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Writers: Heroes in China?

A Sinica Podcast

If you happen to live in the anglophone world and aren’t closely tied to China by blood or professional ties, chances are that what you believe to be true about this country is heavily influenced by the opinions of perhaps one hundred other people, the reporters who cover China for the world’s leading media outlets and the writers who build a narrative to encompass it beyond the frenetic drumbeat of current affairs.

This week, Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn, and David Moser are joined by accomplished writer Ian Johnson to talk about this phenomenon at first generally, but then specifically with regards to a piece Ian recently authored in the New York Review of Books called “An American Hero in China,” a look into the way China has embraced Peter Hessler and his writings on the country. We try to make sense of how exactly reporting is done here, what sorts of editorial decisions are made that affect coverage, and how authors struggle to make China intelligible to the outside world.

An American Hero in China

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
One night in September, three hundred people crowded into the basement auditorium of an office tower in Beijing to hear a discussion between two of China’s most popular writers. One was Liu Yu, a thirty-eight-year-old political scientist and blogger...