James Fallows

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.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

James Fallows: Doing business in china

  • More In-House News, Shiny Trophy Dept.

    A tasteful new motif for our house

    My Emmy statue has arrived!

    Thumbnail image for IMG_0015A1.jpg


    I am sure this is just what my parents were hoping to have gracing the top of the traditional family breakfront, when it ultimately ended up in one of their children's homes. Well, if the statue turns out to be more tasteful as a centerpiece on the dinner table, we can try that, starting at Thanksgiving. Or a hood ornament. Or a hat.

    ___
    I write this, as it happens, on the second anniversary of my father's death. He would have liked teasing my mother about this slightly disrespectful appropriation of one of her favorite pieces of furniture.
  • More Emmy News (updated)

    An Emmy win for Bob Schapiro & company.

    business_in_china-thumb-100x150-23564.jpg

    Back in February I mentioned how great it was that Bob Schapiro and his team had received two NY Emmy nominations for the "On the Frontlines: Doing Business in China" series that Bob had worked on and invested in for years. We ran many segments from the series on this site last summer. They are all in the "Doing Business in China" category of posts, and as soon as the "category" function is restored to our site, I'll be able to link to them as a group. For now, take my word for it that they were surprisingly enlightening and informative inside looks at  factories, offices, department stores, peasant markets, and all the other aspects of China's economic life that are so often discussed in the abstract in the rest of the world.

    This past weekend, the series was the winner in one of its categories! After the jump, the official list of all members of Bob Schapiro's team. I am not a completely disinterested observer, having been the on-camera co-host of the series (with Emily Chang) and then joining the NYT's Joe Nocera for "what it all means" discussions after each segment. But Bob Schapiro, Dovar Chen, and others had done so much filming and interviewing before I got involved that I can dispassionately give congratulations to them.

    If you're interested in seeing this now-award-winning series in the comfort of your own home, just click this box this corrected link, which allows you to see clips and offers a discount. Makes the perfect Mother's Day gift too.
    The official announcement (click for larger):
     
    Thumbnail image for Winning Envelope.jpg


    BUSINESS/CONSUMER: Program/Special
    On The Frontlines: Doing Business in China (Feature 1). January 15, 2009.(ChinaDoingBusiness.com). Bob Schapiro, Writer/Director/Executive Producer; Dovar Chen, Producer; James Fallows, Editorial Supervisor/Host; Emily Chang, Host; Hisayo Kushida, Editor; Marc Schain, Steven Ganster, Associate Producers; Jonathan Perkins, Original Music; Emil Adler, Composer, Main Theme; Michelle Kim, Assistant Editor; Stephen Murello, Director of Photography; Joe Nocera, Commentator.

    And everyone on that list can order a statuette! Hmmmm. This might be nice on the front of my car, or as a dining-table centerpiece.

    EmmyStatue.jpg







    More »

  • Doing Business in China: Legalese (updated)

    Before launching a business plan in China, it's essential to understand its legal system.

    Nearing the end of our Doing Business in China clips, here's the story of a Western businessman who went to the Chinese courts for relief -- and got it. Larger point involves the uneven way that "rule of law" applies in China. Some place, yes; many places, no; but the number of "yes" zones is increasing.


    UPDATE: In introducing the previous clip, I said that there was one sentence in it I completely disagreed with, while all the rest rang true. In case you were wondering, it was the sentence saying that in Shanghai and Beijing, "it is hard to find someone who doesn't speak English." If you define "Shanghai and Beijing" as meaning, "inside a five-star international hotel in Shanghai or Beijing, among the staff trained to deal with foreign guests, when the first team is on duty," that statement is exactly right! Otherwise....The statement appears around time 1:20, so you can put it in context and see the source.

  • Doing Business in China: Lost in Translation

    Although unprecedented numbers of Chinese people are learning English, communication can still be challenging.

    Ah, the mysteries of language. This little clip, next in the Doing Business in China series, actually does a nice job of introducing some of the tangles and intricacies of the "what language are people speaking, when they say they're speaking English?" question. There is exactly one sentence in this clip, from an interviewee, that I completely disagree with. Will let you guess which one it is. The rest all rings true, even when people contradict one another and themselves.

  • Doing Business in China: Who Holds the Purse?

    In Chinese families, women drive economic decisions more forcefully than men.

    You can probably guess the answer to the question above, explored in this next clip from the Doing Business in China series. But I do love the way this clip gets to the answer, via both its pre-Communist era documentary and movie footage and also its exploration of special role of the "Shanghai woman." I think you will see what I mean.

     

  • Doing Business in China: An Eastern Perspective

    The western quest for precision is often futile in China, where facts and figures never tell the whole story.

    This clip is about numbers, and the varying ways to make sense of them in China. At one extreme the power of numbers is of obvious and unignorable importance. The opening scene of the clip, on a winter day in Shanghai, give a glimpse of the sea-of-people effect of many Chinese cities. On the other hand, neither Shanghai nor Beijing nor any other city in the mainland seems as densely packed as either Tokyo or Hong Kong. The difference with mainland China is that there are so many multi-million person cities across so huge a landmass, plus plenty of well-populated rural areas too.

    At the same time, just about any number concerning China is an approximation, from economic growth rates to literacy or environmental readings, or anything else. This clip mainly talks about the implications of that rough-and-ready statistical approach for businesses, but it has international and political implications too. 

  • Doing Business in China: Drinks and Deals

    The most important business relationships in China are cemented in the bar.

    Ah, drinking in China as part of business negotiations. Where to start... This next installment of the Doing Business in China series is a beginning. It really is true that the purpose of many "business" dinners is for everyone, Chinese and foreign, to become drunk (often on Chinese Baijiu, 白酒, vodka-ish raw spirit). In becoming drunk and lowering defenses, people prove their mutual trust, or something. In any case, it's real. Note the appearance of Chinese beer, on which I often commented during my time of residence, starting about time 0:11. Main point: this sounds like a joke or cliche but actually makes a difference.

  • The Real China

    From pollution to unemployment, factory workers to churchgoers, a look at the real people and issues dominating the nation today.

    Starting this week and through the fall, the Atlantic's site will have a series of clips from the DVD series "Doing Business in China" in which I was involved before moving back to the United States. I'll have more to say shortly about the background of the project, and what I view as its potential importance. For now I'll just say thanks to: Bob Schapiro and Dovar Chen, who figured out how to get the original and quite startling video footage inside Chinese factories, bureaucracies, stores, etc over the past few years; Joe Nocera of the New York Times, who appears on the films in "what it all means" discussions with me after each segment; and Emily Chang, on-camera co-host. I'll also mention that when we were filming some of the narration in Shanghai, it was hot and humid beyond all belief, and we were standing in direct sun on a rooftop. More to come, and I will say that I learned a lot about China through the process of working on this project.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Video

The Origins of Bungee Jumping

"We had this old potato sack and I filled it up with rocks and dropped it over the side. It just hit the water, split, dropping all the stones. And that was our test."

Video

Is Trading Stocks for Suckers?

If you think you’re smarter than the stock market, you’re probably either cheating or wrong

Video

I Spent Half My Life Making a Video Game

How a childhood hobby became a labor of love

Writers

Up
Down

From This Author