2019 - 2020 Back

  • Date : 2019-10-09

    Time : 19:00 - 21:00

    Speaker : Mr. Mike Chinoy

    Affiliation : Hong Kong America Center & Universities Service Center for China Studies

    Venue : Lecture Theatre 1, Lee Shau Kee Building, CUHK

Assignment China


The Hong Kong-America Center is organizing a film screening series “Assignment China”. The first session will screen two documentaries: “The Chinese Civil War”; “China Watching” produced and directed by Mike Chinoy.


Dates & Topics (every two weeks on Wednesdays)
1.October 9 - Chinese Civil War; China Watching
2.October 23 - The Week That Changed the World
3.November 6 - End of an Era
4.November 20 - Opening Up

5.December 4 - The 1980s


Time: 7 - 9 PM
Venue: Lecture Theatre 1, Lee Shau Kee Building, CUHK
Language: English
Post-screening Q&A with Mike Chinoy.


About the Film Series

From the barriers of language, culture and politics, to the logistical challenges of war, revolution, isolation, internal upheaval, government restrictions and changing technology, covering China has been one of the most difficult of journalistic assignments. It’s also one of the most important. For decades, what American and Western correspondents have reported about China has profoundly influenced international views of the country, and the policies of many Westerns governments.

To explore this issue, the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California produced a 12-part documentary film series for on the history of American correspondents in China from 1945 to the present day. Written and narrated by former CNN Beijing Bureau Chief and Senior Asia Correspondent Mike Chinoy, Assignment China is a vivid introduction to 70 years of political, economic and social change through the eye of the reporters who covered the country.

Mike Chinoy

Mike Chinoy was a foreign correspondent for more than 30 years. He served as CNN’s bureau chief in Beijing and Hong Kong, and as Senior Asia Correspondent. After leaving CNN, he was a Senior fellow the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles. He is currently a Non-Resident Senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s US-China Institute.
He has written four books - China Live: People Power and the Television Revolution (1999), Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis (2008), The Last POW (2014) and the forthcoming Are You With Me? Kevin Boyle and the Rise of the Human Rights Movement.



The Chinese Civil War & China Watching (Oct 9)
The surrender of the Japanese brought about the resumption of the battle between the Chiang Kai-shek-led Nationalists and the Mao Zedong-led Communists.  This first segment of Assignment China examines the way American journalist reported on the final four years of the civil war and its impact on Chinese society and U.S.-China relations. It features archival photos and interviews as well as interviews with some of those who brought news of this battle for the world’s largest country to Americans via newspapers and magazines, newsreels, and radio.

China Watching is the term used to describe how reporters, diplomats, and others sought to understand China during a time when they were unable to visit the country. After Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist came to power on October 1, 1949 most American journalists and others working for U.S. news organizations left China. The U.S. did not recognize the new government, U.S. diplomatic posts were closed and China generally did not welcome journalists from western countries. Over the next two decades, few journalists were able to report from inside China for U.S. news organizations. Those who did get in, by virtue of not being U.S. citizens or through special invitation, were closely monitored. Most American reporting, however, on China was done from the “listening post” of Hong Kong, which, well before it became Asia’s business center, was the world’s most important location for trying to understand developments in mainland China.

The Week That Changed The World (Oct 23)
Richard Nixon described his 1972 trip to China as "the week that changed the world” - reshaping the global balance of power and opening the door to the establishment of relations between the People's Republic and the United States. It was also a milestone in the history of journalism. Since the Communist revolution of 1949, a suspicious regime in Beijing had barred virtually all U.S. reporters from China. For the Nixon trip, however, the Chinese agreed to accept nearly 100 journalists, and to allow the most dramatic events — Nixon's arrival in Beijing, Zhou Enlai's welcoming banquet, visits to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City — to be televised live.
The coverage was arguably as important as the details of the diplomacy. It profoundly transformed American and international perceptions of a long-isolated China, generated the public support Nixon needed to change U.S. policy, and laid the groundwork for Beijing's gradual move to open China to greater international media coverage.

End Of An Era (Nov 6)
After the Nixon opening (1972) and before Mao's death and the fall of the Gang of Four (1976), American news organizations began to get greater access to China. This segment in the Assignment China series focuses on the challenges journalists faced and what they were able to accomplish during reporting trips and their continued overall reliance on the techniques of China-watching from Hong Kong.
While the U.S. established a liaison office in Beijing, the lack of formal diplomatic relations meant that American reporters could not be based in China. Most reporting continued to be of the China-watching variety, though each of the major broadcast networks was permitted to shoot a documentary in China and many reporters gained access for short visits. It was a tumultuous period, the last year of which included the death of three of China’s revolutionary giants, a natural disaster which took a quarter of a million lives, and fierce battles over who would run China after the death of Chairman Mao.


Opening Up (Nov 20)
It was 1979. The U.S. and China had just established diplomatic relations. For the first time since the Communists took power in 1949, the Chinese government allowed American journalists to be based in Beijing. Based on extensive interviews with virtually all the pioneering reporters who opened the first U.S. news bureaus in the People's Republic -- including Fox Butterfield, Jay and Linda Mathews, Richard Bernstein, Frank Ching, Melinda Liu, Jim Laurie, John Roderick, and many others -- the documentary also contains interviews with Chinese officials who sought to manage the Western media, people the reporters covered, as well as rare archival footage, still photos and previously unseen home videos. An insightful glimpse into the early years of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms and how foreign journalists understood and explained these momentous developments to the rest of the world.

The 1980s (Dec 4)
The mid-1980s saw a dramatic relaxation of Communist Party control over China’s economic, political, and intellectual life. It was arguably the most liberal period in the history of the People’s Republic, as a new generation of reformers sought to push the country towards a more open and tolerant system. These same trends, however, alarmed Party hardliners, who made repeated attempts to roll back the tide of liberalization.  For members of the American press corps in Beijing, it was a period of testing the boundaries, challenging the restrictions on news coverage at the heart of the system, and exploring parts of Chinese society that had long been off-limits.