Video: America's First China Correspondents After 1979

USC’s US-China Institute is offering an almost hour-long video from its ‘Assignment: China’ project on American media coverage of the People’s Republic.

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. Assignment: China, “Opening Up” is their story.

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 early highlight is Deng Xiaoping’s vigorous mid-interview spittoon use, reportedly intended to throw reporters off balance. For the sake of friendship and cooperation, however, the otherwise undemanding Chinese authorities requested that footage of Deng spitting not be broadcast.