Washington Post writer shares his fascination with China
September 16, 2010 By Cheyenne Evans ’14
first-year students, recently delivered a convocation lecture about
China, both past and present.
While on campus, Pomfret met with a class of first-year students
to discuss his work and issues relating to China.
John Pomfret, an award-winning journalist and author of this year’s summer reading book for first-year students, Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates, and the Story of the New China, recently held a convocation on Centre College’s campus, where he expressed his thoughts on China’s future and answered the many questions students had on a variety of Chinese subjects. He also visited the classroom to speak with students about the book.
Pomfret, who was awarded The Osborne Elliott Prize for Excellence in Asian Journalism in 2004 and the Shorenstein Award from Harvard and Stanford universities in 2007, has extensive recognition for his lifetime coverage of Asia. While at Stanford, he was one of the first groups of students to study in China in the early 1980s. Upon later return there, he spent a year as a foreign correspondent, covering the Tiananmen Square protests in the late 1980s, as well as exploring Chinese culture and perspective while he was there.
Altogether, Pomfret has spent 30 years living in China. His book Chinese Lessons tells not only of his experiences there but also those stories of his former classmates at Nanjing University. Their personal, emotional tales of life during and after the Cultural Revolution connect the reader to people literally across the globe, while also providing a thorough account of the Revolution.
Chinese Lessons paints a picture of where China has been, and at the convocation, Pomfret eloquently expressed his thoughts on where China is headed.
He concluded that although China is growing economically, several factors will keep it from becoming the dominant superpower it’s striving to be: environmental problems, an aging population and an imbalanced number of males to females are just a few of the challenging issues facing China that we in the United States “often underestimate,” Pomfret said.
At the end of the convocation, students were given the opportunity to ask the author questions. Many were about China’s relationship with the United States today, but several were more personal questions, including this: “Why were you drawn to China originally?”
“I went there because, for me, it was an adventure…and I stayed there because it got into my blood,” he responded.
Pomfret, who is married with three children and living in the United States, still frequently visits China and is a reporter for The Washington Post.