China

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SOCRATES IN SICHUAN by Peter Vernezze (China)
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2023 Winner of Peace Corps Writers Award for Best Book of Non-Fiction
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Peter Hessler (China) — “How China Controlled the Coronavirus”
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Trump’s move against China for its Uighur oppression makes him look like a hypocrite
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“A Train Took Me 5,000 Miles from Moscow to China—and to a Whole New Life” — Peter Hessler (China)
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Review — FAST TRAIN HOME by Gus Karlson (China)
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Peace Corps To End China Program–Heard on All Things Considered
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Talking China with Michael Meyer
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Michael Meyer’s (China) new book coming In October
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Famous RPCV Journalists: The China Gang
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Talking with Rob Schmitz (China), author of STREET OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS
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Review — STREET OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS by Rob Schmitz (China)
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Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) "An American Hero in China"
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Mike Meyer (China 1995-97) Speaking in Washington, D.C. Monday, March 30th
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Review of In Manchuria by Michael Meyer (China 1995-97)

SOCRATES IN SICHUAN by Peter Vernezze (China)

  Socrates in Sichuan: Chinese Students Search for Truth, Justice, and the (Chinese) Way Peter J. Vernezze (China 2006-08) Potomac Books April 2011 212 pages $10.01 (Kindle); $9.49 (Hardback)   When Peter J. Vernezze took a leave of absence from his position as a philosophy professor to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in China, he supplemented his main task―teaching English―with leading a weekly philosophical discussion group with Chinese undergraduate and graduate students at Sichuan Normal University in Chengdu. In each session the students debated topics as diverse as the status of truth, the meaning of life, the reality of fate, the definition of sanity, the necessity of religion, and the value of romantic love. Each of the twenty-five chapters of Socrates in Sichuan focuses on the topic of one evening’s discussion, which was always in the form of a question: How are ancient conceptions of virtue holding up in . . .

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2023 Winner of Peace Corps Writers Award for Best Book of Non-Fiction

  Benjamin Franklin’s Last Bet by Michael Meyer (China 1995-97)   The incredible story of Benjamin Franklin’s parting gift to the working-class people of Boston and Philadelphia — a deathbed wager that captures the Founder’s American Dream and his lessons for our current, conflicted age. Benjamin Franklin was not a gambling man. But at the end of his illustrious life, the Founder allowed himself a final wager on the survival of the United States: a gift of two thousand pounds to Boston and Philadelphia, to be lent out to tradesmen over the next two centuries to jump-start their careers. Each loan would be repaid with interest over ten years. If all went according to Franklin’s inventive scheme, the accrued final payout in 1991 would be a windfall. In Benjamin Franklin’s Last Bet, Michael Meyer traces the evolution of these twin funds as they age alongside America itself, bankrolling woodworkers and . . .

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Peter Hessler (China) — “How China Controlled the Coronavirus”

The New Yorker  10 Aug 2020 A few days before my return to classroom teaching at Sichuan University, I was biking across a deserted stretch of campus when I encountered a robot. The blocky machine stood about chest-high, on four wheels, not quite as long as a golf cart. In front was a T-shaped device that appeared to be some kind of sensor. The robot rolled past me, its electric motor humming. I turned around and tailed the thing at a distance of fifteen feet. It was May 27th, and it had been more than three months since my last visit to the university’s Jiang’an campus, which is on the outskirts of Chengdu, in southwestern China. In late February, when the spring semester was about to begin, I had hurried to campus to retrieve some materials from my office. We were nearly a month into a nationwide lockdown in response . . .

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Trump’s move against China for its Uighur oppression makes him look like a hypocrite

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Steven Boyd Saum (Ukraine 1994–96) A high-security facility near what is believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained in China’s Xinjiang region.   June 20, 2020, By Sébastien Roblin (China 2013-15) Even when President Donald Trump finally manages to do the right thing, it’s rarely for the right reasons. Such was the case Wednesday, when he signed a law that allows for sanctioning as human rights violators Chinese officials responsible for running camps imprisoning up to 1 million Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang Province of western China. Trump’s been so inconsistent on what should be a core tenet of American foreign policy — opposition to large-scale internment of a minority population — that there’s some truth to claims from Beijing that Trump’s move this week was a hypocritical one motivated by a desire to weaponize the issue against China amid high-stakes trade negotiations. He . . .

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“A Train Took Me 5,000 Miles from Moscow to China—and to a Whole New Life” — Peter Hessler (China)

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Steven Saum (Ukraine 1994-96)   An epic journey by rail answers the question: Where am I going? Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) Businessweek, June 24, 2020   A moment on the Trans-Siberian railway line. Photographer: Oleg Klimov/Panos Pictures/ReduxWhen I was 25, I boarded a train, rode it to the last stop, and disembarked with a new sense of what to do with my life. This kind of thing can happen when you’re 25. It also helps if the journey lasts six days and 5,000 miles. The year was 1994, and I was traveling along the Trans-Siberian Railway. I had bought a one-way ticket from Moscow to Beijing. After passing through the western part of Siberia, the train would head south across Mongolia. Back then, the world seemed bigger: no cellphones, no online reservations. Things were heavier, too. In my ­backpack—Lowe Alpine, internal frame—I carried a tent, . . .

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Review — FAST TRAIN HOME by Gus Karlson (China)

    Fast Train Home By Gus Karlson (China) Self-published 164 pages January 2020 $12.99 (paperback), $8.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Sue Hoyt Aiken (Ethiopia 1962-64) • This book is a collection of tales as told through the eyes of the PCV both as narrator and participant in the adventures. The adventures span a two year period involving Peace Corps Volunteers living and teaching in China.  Stories form a basis of a conversation even as volunteers arrived in China. As they grew into their teaching assignments they were able to share startling urban scenes that sharply contrasted to their descriptions of high mountain breathtaking, sometimes adverse and risky, stunning tales! The main character is China brought to light by the author and its buddies through their sometimes humorous in the moment observations and thoughts. This might be just after climbing at a fast clip up a tortuous twisty path or pushing . . .

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Peace Corps To End China Program–Heard on All Things Considered

Thans for the ‘heads up’ from Chris Honode’ (Colombia 1967-69)     Peace Corps To End China Program January 24, 2020, 4:19 PM ET Heard on All Things Considered . . . RPCV ROB SCHMITZ The Peace Corps has decided to ax its China program starting this summer. Critics of the decision call the program one of the diplomatic success stories in the history of China-U.S. relations. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: Starting this summer, there will no longer be Peace Corps volunteers working in China. Years ago, NPR’s own Rob Schmitz was a Peace Corps volunteer based in southwest China. He joins us now to explain why the Peace Corps decided to end its China program and what the impact of that might be. And, Rob, for this conversation, I’m going to ask you to put on a slightly different hat than your typical NPR correspondent. I want you to speak to your . . .

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Talking China with Michael Meyer

   In the March/April issue of The Writer’s Chronicle I published this interview with Michael Meyer (China 1995-97) about his China books. Michael is one of what I call the “China Gang” who in the late ’90s went to China with the first groups of PCVs and wrote books about their host country. The RPCVs are, besides Meyer, Craig Simons (China 1996-98), Rob Schmitz (China 1996-98), and Peter Hessler (China 1996-98). — John Coyne   Michael Meyer is a recipient of the Whiting Writers Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar award, and a two-time winner of a Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing. His stories have appeared in The New York Times, Time, Smithsonian, Slate, the Financial Times and [on] This American Life. He has also had residencies at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy. He is a current fellow . . .

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Michael Meyer’s (China) new book coming In October

  In 1995, at the age of twenty-three, Michael Meyer, after rejecting offers to go to seven other countries, was selected for the new China program and sent to a tiny town in Sichuan, China. Going there, he wrote Chinese words up and down his arms so he could hold conversations, and per a Communist dean’s orders, jumped into explaining to his students the Enlightenment, the stock market, and Beatles lyrics. Thus began his impassioned immersion into Chinese life. Michael has spent most of the last twenty years living and working on China’s urban and rural halves, learning to understand its people, culture, and conflicts as very few from the West ever have. His new book The Road to Sleeping Dragon chronicles the journey that he made to understand China. As he has done with his other books, Michael puts readers in his novice shoes, introducing them to a fascinating cast . . .

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Famous RPCV Journalists: The China Gang

Although the Peace Corps has given a start to many well-known writers—Paul Theroux, Maria Thomas, Philip Margolin, Bob Shacochis, among them—it has fostered relatively few journalists and editors. One of the first journalist was Al Kamen, a Volunteer in the Dominican Republic during the early 1960s.Recently retired after 35 years at the Washington Post, Kamen wrote a column, “In the Loop,” and also covered the State Department and local and federal courts. He assisted his Post colleague Bob Woodward with reporting for The Final Days and The Brethren. Other Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) of the 1960s who became well-known journalists include Vanity Fair’s special correspondent Maureen Orth, an urban community development volunteer in Colombia, and one of the first women writers at Newsweek, and MSNBC HardBall host Chris Matthews, who served in Swaziland. There are more, of course, with that kind of media power who went into film and the arts . . .

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Talking with Rob Schmitz (China), author of STREET OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS

ROB SCHMITZ (China 1996-98) is the China correspondent for American Public Media’s Marketplace, the largest business news program in the U.S. with more than 12 million listeners a week. He has reported on a range of topics illustrating China’s role in the global economy, including trade, politics, the environment, education, and labor. In 2012, Schmitz exposed fabrications in Mike Daisey’s account of Apple’s Chinese supply chain on “This American Life,” and his report headlined that show’s much-discussed “Retraction” episode. The work was a finalist for the 2012 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. He has won two national Edward R. Murrow Awards and an award from the Education Writers Association for his reporting on China. Click to hear His Rob’s “Marketplace” stories. We emailed each other over the course of a few weeks for this interview, and I was helped with questions from a press releases from Crown Publishing about Rob’s new book . . .

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Review — STREET OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS by Rob Schmitz (China)

  Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road by Rob Schmitz (China 1996–98) Crown May 2016 336 pages $28.00 (paperback), $13.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Peter Van Deekle (Iran 1968-70)  • How can any Westerner comprehend much less understand the complexities of modern China?  With its vast landmass and diverse populations, its centuries-long dynasties, imposed isolation from the world, and its dynamic political and financial emergence, China represents the ultimate challenge for modern international relations. So, what prospects can an American have for beginning to grasp the conflicting and converging elements of modern China? While these prospects may face any American, Peace Corps service (begun toward the end of the Twentieth Century in China — 1993) offers among the broadest and deepest opportunities for meaningful understanding of China’s ancient traditions and incredibly rapid growth and change today. Rob Schmitz accepted his Peace Corps assignment to China in 1996, and served there for . . .

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Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) "An American Hero in China"

The May 7, 2015 issue of The New York Review of Books carries an essay entitled, “An American Hero in China” that is all about Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) and states how “In China he (Hessler) has been transformed into a writer of cult-figure proportions whose fans analyze his love life, his translator’s finances, and his children’s education.” This essay was written by Ian Johnson, author of ten books, including Travels in Siberia. His connection to Peter is that in 1999 he hired Hessler to be a researcher in the Beijing bureau of The Wall Street Journal. He writes that “he (Peter) had already spent two years in the small Chinese city of Fuling as an English instructor at a teachers’ college.” Hello, Ian, Peter was in the Peace Corps! In this long, long piece in the NY Review of Books, Johnson never once mentions Helller’s Peace Corps connection. I . . .

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Mike Meyer (China 1995-97) Speaking in Washington, D.C. Monday, March 30th

IN MANCHURIA: DOCUMENTING A CHANGING CHINA EVENT | MARCH 30, 2015 New American Fellows In Manchuria: Documenting a Changing China Monday, March 30, 2015 12:15 PM – 01:45 PM 1899 L Street NW, Suite 400 Washington, DC 20036 RSVP Amidst news of the globalization and booming populations in China, the story of the country’s rampant development and fast-paced change often centers on the evolution of its cities. But that’s only part of the story. Nearly half of China’s massive population-about 700 million people-still resides in rural areas, and life in the village has not been insulated from the seismic shifts reverberating from the urban centers. In his new book In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, author Michael Meyer chronicles three years he spent in a small rice-growing town in China’s legendary northeast territory. And the saga he tells is one that mirrors drastic change sweeping through many . . .

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Review of In Manchuria by Michael Meyer (China 1995-97)

In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China by Michael Meyer (China 1995-97) Bloomsbury Press, $28.00 365 pages 2015 Reviewed by Arnold Zeitlin (Ghana 1961-63) Foreigners, especially Americans, living for a spell in China, often are overcome with an irresistible urge to explain China and the Chinese to their countrymen, especially Americans, who may ask a question about how much of a threat China is, then nod politely and change the subject to the latest baseball scores. Many of these same foreigners, especially Americans, after their first year of living among the Chinese, enthusiastically conclude, “why they are just like us.” Then, a year later, they conclude, “they are not like us at all.” Among the latest Americans to tell us about the Chinese is Michael Meyer. He is a writer who first went to China in 1995 as a member of the Peace Corps to . . .

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