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 the voice of the author struggle to make China intelligible to the outside world.

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 said on
June 8, 2015

He is himself a dramatist;

Let him rewrite a few lines here and there,

he’ll approve the rest.

CYRANO (His face falls again.)


My blood curdles to think of altering

One comma.


Ah, but when he likes a thing

He pays well.


Yes – but not so well as I –

When I have made a line that sings itself

So that I love the sound of it – I pay

Myself a hundred times. (II. 335-346)
 said on
June 9, 2015
Great podcast and recommendations. Was just thinking - I'm not sure who you might call upon to discuss this, maybe a book publisher - whether it might be interesting to talk about readers in China, what sort of things people read, how they read... Sort of the flipside to the discussion of writers. I bought a Kindle in China, mainly so I could download Amazon.cn stuff which is not sold overseas, and a friend could not understand - she commented that the Kindle was extremely expensive and there was so much free literature accessible via smartphones anyway. She didn't understand how the Kindle was even a viable business in China, other than for foreigners. But I was thinking that while there are some good handphone novels, if people only read web literature, they'd be missing so much. So am curious generally what sort of reading habits people have - would it be a surprise to see people reading books on the train? Do people read more international writing or more domestic writing? Fiction or non-fiction? Is a voracious reader someone looked up to, or considered a nerd? Not very original questions I guess but I'd be curious how these match up to other countries.
 said on
June 12, 2015
Kaiser, homogeneous should be pronouced as [ˌhəˈmɒdʒi:nəs] or [ˌhoʊməˈdʒi:niəs]? I thought it to be the latter and am not quite sure.
 said on
June 16, 2015

Kaiser Kuo:

Audio book version

The Age of Louis XIV: The Story of Civilization, Book 8. Accessed June 15, 2015.


David Moser:

Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck. Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, n.d.

Ian Johnson:

Lianke, Yan. The Four Books. Translated by Carlos Rojas. Grove Press, 2015.

Jeremy GoldKorn:

Wainaina, Binyavanga. “How to Write about Africa.” GRANTA. Accessed June 15, 2015.


“A Righteous View of History - China Media Project.” Accessed June 15, 2015.


Mark Lesson Studied