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Talking Points, February 27 - March 12, 2014

This issue of the USC U.S.-China Institute's newsletter discusses "China Watching," a new documentary from the institute. As always, the newsletter includes a comprehensive calendar of China-centered events across North America.

February 27, 2014

Talking Points

February 27 - March 12, 2014


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Most who subscribe to Talking Points consider themselves China watchers of one sort or another. Some are Chinese and others are not and some live in China while others do not. But most readers are trying to make sense of a large and diverse place undergoing some of the most remarkable changes in human history. None of us can grasp it all, most of us focus on one aspect or place or group of people or another.

Even so, we’re all better off than the China watchers of fifty or sixty years ago. In the 1950s and

1960s, it was difficult and rare for Americans to visit China and for Chinese to visit the U.S. Travel to and within China has never been as easy or convenient as it mostly is today. And Chinese are going abroad to study, work, travel and otherwise engage with others. On an average day in 2012, for example, 6,000 Americans and 4,000 Chinese traveled to each other’s country. Outbound travel from China is booming and, hoping to further cash in, the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board announced yesterday it was launching a multi-pronged “Ni Hao” campaign.



China’s government is making it harder for some news organizations to station reporters they want in China and reporting there remains especially challenging, but there are more American reporters in China today than ever before. And the Chinese government has been aggressively moving to reach American audiences with its view of China and of the world. Many news organizations are contracting, but CCTV America is hiring.

China watchers today have much greater access than specialists did fifty and sixty years ago and in many ways we’re drowning in information. But in many important areas, reliable information is scarce and puzzles abound. Even today, the analytical skills of the best China watchers are still in demand. Getting a handle on decision-making and on political maneuvering still requires knowledge of interests and alliances, norms, rituals, and nuances of language.


The new segment in our Assignment:China series focuses on the China Watching pioneers. You can watch it now at our website or our YouTube channel or download it from our iTunes collection.


China Watching is the term practitioners and outsiders used to describe the effort that reporters, diplomats, and others excluded from China engaged in so as to understand what was happening in China and what it meant for the U.S. and the world. After Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communists came to power in 1949 most American journalists and

William Worthy wrote for the Baltimore Afro-American and was one of the few American journalists to visit China, here with Zhou Enlai in 1957.

others working for U.S. news organizations left China. The U.S. did not recognize the new government and U.S. diplomatic posts were closed. By fall 1950, soldiers from the two countries were facing each other on Korean battlefields. China generally did not welcome journalists from countries with which it did not have diplomatic relations and the U.S. State Department ruled that U.S. passports were not valid for travel to China. These restrictions eased a bit by the 1960s, but over the next two decades few journalists were able to report from China for U.S. news organizations. Those who did get in, by virtue of not being U.S. citizens or through special invitation were closely monitored. Most American reporting on China was done from the “listening post” of Hong Kong.


Interviews with a number of Hong Kong-based China Watchers, both reporters and diplomats, power this segment. We learn about essential role played by a Hungarian Jesuit priest and his team, by intelligence agencies, and by interviews with businesspeople and migrants. China Watching also features interviews with journalists such as Morley Safer and John

 Well-known China Watcher Robert Elegant spoke at USC in 1967.

Burns, non-citizens whose work was carried by U.S. news organizations and with Robert Cohen, who visited in 1957 as a member of a youth delegation and whose reports were carried by NBC. During this period, the U.S. journalist with the best access in China was Edgar Snow, who made three trips. Snow’s access, of course, stemmed from his key role in visiting the Chinese Communist Party’s Yan’an base in the 1930s and reporting on what he saw and heard. Snow’s biographer, John Maxwell Hamilton, is among those interviewed and China Watching features part of an interview Snow conducted with Premier Zhou Enlai during his 1960 visit. In 1970, of course, Mao used Snow to signal his willingness to welcome U.S. President Richard Nixon to China. In his notes, Snow wrote, “[Nixon] can just get on a plane and come.”


Assignment:China segments on the 1972 Nixon trip and on the work of the first Americans to be based in China following the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1979 are already available at our website. End of an Era, on the period 1972-76, will be available in March. In April we will begin screening our newest segments on the mid-to-late 1980s.


Also available at our website are videos from two recent USC U.S.-China Institute events. Earlier this month, we hosted a symposium on America’s ties in East and Southeast Asia and prospects for peace and prosperity there. Andrew Yang, Taiwan’s former defense minister, opened the discussion by arguing that the Korean War and America’s 1950s security treaties with Japan and Taiwan represented the first “pivot” or “rebalancing” to Asia. Others looked at the roles of regional and international trade organizations, the rise of nationalism, cross-strait relations, and cultural exchange in assessing the current regional situation, potential conflict points, and possible areas of cooperation. Click here to watch those presentations.

We also hosted a talk by Geoff Dyer a Financial Times foreign correspondent with long experience in both China and the United States. Dyer’s written The Contest of the Century in which he argues that China’s growth and need for resources and markets to continue growing has brought it into competition with the U.S. in many realms. He discussed his book and his point that cooperation is in the best interests of both countries. Click here for his presentation.

On Friday, Feb. 28 the USC Center on Public Diplomacy is hosting a conference looking at how countries such as China, India, Turkey, and Poland are using cultural diplomacy and how an established power, Great Britain, is using cultural diplomacy in emerging markets. The USC U.S.-China Institute is co-sponsoring of the panel on China’s efforts to strength its soft power through Confucius Institutes. We hope you can join us.


All of these projects require resources. We’re grateful to those whose support makes them possible. We’d especially like to highlight a gift from Ming Hsu and Nate Rich in honor of John Rich, Nate’s father and a distinguished Asia-based journalist. Their generosity is helping to make the Assignment:China project possible.

We need and appreciate donations of any size. If you’d like to support us, please click on the button below or go to

Thank you for reading Talking Points. Please share it with friends and colleagues. We always appreciate hearing from you. Please write to us at


Best wishes,
The USC U.S.-China Institute

 -- a program of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism


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USCeventsUSC Events 


Annenberg School, Annenberg Auditorium
Los Angeles, CA 90089
Time: 8:15AM - 4:00PM
Please register at here.  
USC Center on Public Diplomacy hosts its 2014 conference examining the impact of soft power for emerging countries, such as China.
Ahn House (AHN)
Los Angeles, CA 90089
Time: 1:00PM - 5:00PM
USC East Asian Studies Center hosts a Graduate Mentoring Workshop with West Coast Asian International Relations Specialists

The Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre, SCA 112, George Lucas Building
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Times: 7:00PM
Seeking Asian Female is a feature-length personal documentary about the unlikely romance of Steven and Jianhua - an American man obsessed with marrying any Asian woman and the Chinese woman half his age who agrees online to become his fiancé. 

CACalifornia Events
UCLA, Bunche Hall 10383
11381 Bunche Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095
Time: 4:00PM - 5:30PM
Professor Wang will discuss some of the most difficult environmental challenges China is facing.
Chinese American Museum
425 North Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Time: 12:00PM - 10:00PM
A signature event for CAM and now a beloved community tradition, CAM’s annual Lantern Festival celebration offers Chinese New Year fanfare with free entertainment and interactive cultural activities for people of diverse backgrounds and ages to enjoy.
Golden Dragon Restaurant
960 N. Broadway St. , Los Angeles, CA 90012
Time: 6:00PM - 9:00PM
The China Society of Southern California present a discussion with prominent film producer, Janet Yang.
University of San Francisco, Fromm Hall, Berman Room
San Francisco, CA 94117
Time: 5:00PM - 6:30PM
University of San Francisco Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History hosts a discussion of early modern scientific texts translated jointly by Christian missionaries and Chinese literati.
UCLA, Schoenberg Hall
445 Charles E Young Drive East, Los Angeles, CA 90095
Time: 8:00PM - 10:15PM
The Hangzhou Yueju Opera Company ( (杭州越剧院 will present "Hedda" (海达), also called "Aspiration Sky High" (心比天高).
Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Time: 8:00PM
Join prize-winning author Nicole Mones as she discusses Night in Shanghai, her epic novel about jazz, war, and the Holocaust. 
NANorth America Events


Indiana University, Maurer School of Law Moot Courtroom, Room 123 
Bloomington, IN 47405 
Time: 4:00PM - 5:00PM 
Indiana University East Asian Studies Center hosts a screening of "Imported From China," a half-hour documentary film that follows students from China who are finding a place in a college setting and within the larger U.S. context.


Wesleyan University Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies, FEAS Seminar Room 
343 Washington Terrace, Middletown, CT 06459 
Time: 4:30PM - 6:00PM 
The Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies hosts a discussion with Jonathan Goldstein on The history of Sino-Israeli relations.


Indiana University, East Asian Studies Center, Student Building Room 150 
1021 East Third Street, Memorial Hall West 207 
Bloomington, IN 47405 
Time: 12:00PM - 1:15PM 
Indiana University hosts the sixth EASC colloquium of the spring semester 


Harvard University, CGIS Knafel Building, Bowie-Vernon Room (K262) 
1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 
Time: 4:15PM 
Eight influential experts from China will give a forecast for 2014 after the Third Plenum. They will also discuss the Plenum’s long-term impact, from the perspectives of politics, economy, law, minority affairs, and foreign policies.


Asia Society New York 
725 Park Avenue at 70th Street, New York, NY 10021 
Time: 6:30PM - 8:00PM 
The Asia Society hosts a discussion with author Amy Tan, followed by a book signing.
19 University Place Room 102,  
New York, NY 10003 United States 
Time: 6:00PM - 0:00PM 
A gathering of performers and guest speakers will discuss some of today’s urgent issues, linking them back to divisive and corrosive stereotypes, policies, and practices.
Below are exhibitions ending in the next two weeks. Please visit the main exhibitions calendarfor a complete list of ongoing exhibitions.

Rosendin Atrium

University of Southern California School of Architecture

Los Angeles, CA 90007

An Exhibition of Work from the Study Abroad Programs 

USC U.S.-China Institute | 3535 S. Figueroa Street, FIG 202 | Los Angeles | CA | 90089

Tel: 213-821-4382 | Fax: 213-821-2382 | |   

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