The Oscars are a big deal among Chinese movie fans. So it was an especially big deal last month when Leonardo DiCaprio, whose fame in China is as big as the name of the film which held the box office crown there from 1997-2009—Titanic—became what...

Green Space

02.29.16

The Odd Shapes of PM2.5

Michael Zhao
A recent episode of “Approaching Science,” a CCTV documentary series, discussed the smog that’s been choking the mainland for the past few years. The show interviews scientists and laypeople to paint a comprehensive picture of the challenges that...

Green Space

02.16.16

Gorging on Gadgets

Michael Zhao
Documentary filmmaker Sue Williams is finishing up her latest documentary about our beloved electronic gadgets, Death By Design. I was involved in the project and traveled with Williams to south China’s Guangdong province, to the the town of Guiyu,...

Green Space

02.04.16

Rescuing China’s Abused Animals

Michael Zhao
We start with a heartwarming note, which I recently heard about in a New Year’s greeting from Animals Asia, a NGO started by Jill Robinson, originally from the U.K., in Chengdu to rescue Asian bears from their torture-chamber-like cages throughout...

Green Space

01.27.16

Kunming’s Stinky Lake, Beijing’s Saving Winds

Michael Zhao
Lake Dian in Kunming, the capital of southwest China’s Yunnan province, suffered greatly when, in the 1950s, Chairman Mao Zedong called on the Chinese people to “conquer nature” and reclaim land by filling lakes with soil.Nowadays, Dianchi, as it’s...

Green Space

01.22.16

Sea Level Rise In Pictures, Cancer Villages Near Beijing

Michael Zhao
I think a big part of the reason why citizens of the world have not rallied to deal with climate change is the lack of a certain deadline that would warrant our immediate response to the grave consequences of our warming planet. There is no...

Green Space

12.22.15

Nu River Saved, Jack Ma Buys Preservation Land

Michael Zhao
A great piece of news came from China on the night of December 16, that the Yunnan provincial government in southwest China has announced its decision to not develop hydro-electric projects on the Nu River, also known as the Salween (link in Chinese...