John Pomfret

Author, Chinese Lessons

Washington Post journalist — Expert on China and immigration.

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Biography

Award-winning journalist John Pomfret puts vivid human faces on the complex changes overtaking China. He offers audiences unrivalled familiarity with all aspects of the new China, from its social life and politics to the meteoric emergence of its business community and market economy.

If you do business in China — or plan to — John offers an in-depth look at who sits across the table that you won’t find anywhere else. His insights are especially valuable to customers who have a strategy, are past the hype and now want to understand the people.

John vividly illustrates the true China with his extraordinary portrait of the country’s national psyche entitled Chinese Lessons: An American, His Classmates and the Story of the New China. This is a first-hand account of China’s remarkable transformation over the past forty years as seen through his own eyes and the lives of real people he knows.

John speaks, reads and writes Mandarin. He lived and worked in China off-and-on for a decade starting in 1980. He was an AP reporter in China during the Tiananmen Square protests in the late 1980s and served as Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post from 1998 until the end of 2003.

John has been a foreign correspondent for fifteen years. He currently is the editor of the Post’s Outlook section and is the newspaper’s expert on immigration.

John is a fine speaker, relaxed, engaging and articulate.

Chinese Lessons
As a twenty-year-old exchange student from Stanford University, John Pomfret spent a year at Nanjing University in China. His fellow classmates were among the first people allowed to test for university and their extraordinary lives reveal the forces in government and private industry that are shaping China’s future. Pomfret went on from college to a career in journalism, spending the bulk of his time in China. After attending the twentieth reunion of his class, he decided to reacquaint himself with some of his classmates. Chinese Lessons is their story and his own.

Beginning with Pomfret’s first days in China, Chinese Lessons takes us back to the often torturous paths that brought together the Nanjing University History Class of 1982. One classmate’s father was killed during the Cultural Revolution for the crime of being an intellectual; another classmate labored in the fields for years rather than agree to a Party-arranged marriage; a third was forced to publicly denounce and humiliate her father. As we watch Pomfret and his classmates begin to make their lives as adults, we see as never before the human cost and triumph of China’s transition from near-feudal communism to first-world capitalism. This is the generation that will rule China for the next 20 years.

Chinese Lessons is a riveting portrait of the Chinese people and the kind of lives that are making the China of tomorrow. It also is an indispensable corrective to the myths and misconceptions that tend to shape our approach to Chinese business, society and politics.

Selected as one of the best books of the year 2006 by The Washington Post, Chinese Lessons won the prestigious Shorenstein Prize for Coverage of Asia in 2007 and was a finalist for the 2007 Kiriyama Prize for an Outstanding Book about the Pacific Rim.

Credentials

  • Outlook section editor; former Los Angeles bureau chief and former Beijing bureau chief, The Washington Post
  • Author, Chinese Lessons
  • Osborne Elliot Award for Excellence in Asian Journalism, The Asia Society (2003)
  • Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship, Alicia Patterson Foundation, for "Chinese Lives and Lessons: The Class of ’82 Nanjing University" (2004)
  • Fulbright Scholar, Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (researching the Cambodian conflict)
  • Speaks Chinese, French, Japanese and Serbo-Croatian
  • BA and MA, East Asian Studies, Stanford University and Nanjing University

John has been a foreign correspondent for fifteen years covering conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Congo, Sri Lanka, Iraq, southwestern Turkey and northeastern Iran.

Books

Chinese Lessons

Five Classmates and the Story of the New China

John Pomfret

Selected as one of the best books of the year 2006 by The Washington Post
Winner, 2007 Shorenstein Prize for Coverage of Asia
Finalist, 2007 Kiriyama Prize for an Outstanding Book about the Pacific Rim

A first-hand account of the remarkable transformation of China over the past forty years as seen through the life of an award-winning journalist and his four Chinese classmates.

As a twenty-year-old exchange student from Stanford University, John Pomfret spent a year at Nanjing University in China. His fellow classmates were among those who survived the twin tragedies of Mao’s rule — the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution — and whose success in government and private industry today are shaping China’s future. Pomfret went on to a career in journalism, spending the bulk of his time in China. After attending the twentieth reunion of his class, he decided to reacquaint himself with some of his classmates. Chinese Lessons is their story and his own.

Beginning with Pomfret’s first days in China, Chinese Lessons takes us back to the often torturous paths that brought together the Nanjing University History Class of 1982. One classmate’s father was killed during the Cultural Revolution for the crime of being an intellectual; another classmate labored in the fields for years rather than agree to a Party-arranged marriage; a third was forced to publicly denounce and humiliate her father. As we watch Pomfret and his classmates begin to make their lives as adults, we see as never before the human cost and triumph of China’s transition from near-feudal communism to first-world capitalism.

Henry Holt and Co. (Aug. 8, 2006)

Topics

John tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Chinese Lessons

Videos

Feedback

A non-partisan, non-profit organization understating world affairs:
Dear John — Thank you for your memorable series of talks in Jacksonville. I think you could sense the intense interest of those who attended. The unique way you framed your remarks for each of the three settings and your full and direct answers to questions helped us better understand the rapidly changing cultural and economic characteristics of China. I learned something in each of the sessions and I know others did as well. Your talks were very well received and a number of us are still receiving compliments about your presentations. You have the gift for making the complex simple, clear and entertaining, and that was appreciated by us all. Our members just loved the Wednesday evening experience when you talked about your book.

We are most appreciative of the insights you shared during your visit.

An international affairs non-profit association:
He did a tremendous job, stellar presentation, all of his books were sold out. Good conversation with donors, one of the best speakers they've ever had.