Journalists Reflect on Covering China, Then and Now

It was 1979. China had established diplomatic relations with the U.S. and allowed the first U.S. bureaus into the People’s Republic, to present a more "open" China to the world.

We interviewed Mike Chinoy, CNN's former Beijing Bureau Chief and Senior Asia Correspondent, who is currently a Senior Fellow at the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California, about his experience as one of the first American journalists reporting from China. In the videos below, Chinoy reflects on the challenges journalists faced in China at that time and how the media covers China today. He also answers a question posted from Greg Smith on Twitter on what happened behind the scenes when Chinese officials ordered CNN off the air during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Chinoy is working on a multi-part documentary on the history of American correspondents in China dating back to the 1940s. Assignment: China was screened on September 7 at the Asia Society in New York and was described by Washington Post Beijing correspondent Keith Richburg as a “must-see for anyone interested in the media, China, or both.”

The screening was followed by a discussion with some of these pioneering journalists: Chinoy, Richard Bernstein of Time Magazine, and Bruce Dunning of CBS. The conversation was moderated by Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of the Center on US-China Relations at Asia Society.

Bernstein said that China’s leadership is more closed off to reporters today, while its civil society has become more responsive. Chinoy noted that after the Tiananmen Square protests, it was difficult to separate the image of China from the iconic photo of "The Tank Man." He did this by illustrating that the precise spot where the man once stopped the tank is now the site of the largest McDonald’s in the world. Schell concluded the conversation by saying that in China, equal and opposite things are happening at the same time.

Journalist Reflects on Covering China's "Opening Up"

Behind the Scenes: CNN at Tiananmen Square


Assignment: China Trailer

About the Author

Profile picture for user Shreeya Sinha
Shreeya Sinha is an award-winning Journalist, Multimedia Producer and Social Media Editor for Asia Society. She was raised in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and India.