Ian Johnson reports from Beijing and Berlin. He is writing a book on China’s beliefs and values. (April 2016)


The New Face of Olympic Doping

A building housing a laboratory accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency, Moscow, November 11, 2015

Every Olympics seems to bring with it a doping scandal, and the Rio games are no different. The games have long been a proxy for national glory. Over the past decades, countries from Australia to united Germany have poured money into sports to improve their rankings on medal tables. But what we are seeing now is rules-twisting by national governments that mirrors a broader turn toward flouting international law.


A Revolutionary Discovery in China

Buried Ideas: Legends of Abdication and Ideal Government in Early Chinese Bamboo-Slip Manuscripts

by Sarah Allan
For over two millennia all our knowledge of China’s great philosophical schools was limited to texts revised after the Qin unification. Earlier versions and competing ideas were lost—until now.

An American Hero in China

Peter Hessler with the Huangs, a local fishing family described in his 2003 New Yorker essay ‘Underwater,’ on the rising waters of the Yangtze River shortly after the gates of the Three Gorges Dam were closed, Wushan, China, June 2003

Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West

by Peter Hessler

Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China

by Peter Hessler
One night in September, three hundred people crowded into the basement auditorium of an office tower in Beijing to hear a discussion between two of China’s most popular writers. One was Liu Yu, a thirty-eight-year-old political scientist and blogger who has written a best seller explaining how American democracy works.

China’s Brave Underground Journal

Young pioneers on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, 1965; photographs by Marc Riboud, whose exhibition ‘Witness at a Crossroads: Photographer Marc Riboud in Asia’ is at the Rubin Museum of Art, New York City, until March 23, 2015


an unofficial journal published in Tiantongyuan, China
On the last stretch of flatlands north of Beijing, just before the Mongolian foothills, lies the satellite city of Tiantongyuan. This rootless suburb is home to Remembrance, an underground journal that deals with one of China’s most sensitive issues: its history.

China’s Brave Underground Journal—II

Ouyang Xiang, son of a denounced former Party secretary in Heilongjiang province, being persecuted during the Cultural Revolution for sending an unsigned letter to the local revolutionary committee in his father’s defense, Harbin, November 1968. The sign around his neck bears his name and the date of his offending letter. When he tried to shout ‘Long live Chairman Mao,’ his mouth was stuffed with a glove. Several days later he was pushed out of a third-story window; the official report called his death a suicide.


an online journal published in Tiantongyuan, China
Samizdat publications like the online journal Remembrance are setting off long-overdue discussions about how China should deal with its violent past, especially when many of the victims are dead. Is it best to forget, which the country has largely done, or is there merit in digging up the past? And is it possible to have a cathartic confrontation with the past in a country with no real public sphere?


Berlin: The End of a Museum Idyll

The Dahlem museums, Berlin, March 11, 2014

The transition of western Berlin’s Dahlem collections to the approximately $630 million Humboldt Forum near Museum Island is not driven by the needs of the collection. One gets an uneasy feeling that they are viewed as much as a way to bolster tourism than as works of complex beauty and history requiring diligent care, scholarship, and attention. Defenders of the plan have asserted that their current home in Dahlem is too far out of town, but in reality, the collections have simply been neglected.

‘My Personal Vendetta’: An Interview with Hong Kong Publisher Bao Pu

Bao Pu: I am interested in telling stories about human nature. The Communists are so against human nature….I’m going to demythify Chinese culture. My example is Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta. Our next book will be like that—a graphic non-fiction book on the Lin Biao incident [the probable attempted coup and flight by Mao’s most trusted aide in 1971, ending in his death in a plane crash].

Why Pollution is Good for China

A man in Jingshan Park, overlooking the Forbidden City, Beijing, China, December 8, 2015

For the first time, the Beijing city government has been pressured into announcing its first-ever “red alert” air emergency. It seems that a grassroots awareness of what humans are doing to the climate is slowly taking hold in China. As perverse as it might be, the Chinese capital’s airpocalypse may be in its best long-term interests.

Xi’s China: The Illusion of Change

Chinese President Xi Jinping in Manila, Philippines, November 18, 2015

Chinese president Xi Jinping has been credited with a vigorous foreign policy, economic reforms, and a crackdown on corruption. But his primary goal is to recreate the early years of Communist rule in the 1950s when, according to official mythology, the party was clean, officials upright, and the populace content. Returning to this imagined past means strengthening, not weakening party control.


A Worldwide Reading for Li Bifeng

The exiled Chinese author Liao Yiwu, the International Literaturfestival Berlin, and a group of prominent international authors are jointly appealing for an international reading in support of the imprisoned Chinese author Li Bifeng.