Reporting in China

The old man with the red armband is easy to overlook when walking for the first time down the narrow, twisting alleyways of a hutong just north of the Forbidden City. The gray walls of the traditional Chinese homes overshadow his small frame, and the noise from shops and teahouses distract from his quiet demeanor.

Each turn, leading deeper into the hutong, brings about a narrower alley, another set of eyes, another red armband signifying a neighborhood watchperson, and more questions about whether or how reporting in China can lead to meaningful answers.

Hip-Hop in China?

Walking down a main street in Beijing, amid the pungent smells of stinky tofu and car exhaust, bicycles, scooters, and cars (so many cars), I saw exactly what I was looking for: a large sign that simply read “HIP HOP STORE.”

I want to know why hip-hop came across the world to flourish in China’s cities. I want to know why Chinese people have embraced it.

How Deep Are the Changes?

I was disoriented when I arrived at the shining new Beijing Capital International Airport. The digital signs of the sleek facility are more modern than most of the world’s largest airports and the floors gleam. But after my luggage failed to arrive and I was forced to use my rusty Chinese skills to investigate the matter with airport officials, I began to suspect China has not changed as much as the American media would have one believe.

The Movement on Your Shoulders

I’m drinking a beer at a hip new bar downtown, live music flows from buildings up and down the street - a collage of sound set against neon lights on a windy cosmopolitan evening.

I lose myself, thinking for a moment that it’s just another night in Austin until a curious voice snaps me back to reality.


I look up and see a young Chinese man I noticed earlier, one of a group trying to draw customers into the bar. He wants to know if I speak Chinese.

The Compass Cafe's Last Days

Beijing's Compass Cafe will close in about a month, when owner Zhang Qiang will head to earthquake-stricken Sichuan province. Despite a seemingly prime spot at an intersection at the northeast corner of the ancient Forbidden City, revenue isn't strong enough to meet the 5,400-yuan monthly rent, which rose from 3,500-yuan a year ago.