John Pomfret was 14 years old when Henry Kissinger began interacting with China in secret. He took his fascination to Stanford University’s East Asian Studies program, where he was among a select group of exchange students invited to spend a year at Nanjing University in 1980, shortly after Nixon established diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China.
John went back to China as a reporter for the AP in 1988, nine months before the Tiananmen demonstrations, and was expelled from the country after covering the protests’ violent turn. He returned to China again in 1998 to head up the Washington Post’s Beijing bureau. John has also reported from Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.
In this week’s episode, Kaiser and Jeremy talk to John about his new book, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom, which charts the history of America’s relationship with China. John explains that the countries have been intertwined long before the ping-pong diplomacy often credited for ushering in U.S.-China relations in the early 1970s. For more on John’s experience and background, as well as the research he has conducted, see the Sinica backgrounder accompanying this podcast. You can also find the second part of our conversation with John here.