Club Dinner: “Assignment China: End of An Era”
Speaker: Mike Chinoy
Former CNN Beijing Bureau Chief
Senior Fellow, U.S.-China Institute, University of Southern California
MONDAY, AUGUST 18, 2014
7:00pm – Dinner
Topic: “Assignment China: End of An Era”
The early and mid-1970s were a time of intense political drama in China. As Chairman Mao’s health deteriorated, the struggle between the radical “Gang of Four” led by Mao’s wife Jiang Qing, and pragmatists like Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping was reaching a climax. For American correspondents, it was a huge – and hugely challenging — story. How this critical period was covered is the subject of “End of an Era.”
Following President Nixon’s visit in 1972, China began to permit somewhat greater, but still strictly controlled, access by U.S. reporters. In 1973, the three American TV networks — CBS, ABC, and NBC — were each allowed to send crews for extended periods to do documentaries. Correspondents were also able to accompany Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and President Ford on trips to Beijing. But for the most part, China remained off-limits to American reporters. As the People’s Republic faced an intensified power struggle and a dramatic and dangerous leadership transition, the task of covering developments largely fell to a colorful group of “China Watchers” in Hong Kong. Sitting on the outside, they struggled to keep up with the rapidly changing, and often mystifying, developments that would shape the future of China.
“End of an Era” is one episode of “Assignment China”, a multi-part documentary film series on the history of American correspondents in China being produced by the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California. The film features interviews with journalists who covered China during those years, including such well-known correspondents as Richard Bernstein, Tom Brokaw, John Burns, Fox Butterfield, Irv Drasnin, Bruce Dunning, Robert Elegant, Ted Koppel, Joseph Lelyveld, Jerrold Schecter, Orville Schell and others, It also includes interviews with American diplomats who handled Chinese affairs, and contains rare archival footage of Hong Kong and China from that time.