China in the 1990s was a paradox. In the wake of the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square, political repression intensified. At the same time, however, following Deng Xiaoping’s “Southern Tour” in 1992, the country’s economy took off, triggering dramatic social, economic, and even political changes. It was a decade marked by the emergence of China’s first stock markets, the massive migration of millions of people from the countryside to the booming industrial centers on the coast, the rise of Shanghai as a new financial center, and the development of a vibrant youth culture. It was also a period of political transition and tension, with the death of Deng Xiaoping, the Hong Kong handover, a thaw in Sino-American relations, and the emergence of the Falungong.
The film, “A Tale of Two Chinas”, presented at an FCC dinner on June 1 by Mike Chinoy, is the story of how the American press corps in China covered this critical decade. The film is the latest episode of Assignment China, a multi-part documentary film series on the history of American correspondents in China being produced by the US-China Institute at the University of Southern California.
The lead reporter is Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow at the Institute and former CNN Beijing bureau chief and Senior Asia Correspondent.
The film features interviews with journalists who covered China during those years, including such well-known correspondents as Nicholas Kristof, James McGregor, Lena Sun, Kathy Chen, Jaime FlorCruz, Joseph Kahn, Marcus Brauchli, Keith Richburg, Ian Johnson, John Pomfret, Rebecca MacKinnon, Craig Smith, Melinda Liu, Andrew Browne, Elisabeth Rosenthal, and many others. It also includes interviews with American diplomats who handled Chinese affairs, and contains fascinating footage of China from that time.