Author and columnist James Fallows to speak at Centre College
Emmy and National Book Award-winning journalist James Fallows, a 25-year veteran of The Atlantic, will discuss his acclaimed book, “Postcards from Tomorrow Square: China’s Economic Lives,” at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 at Centre. The convocation, which will be held at the Norton Center for the Arts, is free and open to the public.
Fallows comes to Centre as this year’s Press Distinguished Lecturer, a series endowed by Lucille Caudill Little in honor of Lillian H. and O. Leonard Press. Past Press Distinguished Lecturers have included Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Helen Thomas, Eli Wiesel, Bob Edwards, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt and David Brooks.
Fallows’ “postcards” are based on the author’s unique perspective as a resident of China from 2006 through 2009. The book covers a broad range of topics facing modern-day China as it emerges as a global superpower: finances and cultures of TV game shows, the air-conditioning and electronics industries, centralized internet censorship and casino gambling. He shares his economic expertise on subjects such as why the imbalance of trade between the United States and China is unsustainable for both countries and China/U.S. currency issues.
“I have not before been anyplace that seemed simultaneously so controlled and so out of control,” Fallows has said of China. “The control is from on high — and for most people in the cities, most of the time, it’s not something they bump into. What’s out of control is everything else.”
Fallows has written on a wide range of topics for The Atlantic, including national security policy, American politics, the development and impact of technology, economic trends and patterns and U.S. relations with the Middle East, Asia and other parts of the world.
“Fallows has an uncanny ability to weave thorough research and captivating case studies into clear and entertaining prose, making sense of precise data in terms of intangibles and the quirky human element,” says Kyle Anderson, Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow.
“Since the early eighties, Fallows has been reporting on nearly every major national and international event,” Anderson continues. “His insistence on reevaluating the role of the human element in politicized movements and debates is very much alive in ‘Postcards’ in such provocative figures as Wang Li Fen, producer of China’s [version of the TV show] ‘The Apprentice,’ and Zhang Yue, mayor of Broad Town. In the hubbub of rising fears surrounding China’s mounting prosperity and military might, Fallows invites us again to reconsider how the Chinese people fit into our perceptions. The result is enlightening and entertaining.”
Fallows attended Harvard, where he was president of The Crimson, the college’s student newspaper. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1970 and then studied economics at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He has been an editor of The Washington Monthly and of Texas Monthly, and from 1977 to 1979 he served as Pres. Jimmy Carter’s chief speechwriter. His first book, “National Defense,” won the American Book Award in 1981. From 1996 to 1998, he was the editor of U.S. News & World Report.
His other books “Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy,” “Free Flight: From Airline Hell to a New Age of Travel,” “Looking at the Sun: The Rise of the New East Asian Economic and Political System” and “Blind into Baghdad: America’s War in Iraq.”
Each year, Centre students must obtain a total of 12 convocation credits. Credits are granted for programs ranging from plays and performances to discussions on topics like climate change, global leadership and religion.
“As the local Chinese professor, I’m thrilled to have Fallows come to Centre and talk about his experiences in China and his projections for the future,” Anderson says. “His visit lends force to Centre’s commitment to make the study of Asia a larger part of the college curriculum, and will help directly promote some of the college’s new courses in East Asian Studies, Global Commerce, Chinese and Japanese and the semester-long Centre-in-China residential program at the University of Shanghai.”