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New Yorker: What Will It Cost to Cover China?

Author: Evan L. Osnos
November 19, 2013


"Today, the story is at once more accessible and more dangerous. To cover China is to chronicle the world's second-largest economy, a rising superpower, and one-fifth of the world's population. China is so central to our economic lives that journalists have had no choice but to engage China with greater technical analysis and precision."

The Chinese Communist Party generated hopeful headlines this month by acknowledging that it faces a time of reckoning: to prevent economic peril and rising unrest, the Party promised to overhaul the economy, to allow more parents to have two children instead of only one, and to end the arbitrary "reëducation through labor" system, among other changes. This is an attempt at political inoculation—the Party is betting that giving its people a heavier dose of autonomy will raise their immunity against the full infection of democracy. In case there was any confusion about the goal, the Party reiterated its determination to fortify its control of the country and to ward off the influx of values and information that it finds threatening.

Journalism on China is facing a time of reckoning as well. The foreign correspondent Paul Mooney, an American who has covered China for the past eighteen years, for Newsweek, the South China Morning Post, and others, has been denied a visa. To anyone familiar with his work, the reason is no mystery—it's outrageous, but familiar. He has been one of the most diligent and capable investigators of abuses of power. Mooney joins a list of other foreign correspondents—including Andrew Higgins and Melissa Chan—who have been denied entry, or have been forced to leave, in the past two years, because the Chinese government objects to how they do their work.

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