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: April 1, 2021



Chinese Environmentalists, in Their Own Words

Michael Zhao
Earlier this year, ChinaFile’s Environment Editor, Michael Zhao, teamed up with Phoenix Online to create a series of two-minute documentaries on the work, ideas, and aspirations of Chinese environmental advocates. The environmentalists, many of whom...



Here’s How This Giant Chinese Forest Disappeared

Michael Zhao
In early August, Greenpeace China’s forest campaigner Wu Hao wrote a piece in the environmental section of the newspaper Southern Weekly about China’s astonishing rate of deforestation. He posted dramatic before and after satellite images of forests...



China Grows An Interest in Organic Foods

Michael Zhao
Late last month, news broke that a major Chinese supplier of American fast food brands was peddling meat that violated food safety standards.How do such scandals affect the way people in China feed themselves and their families? Chang Tianle, a...



How Responsible Are Americans for China’s Pollution Problem?

David Vance Wagner, Alex Wang & more
David Vance Wagner: China’s latest “airpocalypse” has again sent air pollution in Beijing soaring to hazardous levels for days straight. Though the Chinese government has made admirable progress recently at confronting the long-term air pollution...



China: What’s Going Right?

Michael Zhao, James Fallows & more
Michael Zhao:On a recent trip to China, meeting mostly with former colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, I got a dose of optimism and hope for one aspect of the motherland. In terms of science, or laying down a solid foundation for better...



Is the One Child Policy Finished—And Was It a Failure?

Dorinda Elliott, Alexa Olesen & more
Dorinda Elliott:China’s recent decision to phase out the agency that oversees the one-child policy has raised questions about whether the policy itself will be dropped—and whether it was a success or a failure.Aside from the...



Airpocalypse Now: China’s Tipping Point?

Alex Wang, Orville Schell & more
The recent run of air pollution in China, we now know, has been worse than the air quality in airport smoking lounges. At its worst, Beijing air quality has approached levels only seen in the United States during wildfires.All of the comparisons to...



Hot Air?

Michael Zhao
It has been a busy season for U.S. diplomatic activity in China. Given the tensions aroused by U.S. involvement in the Bo Xilai scandal and the flight of the blind activist Chen Guangcheng, perhaps it should come as no surprise that even relatively...

Apple, Cadmium Spill and Poyang Lake

Michael Zhao
As the world's most valuable public company, Apple has been trying hard to keep up with a world wide cult and demand for its iPhones, iPads and other products. Yet, the pressure on Apple to clean up its supply chain in China has also been...