PHOTO: Ian Johnson presenting slides while speaking about his experiences in China. Photo by Jacqueline Irigoyen for The Current 2014 ©


By Jacqueline Irigoyen, staff writer for The Current


The University of Missouri—Saint Louis’ International Studies and Programs brought journalist and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Ian Johnson, who held a discussion with students at 3 p.m., October 30 at the Social Sciences & Business Building about his time spent in China.

The Marketing Coordinator for International Studies & Programs Erica Fierro said,“Our Director, Joel Glassman, was contacted by the Pulitzer Center, a non­profit that supports independent international journalism to increase interaction between journalists, scholars and universities.” The organizer of the Pulitzer Center asked if the department would be willing to host a lecture by Johnson.

Johnson’s interest in China began with the requirement of having to take a foreign language as a student. “I got interested by chance. I wanted to learn a different language in school and I thought Chinese would be fun,” said Johnson. Becoming a journalist for Johnson was all about his “curiosity with how things worked in the real world and how journalism affected that.”

When thinking about China and watching news coverage on it, Johnson believes that people see it as darker and more negative place than what it actually is. “The media focuses more on the negative aspects and all they read is bad news, but the society is actually rising,” said Johnson.

Johnson talked about the political movement and religious groups in China. He spoke about a few of the protests that have happened in China over the past decade which included the now well known 2011 Wukan protest.

Johnson explained that even with all the talk about the corruption and lack of trust in China, “China is actually freer than it was decades ago. The government is more tolerant of protests, if they don’t challenge the system.”

He also spoke about the five major religions in China. “There are five main religions starting with the biggest being Buddhism, then Christianity which is split into two sectors protestant and polytheism, and then Islam and Daoism,” said Johnson.

Keely Nelson, junior, marketing said “This is an important topic that all business students should be aware of.” Nelson continues to say, “I hope to get a better understanding of China’s economic market and globalization. We consider China to be a big competitor, and it’d be interesting to see where we are at.”

In Johnson’s book “Wild Grass” he talks about the authoritarian government and its relationship with society. “I talk about the tension in a dynamic changing society and then the unchanging government. People are becoming more educated and rising up, but the government is not moving along with the people,” Johnson said.

Johnson is currently writing a new book about the spiritual aspects of China.

Johnson’s goal for his event was to provide spiritual awakening and to explain how China is changing and striving for new values.


© The Current 2014