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 6, 2021

The Empire Strikes Back

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
“President Bush still regards you as his friend, a friend forever,” Brent Scowcroft told Deng Xiaoping in Beijing on December 10, six months and seven days after Deng ordered the People’s Liberation Army into Tiananmen Square. In Washington, the...

Stories from the Ice Age

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
Since the Tiananmen Square killings it has become fashionable within the Chinese leadership to refer to dissident intellectuals as “scum.” That was Mao’s view, too. In 1942, the chairman, his armies besieged by both Chiang Kai-shek and the Japanese...

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
Just before the recent demonstrations in Beijing and other cities, which shook the Party to its foundations, a rumor ran through the capital: Mao Zedong’s body, embalmed and mounted in the ugly Memorial Hall which disfigures Tiananmen Square...

Mao and Snow

John K. Fairbank & Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
In response to:Message from Mao from the February 16, 1989 issueTo the Editors:Edgar Snow was set up by Mao and mugged by the Cold War. I first met him in 1932 in Peking and kept more or less in touch during the next forty years of his life. I think...

Message from Mao

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
In Kansas City, Missouri, the family of Edgar Snow, whose Red Star Over China was to introduce Mao Zedong to the world, employed a black washerwoman, Crazy Mary, who hated one of her Chinese competitors. To enrage the man she taught young Edgar to...

Report from the China Sea

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
Since the Communist victory in 1949 there has been very little contact between Americans and Chinese. Although a tiny community of aging Americans continues to live in Peking, no American, except for Edgar Snow, has traveled widely in the People’s...