Richard Bernstein was a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and the Beijing Bureau Chief for Time. His latest book is China 1945: Mao’s Revolution and ­America’s Fateful Choice.
 (February 2019)


China: The People’s Fury

A protester chants slogans against the United States supporting an international court ruling that denied China's claims to the South China Sea, outside US Consulate in Hong Kong, China, July 14, 2016

It is clear that neither China’s leadership nor the censorship apparatus have shown much interest in allowing an honest accounting of the South China Sea case. China may be too locked into a nationalism of grievance and its cult of national humiliation to allow for any public compromise, and this would make any settlement of the disputes that bedevil the country’s relations with its neighbors and with the United States all the more difficult.


Cambodia: A Country for Rent

Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen at a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new ring road in Phnom Penh, with financing from the Chinese government, January 2019
Not that it should have been a surprise, but China was the only major country that declined to join the international criticism of Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, as he ensured that he would run effectively unopposed in the parliamentary elections on July 29, 2018, turning them into a sham …

Thailand: The Permanent Coup

A portrait of Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn at a shopping mall on the eve of his sixty-fifth birthday, Bangkok, July 2017
A few weeks ago, Mahawon Kawang, the operator of a small radio station in the ancient Thai city of Chiang Mai, got a phone call from the National Council for Peace and Order, also known as Thailand’s military government, inviting him to the local army base for a “conversation.” Mahawon …

Thailand: Beautiful and Bitterly Divided

A Red Shirt supporter holding pictures of Thailand’s ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, at a rally in Bangkok, November 2013
Thailand has long had the image of a benign, stable country, which is a chief reason it has long been seen, at least by Americans, as a great hope for the future in Southeast Asia. But for the past eight years, it has been in the grip of an extraordinary political crisis, pitting two intransigent mass movements, known as Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts, against one another, each ready to take to the streets whenever it feels that the other has gained the upper hand.

The Insoluble Question

A scene from Rithy Panh’s film S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine showing the painter Vann Nath, one of the survivors of the Tuol Sleng prison

The Elimination: A Survivor of the Khmer Rouge Confronts His Past and the Commandant of the Killing Fields

by Rithy Panh with Christophe Bataille, translated from the French by John Cullen

S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine

a film by Rithy Panh
Sometime early in the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, Rithy Panh, who was thirteen years old, was digging a ditch on one of the regime’s brutal collective farms when he hit his foot with a pick-ax. His wound didn’t seem very serious at first, …


The Brands That Kowtow to China

Security staff guarding the Mercedes-Benz booth at an autoshow in Guangzhou, China, in November 2017

The threats of economic retaliation, the mobilization of patriotic social-media fury, rigged protests, and demands for apology—for any activity involving Tibetan resistance to China’s repressive rule, any statement favorable to the Dalai Lama, or any expression of sympathy for the desire of democratic Taiwan not to become part of authoritarian China—are now well-established practices employed by China to enforce obedience to its dictates, beyond China’s borders as well as within them. Stellenbosch University resisted the pressure, but Daimler, Marriott, Delta Airlines, and other multinational corporations yielded to it.

The Lonely Struggle of Lee Ching-yu

Lee Ching-yu at a press conference at the Parliament in Taipei, May 23, 2017

Lee Ming-che in a sense is like other political prisoners in China, a man stripped of rights, facing in solitary fashion the organized power of the Chinese state, but he is also different because he is from Taiwan. He is in fact the only Taiwanese ever to be charged with subversion of state power, and this imparts a special meaning to his case.

Should the Chinese Government Be in American Classrooms?

Students from a Confucius Institute in the US visiting the Confucius Temple in Qufu, China, April 17, 2013

While the rapid spread of Confucius Institutes in the US has been impressive, in recent years their unusual reach in the American higher education system has become increasingly controversial: these institutes are an official agency of the Chinese government, which provides a major share, sometimes virtually all, of the funds needed to run them. The National Association of Scholars, a conservative group whose members are mostly American university professors, has recently issued the most complete report on the CIs to date; they recommend that the institutions either be closed or reformed.

Nail Salons: A Reply to the ‘Times’

On July 25, the NYR Daily published a post by Richard Bernstein on the first part of a New York Times investigation into workplace conditions at New York City nail salons, which Bernstein argued was a “misleading depiction of the nail salon business as a whole.” The editors of the Times have published a letter responding to Bernstein’s post. Richard Bernstein replies here.