Ian Johnson is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist who has lived in Beijing and Taiwan for more than half of the past 30 years, writing for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books and other publications. Ian has written two books: one on civil society and grassroots protest in China (Wild Grass) and another on Islamism and the Cold War in Europe (A Mosque in Munich). His next book, The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao will be published in April 2017.
Ian has covered the gamut of religious topics in China from the recent tightening of controls on the faithful to shariah with Chinese characteristics to Taoism, and is uniquely qualified to discuss the subject of this episode of the Sinica Podcast: the complicated relationship between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist Party. Kaiser, Jeremy, and frequent guest host David Moser talk to Ian about the Catholic Church in China: the arrival of Jesuit missionaries in the 16th century, the current state of Catholicism and what the recent apparent warming of relations between the Church and the Party means.
Jeremy: Continental Shift: A Journey into Africa's Changing Fortunes, by Kevin Bloom and Richard Poplak.
Ian: The Missionary's Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village, by Henrietta Harrison.
David: The Mandarin learning website Hacking Chinese.
Kaiser: The Westworld TV series.
John Pomfret first went to China as a student in 1980 and covered the Tiananmen demonstrations in 1989 for the Associated Press. He was expelled for his efforts, but returned to Beijing a decade later to head up the Washington Post’s Beijing bureau. For more on his experience and some compelling and little-known stories, listen to the first half of this two-part Sinica Podcast and read our accompanying Sinica backgrounder.
In this week’s episode, Kaiser and Jeremy continue to talk with John about his new book, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom, which charts the history of America’s relationship with China. John explains that the countries have been intertwined long before the ping-pong diplomacy often credited for ushering in U.S.-China relations in the early 1970s. You can read the short prologue to John’s book, republished with permission here.
Kaiser: The albums Tarkus and Welcome Back, My Friends, to the Show That Never Ends ~ Ladies and Gentlemen, by Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
John Pomfret was 14 years old when Henry Kissinger began interacting with China in secret. He took his fascination to Stanford University’s East Asian Studies program, where he was among a select group of exchange students invited to spend a year at Nanjing University in 1980, shortly after Nixon established diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China.
John went back to China as a reporter for the AP in 1988, nine months before the Tiananmen demonstrations, and was expelled from the country after covering the protests’ violent turn. He returned to China again in 1998 to head up the Washington Post’s Beijing bureau. John has also reported from Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.
In this week’s episode, Kaiser and Jeremy talk to John about his new book, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom, which charts the history of America’s relationship with China. John explains that the countries have been intertwined long before the ping-pong diplomacy often credited for ushering in U.S.-China relations in the early 1970s.
Wu Fei is a classically trained composer and performer of the guzheng, or traditional Chinese 21-string zither. Abigail Washburn is a Grammy Award–winning American banjo player and fluent speaker of Chinese. They’ve been friends for a decade and are now recording an album together. They sat down with Jeremy and Kaiser to talk about their paths to becoming musicians, and how their new work is melding Chinese and American folk music.
We’re excited to include in this podcast a number of songs by the duo that have not yet been released elsewhere. We hope you enjoy this special episode of Sinica.
Wu Fei: Gabriel Prokofiev
Kaiser: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
Edward Wong became a reporter for The New York Times in 1999. He covered the Iraq war from Baghdad from 2003 to 2007, and then moved to Beijing in 2008. He has written about a wide range of subjects in China for the Times, and became its Beijing bureau chief in 2014. For more on Ed’s background and samples of his reporting, find our Sinica backgrounder here.
Ed is a regular guest on the Sinica Podcast, with many appearances going back to August 2011, when he joined the show to discuss his profile of documentary filmmaker Zhao Liang and self-censorship in the arts scene at that time. Since then, he has appeared on many Sinica episodes, including a discussion of the “trial of the century” (which resulted in the conviction of senior Communist Party leader Bo Xilai for bribery, abuse of power and embezzlement) and what it meant for media transparency, and an episode in which Ed drew on his years as a war correspondent in Iraq to comment on China’s view of the Middle East in the age of the Islamic State.
In this week’s episode, Kaiser and Jeremy talk to Ed about the state of foreign correspondence in China: the differences in today’s reporting environment compared with a decade ago, and how media companies deal with censorship and hostility from the Chinese government.
Kaiser: “Can Xi pivot from China’s disrupter-in-chief to reformer-in-chief?,” by Damien Ma.