Female Chinese Journalist Relies on Intuition, Perseverance, Results

My entry into the journalism field was by coincidence, but also intuitive.

After four years of studying and working in the the United States, I returned to my hometown, Shanghai, in late 2006. In my new job in the public relations/communications field, I organized a press conference in Wuxi and Suzhou for the client Deutsche Stock Exchange. The goal was to to attract Chinese companies to IPO in Germany. So, I invited about 30 Chinese journalists to attend. As a common practice in the Chinese journalism field, the event organizer should give out a “red envelope” (in Chinese, Hongbao), or tips to invited journalists (300 RMB to 500 RMB minimum). This was not what I wanted to do, but my boss requested it. Among all the reporters was a female Chinese journalist from Caijing Magazine who refused to accept the tips. She said this is the rule of her media organization.

I was very impressed. For the first time, I looked into Caijing Magazine and realized that it is the most prestigious economic and financial news journal in China. Its reputation is like the Chinese WSJ or the Chinese Economist. I sent my resume to Caijing and received a phone call from the Shanghai bureau chief the following day. He told me that the Caijing chief editor Ms. Hu Shuli saw my resume and liked it very much. We met for an interview on the next day and one day later, I received another call and I got a reporter job.

I always had a dream about working as a journalist, but never planned it as I thought the job was very challenging in terms of writing skills and critical thinking. Now, I have been working with Caijing for six years. (This is long years for the Chinese journalism field, as the average career period for Chinese reporters is three to five years.)

What I Do

I report and write about some of the most complex and high-profile business stories that occur in China. A lot of international trade and investment disputes issues, just to name a few, the European Commission’s anti-dumping and anti-subsidies cases against Chinese solar cells, the Vitamin C antitrust case which made the first US antitrust case involving Chinese companies, the US-China electronic payment transaction service dispute at WTO, etc. In addition, I write a lot of feature articles on Chinese businessmen, from private sector and from state-owned-enterprises. For example, I did a cover article titled Price of Fraud (June 6, 2011) featuring two dozens of Chinese companies listed in the US exchanges that were found fraudulent and then suspended trading or delisted. I am an advocate for free trade and market economy with less government intervention. By which, I mean more trade and investment interactions between the United States and China, especially in the private sector, will help to smooth the bilateral relationship.

How I Got Started

In my early career, I had two-year graduate teaching assistant experience at the University of Southern California, as part of my scholarship package to finish my M.A. degree in East Asian Area Studies. Later, I was offered a lecturer job, teaching Chinese and Japanese history at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota for one year. I  have Dr. Gorden Berger, a history professor and my graduate advisor at the University of Southern California to thank. He inspired me by encouraging me to follow my heart and pursue my true passion. Dr. Berger is also a registered psychologist and I feel that he sees me. He helped me realize things about myself. I thought I wanted to work in the public relations field, but years later I found out that journalism is my true love because it fits my nature.

One anecdote I can share with you is that Ms. Hu Shuli, the then Chief Editor of Caijing Magazine, wanted me to work as the English editor/translator. But, I wanted to work on the core business of a news journal: the news production. So, after working 50% time as an English editor and 50% time as a Chinese reporter, I told Ms. Hu that I want to be a 100% Chinese reporter and no more translation assignments. This is a hard choice, because people think that my English skills bring more value to the news journal than my work as a journalist. Over the years, my Chinese writing skills have improved immensely and I still make the best use of my English language by interviewing a lot of English-speaking people.

My Career Ambitions

My career ambitions have moderated as I am going to be a mother soon which is a new role and new responsibility. This will surely consume a lot of my energy and attention. I believe many women will experience the same thing once they become mothers. But, I will not become a stay-at-home mum, as this is boring and I am also taking advice from many other women. Overall, the journalism job is ideal for women in China, especially for young mothers. This is because we do not have fixed working hours. We do not have to go to office everyday. The job itself is interesting as you investigate and write about different topics. Working as a reporter for Caijing is nevertheless demanding. We are mostly doing investigative reporting and it requires lots and lots of energy, critical thinking, and perseverance.

In the future, I want to find a career that can build on both my academic and professional experience. I have started to do this little by little. I’m frequently invited by the Beijing Center, a non-profit student exchange program as a guest speaker to student delegations. Since 2010, I have given lectures each year to Loyola University Maryland MBA students and Antwerp University undergraduate students. I talk about topics like China’s transformation, from trade disputes to currency disputes, China’s rising labor cost to manufacturing renaissance in the US, China’s open policy to the controversial IPR protection. In addition, I arranged students from  Loyola University Maryland MBA to visit Fosun Group, one of China’s largest private companies. I also give advice on internship placement for students in overseas study programs.

My hopes and long-term aspirations are to live a balanced life, with work and family.