The government of China apparently has decided it doesn’t want me to teach journalism there.
For the past four years, I have traveled each summer to Guangzhou in South China, where I have taught research and reporting in the International School of Jinan University. But the permissions from the government proved so restrictive this year that I decided to cancel the trip.
The students produced a variety of interesting projects, which are available at www.writingforjournalism.com. The topics ranged from problems of obesity in China to the destruction of a historic neighborhood in Guangzhou. One project investigated cheating at the university and resulted in a significant change at the school.
Reporting in a country where the media are controlled by the government isn’t easy. Social media are severely restricted so that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others are replaced by Chinese brands. Journalists must be registered with the government, and any variance from the Communist Party doctrine can result in prison terms.
Nevertheless, many of the nearly 200 students I have taught over the years are interested in navigating the journalistic jungle.
Most of them come from wealthy families who know they can push the limits of “freedom” but cannot cross them without repercussions. Reporters cannot criticize the central government of President Xi. Stories about Tiananmen Square and the religious group Falun Gong are prohibited. See https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-07-14/why-china-fears-falun-gong
Most critical analyses about the government’s treatment of Muslims and Tibetans are out.
But there have been numerous stories about corruption, particularly in business and the health industries. Inadequate responses to natural disasters are often fair game—as was the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, more than a decade ago.
Many of the students have decided to study outside of China for graduate school, often choosing the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, often to get away from the limitations of their home country. It is unclear to me whether these overseas studies make China look better or worse once the students return. I hope these endeavors provide an understanding of what the West does right.
During my time in China, I have traveled throughout the country, including the deserts out West, Tibet, and most of the historical sites from the Terra Cotta Warriors to the Forbidden City. I’ve met many Chinese during that time and had the opportunity to speak with them about customs and politics.
The most memorable conversation occurred in Kunming, an important battleground between the Chinese and Japanese in World War II. A woman told me how the famous Flying Tigers, a contingent of American fighter pilots, helped save her family.
What stands out is the pride people have in China despite its flaws and respect for the West despite its flaws.
I have written often about my trips on this site, but here are some of my favorites:
Here are my recommendations for travelers to China: http://datechguyondaradio.com/2018/06/26/touring-china/
Here is my trek to Mount Everest:
Here is my assessment of the Catholic Church in China:
The Chinese government never gives a reason for its decisions about entering the country. It’s been rumored that Beijing isn’t happy with so many foreigners teaching in China. Also, I’ve visited many parts of the country—far more than most Chinese. Perhaps it’s because I planned a trip to the predominantly Muslim area of West China. Maybe the person who looked at my application for a visa had a bad day.
Whatever the case, it’s been a good ride over the past few years. I am sad that it has come to a close.