China Update: Chen, Yang

1) As everyone on the China beat has been discussing, the civil-rights activist Chen Guangcheng and his immediate family received permission to leave China and at this moment are en route to Newark. (No jokes, please.) Here is the Flight Aware track just now about an hour ago, when I had to leave the hotel for the latest airport.


This is the beginning of a whole new set of challenges and complications for Chen and his family, rather than any kind of final resolution. But compared with the prospects as of a month ago it is a far happier development than many people expected. All best wishes to him and his family (including the relatives left in China) in what comes next; they will need luck and support.

2) Yang Rui, of CCTV, has understandably responded with displeasure about the item I posted late last night, concerning his tweet on the need to "cut off the snake's head" of foreign presence within China. (Link to his site in Chinese.) It might be useful for me to point out that:
  •  Like many other foreigners in China, I have enjoyed the informal, off-camera talks and meetings I had with Yang Rui several times while in China, including one group dinner in Beijing and a couple of post-show conversations at the CCTV studio;

  •  I have understood his on-camera demeanor to be part of the balancing act necessary when running a flagship show for a state-run media company;

  •  What I don't like is the anti-foreign tone of his recent dispatch -- especially coming from him, in his role as a soft-power, Mr. International face of modern China. Again it's the difference between an anti-foreign rant from a Rush Limbaugh or a Sheriff Joe Arpaio and hearing the same thing from, say, Brian Williams or Fareed Zakaria.

    I am just about absolutist in believing that increased presence of foreigners is good for any society, as well as being good, broadening, life-expanding, etc for the foreigners themselves. I think it's good for America that so many Chinese (and other international) students, travelers, etc come here; I think it's good for China that so many American (and other international) students, travelers, business people, etc go there. A big theme of my new book is the value to both China and America of the surprisingly dense network of these unofficial human connections as they have developed in the past three decades. If I could, I would arrange for vastly larger numbers of people from each country to spend some serious on-scene time in the other.

Time for the next airplane. Good wishes to the Chen family.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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