Thursday, November 15, 2012

If you're in Sioux Falls!

South Dakota

Dreaming in Chinese goes to Augustana College

Friday, November 9, 2012

If you're in Alaska..

Juneau: November 11. University of Alaska, Juneau. Egan Lecture Hall. 3:00 PM

Anchorage: November 12. University of  Alaska, Anchorage. Campus Bookstore. Noon
Anchorage: November 12. University of Alaska, Anchorage. Wendy Williamson Auditorium. 7:30 PM

Fairbanks: November 13. University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Wood Center Ballroom. 7:00 PM

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

If you're in Annapolis this weekend...

Come by the  Annapolis Book Festival!


Too vast to paraphrase, too diverse to stereotype, too relevant to ignore; that is modern China. Join James and Deborah Fallows, who have recently spent three years living and traveling throughout China, for a unique insight into the political and cultural heart of that country. Their discussion will be moderated by Damien Ma.

The Key School
534 Hillsmere Dr.
Annapolis, MD 21403

2:00 p.m. Room 1 - Katharine Hall

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Swimming in Sydney

We've been in Sydney for a few weeks, and I've had a chance to indulge in one of my favorite things: swimming. Here is a link to a dispatch about swimming my way across Sydney, as it appeared at

...The North Sydney Pool is exactly three minutes by foot from our door. Scores of world records have been set there since it was opened in 1936, cheered by fans in the steep concrete grandstands. The pool d├ęcor is colorfully art deco, and the locker rooms are spookily dark. Luna Park, an amusement park from the same era, looms over the pool from right next door, its entrance a gigantic molded clown face, with an eerily nightmarish 30-foot-wide smile....

Saturday, January 28, 2012

If you're in DC on Jan. 29

This year's Landon China Roundtable will feature three speakers discussing “China’s Role in the World”.  The Roundtable will start at 1:30 PM on Sunday, January 29th.  It will be held at Landon School, 6101 Wilson Lane, Bethesda, Maryland, in the PAC building.
Hans Timmer, Director of Development Economics at the World Bank, will make a presentation on ‘China’s Expanding Role in the Global Economy’. 
Students of Chinese, and those trying to understand the culture of China as an emerging superpower, will be fascinated by Deborah Fallows’s observations based on her book, “Dreaming in Chinese”.  Her struggles to learn Chinese will resonate with all students of the language.
Mr. Xiaojun Heng, Minister Counselor of the Embassy of China, will speak on China’s efforts to develop better information and understanding between the United States and China in order to promote a harmonious society at home and peaceful development on the international stage, the two major objectives of Chinese President Hu Jintao. 
The China Roundtable draws from the Washington/Baltimore area approximately 150 China experts, businessmen, journalists, academics, teachers, parents, and students, including visiting Chinese exchange students. 
Attendees are invited to a Chinese luncheon which will proceed the Roundtable; the food will be served starting at 12:30 PM.  There is no charge for attending the Roundtable or the luncheon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

China's Internet Users Today

During our years in Beijing and Shanghai from 2006 - 2009, I worked for about half the time researching internet use in China for the Pew Internet Project, an arm of the Pew Research Center. Unable to do my own fieldwork (foreigners are forbidden to do surveys in China without a Chinese partner), I gleaned what I could from survey work from my friend Guo Liang of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and from other helpful researchers at  the China Internet Network Information Center, which has done its own surveys of internet development in China since 1997. For me, the most interesting (and surprising!) results I found were about the Chinese people's high tolerance for government oversight of internet use.

So, I am always interested when the Pew Research Center issues its Global Attitudes reports, which include information about China. Their newest report, called Global Digital Communication, was just released.

Like many other readers of surveys done in China, I look for the footnotes about data collection, survey methods, and any other tidbits I can find to bear in mind when I look at the numbers. Pew remarks that the 2011 Global Attitudes Survey was conducted under the direction of their longtime collaborator, the Princeton Survey Research Associates, -- except in China --, where data were purchased from the Horizon Research Consultancy Group (a private survey firm), based on their own self-sponsored survey, "Chinese People View the World".  During my time in China, Horizon was the go-to survey firm among foreigners.

Another critical point to bear in mind is that the pool of respondents in china is disproportionately urban.  As a matter of perspective, some of the so-called "towns", as opposed to "cities" where the survey was conducted include many I recognize as having populations in the millions. Urban, indeed. In China, I found the differences between city life and country life to be staggering in both recorded statistics and observable lifestyle.

With those caveats, here are some things I noticed about China this time around: 93% of respondents say they own cell phones. This is a hefty increase from 50% in 2002 to 67% in 2007 to the present. China is far from alone in the world in such increases in cell phone ownership, of course. But it is worth comparing with cell phone ownership in the US at 61% in 2002; 81% in 2007; and (now eclipsed) 85% in 2011

As for what people do on their phones, the Chinese numbers exceed  the global median of 21 countries surveyed in all categories:

Do you--
make phone calls: 98% (China 99%)
text: 75% (China 80%)
take pictures or video: 50% (China 54%)
use the internet: 23% (China 37%)

Anecdotally, on the sidewalks and metro, in the elevators and markets of China, I saw more people more frequently texting than anything else. Texting is very cheap in China, and while people do talk on the phone, they seem to do it with less abandon than texting.

As far as social networking, among the 8 poorest countries surveyed, with a GDP per capita of under 10,000$, China has the highest percentage (over 30%) of social networkers. Social networking is off-the-charts as a social phenomenon in China; it is one of few ways to publicly let off steam, project your voice far and wide, become a presence. With China's newly proposed requirement that people post with their real names, rather than made-up names, the dynamics around social networking will surely change.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Books for the armchair traveler" from

5 books for the armchair traveler

updated 2:55 PM EST, Fri December 9, 2011
You don't have to know Mandarin to be captivated by Deborah Fallow's Memoir

( -- Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language
By Deborah Fallows
You don't have to know Mandarin to be captivated by "Dreaming in Chinese," Fallows' memoir of living in Shanghai and Beijing and learning the language. A journalist with a PhD in linguistics, Fallows wears her erudition lightly as she meets locals and tries to unravel the mysteries of their mother tongue. Why is it, for example, that a tableful of Chinese diners might seem to be barking orders at each other? Because they believe using "polite" terms (please; thank you; would you mind...) creates distance, and that direct language is more appropriate for intimates. Forget Berlitz -- that just teaches words. Deborah Fallows shows us that the cultural implications of those words teach us about each other. Riveting reads: The best fiction of 2011
Cleopatra: A Life
By Stacy Schiff
Mention Cleopatra and you probably think of Elizabeth Taylor batting her violet eyes at Richard Burton. Or maybe Shakespeare's temptress fooling around with Julius Caesar and dying for love of Mark Antony. But it turns out we have seriously underestimated the last Egyptian queen. In her provocative new biography, "Cleopatra: A Life", Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff makes the case that the richest and most powerful woman of all time was less "wanton temptress" than savvy politician. -- Liza Nelson 7 Standout Books of 2011
Life of Pi
By Yann Martel
"God was going to love him, no matter what he had to do to survive. He was on the trip with him," says actress Andie MacDowell of Martel's popular fable about a 16-year-old boy's harrowing journey on a lifeboat with a 450-pound tiger. "This book makes you wonder: Has Pi actually been on a fantastic adventure, or is the truth far more realistic?... My older sister wanted to believe the fantasy. I was kind of surprised by that, because she's so doggone bright. For me, there was no way the story could be real. It had to be a way to deal with something that was impossible to deal with. That's what this book does: It tells a painful story as a fantasy because the reality is too brutal." 8 great adventure reads
Eat, Pray, Love
by Elizabeth Gilbert
After the end of her seven-year marriage, Elizabeth Gilbert embarked on a journey of self-discovery that changed her entire life. Luckily for us, she captured this whirlwind adventure through Italy, India and Bali in her best-selling hit, "Eat, Pray, Love." You may be inspired to do an internet search for Bali or your nearest ashram, but we dare you to read about the food she discovers during her time in Rome and not book your own trip to Italy on the spot. The best nonfiction of 2011