tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN January 26, 2016 6:06pm-7:01pm EST
a safer position. as we move forward, we're realizing that's good. that's gotten us a long way over the history. the future for the car industry is how do you avoid these crashes? a crash that doesn't happen is obviously a lot safer than the crash that does happen. 94% were caused by human error. also looking forward to 2015, we've kind of hit, hopefully not a plateau, but looking at 2015, the number of lives, the policemennary estimates for the first half of the year. our fatalities have gone up 8%. and that's not just a fact that comes with increased vehicle miles traveled. there's something more going on this. potentially, we've hit a plateau. one other stat that i wanted to mention was if you look at the age ranges from 8-year-olds to 24-year-olds, that demographic
group, motor vehicle crashes is the largest, leading cause of death within the age ranges. basically until you get to the age where you start having health problems. motor vehicles is one of the leading areas where you have a chance of dying. so that is essentially why we come at this. why we're so excited about this. vehicle to vehicle, i mentioned at the beginning, i think there's been a lot of talk about both automation and vehicle-to-vehicle technologies. for us, we don't look at it as an either/or. it's an and/both. they're not mutually exclusive technologies. they compliment each other. the dsrc complements a lot of technologies being developed on the automated self-driving front.
they shouldn't be looked at as competing technologies. they shouldn't be looked at as both doing the same thing. they both complement each other and will work to further the safety benefits. another area i wanted to talk about was, i started by laying out why at nhtsa and d.o.t we're so excited and spend so much attention talking about this. kind of another theme throughout the day is the history of the last 15 years. and also where are we going from now. there's been talk about it being 20, 30 years out. we would contend it's happening faster than most people think. that it's not a when, that it's actually happening now. if you look at the secretary yesterday, there is some -- there is some -- we didn't do official announcement, but there
is some press that the vehicle-to-vehicle rulemaking has been accelerated, the administration and secretary fox had been vocal over the last year. as of yesterday, the draft mprm has been moved over to omb. we accelerated that. we're moving it through the review process because this administration's very keen to accelerate the innovation that could take place in that arena. also, ces. i think everybody has mentioned ces here. it is clearly a playground of innovation. there's all kinds of exciting, fun things to see. it's not hard. if you walk the floor, you clearly see that there are dozens, many people working on automation. they're working on mobility connection. they're also working on dsrc. i'll throw out there delphi as one example. they released a -- an after-market dsrc at ces this year. i think that will have tremendous potential for increasing the timeline of which
we see the deployment of technology. i also wanted to mention g.m. i think we've said 2017 a couple times. that's the first time we'll see it in cars, 2017. it's 2016 already. that's this year. if you think about when the model cars come out, g.m. is planning to have dsrc in cars, in showrooms by the end of the year. we're moving forward on that. overall, we're bullish. if you look at vehicle-to-vehicle technology from all the research that's taken place, there are a lot of opportunities. if you take a couple applications and the number of applications and innovation that could take place are
implemented. if you take two simple applications, one where you take a left turn through an intersection and the other where you just go through an intersection and use dsrc to understand that there are cars coming through who aren't stopping at the light, aren't stopping at the stop sign, those two applications alone are enough to pay for the cost benefit of putting the technology in cars. so it's not going to be a high hurdle to make these things cost effective and get benefit from them. we've seen from a lot of -- what was it, ces, with announcements from g.m. with us moving forward. the rule that the timeline for this is here. it's here now. this is not something to wait 28 years for. the spectrum is not going to be underutilized for the next 30 years. it's going to be tapped here shortly. the last thing i'd mention in terms of what we're doing to accelerate that, we talked about the rule.
but i want to mention the department and administration's putting a lot of effort and time and money into trying to accelerate deployment. in september, we announced connected vehicle grants where we have grants to tampa bay, new york city, and wyoming, to essentially deploy commercial versions of applications and demonstrate them in their cities. then more recently, we announced the smart cities initiative. this is actually -- if you haven't seen it, a unique grant from a government standpoint. we as a department are providing $40 million to a single midsize city to essentially do wide-scale connectivity. we're not telling them how it has to be. we're not telling them how we do. it and we're working with outside partners to try and leverage the $40 million that the department's put forth.
so far, paul allen's vulcan foundation has added $10 million to assist it. mobile-i, a technology company that provides mapping technology and work with transit companies, has already pledged to take part in it. we continue to go out and lock for additional partners and have conversations. i think as you see the amount of money and effort that's put forth in the next year in a midsize city, you could well see a future in the next year where you have a midsized city that is fully deployed and connected, but is demonstrating how the technology works. essentially proving it out. and it's proving where the quirks are, but also what the benefits are. the last thing i wanted to say, i kind of talked about why -- why we're bullish, where we support it. what we see as the timeline. this question about what the path forward is.
michael mentioned the letter that was sent to the hill. and we do -- we as a department feel strongly about this technology, but we're open to the efficient use of it. we stand behind and are committed to working with the fcc, with ntia to do testing, to demonstrate and see if the technologies are capable of allowing the safety protocols, the safety messages to function in a safe reliable manner without interference. look forward to questions. thank you very much. >> thank you, everyone. whoever said spectrum was boring has never had a panel about connected cars and the 5.9-gigahertz band. i want to build on this point. i'll make sure we have a couple minutes for questions from the audience, as well.
this point that blair of sort of this point that blair was sort of getting at that maybe not unlike the unlicensed space 20 years ago, the dsrc space needs a bit more time to come of age, and we should give it the space to do so from a spectrum allocation standpoint. do others agree with that point? and if so, how do you balance the interest of innovation for the auto industry in dsrc with the need for space to innovate on wireless unlicensed spectrum as well as the interest of protecting safety in this space? harold? >> spectrum squatting kills. that's a real problem here. that limits my patience where in the name of life and safety we're going to hold up an entire band from other life and safety uses or refuse to use technology that other apparently smarter
engineers in other countries have developed and come to the whole swap of spectrum. the qualcomm guys are pretty smart. usually we're fighting, but i agree they're pretty smart. in this case, they've said, yeah, you know we can split this up and do this just like they do in europe. in fact, we can -- because americans apparently have an obesity problem, we can even give you another ten megahertz. i don't see why we can't give time for this technology develop, for all of this to happen, by putting the life and safety things at the upper end of the band, letting that technology go forward, and still improve life and safety systems that are being developed by other people by expanding the availability of unlicensed use. win-win. so, my question really is what the hell kind of capacity do you need that the 30 megahertz proposed is not going to be
sufficient? i mean, you can send a dvt signal on what, two megahertz capacity, it's not like your downloading medical files for life and safety after the accident. i mean, you're talking about, look, there's a deer, boom! >> do others have thoughts? otherwise i have a follow-up. >> that's hard to follow. >> well, then, maybe for mary and blair specifically, is there -- you know, getting down to the next steps or the proposals that we've talked about here, is there a reason even if we might debate the size of the bands themselves there's a reason why the commission shouldn't separate a band for these realtime safety applications and create another band for other non-safety applications and unlicensed? >> the issue in terms of how cisco looks at it is really one around the development of the dsrc ecosystem, which we see as essentially formed and ready to go into the market, and we see
the announcements by gm. we ourselves have announced a vehicle-to-infrastructure solution product about a year ago. there are dozens of dsrc manufacturers who are out there, and they have their own trade shows where they show up in great numbers as well. so, we see this as sort of an almost fully formed, starting to commercialize ecosystem. we are skeptical that someone's going to pull the rug out from under that and require a rechannelization of the band. it may be that someone at the fcc does that or the congress does that or somehow that decision gets made. but we're seeing no real evidence of it. in fact, we're seeing the opposite, right? so, in the highway bill that passed last month, we see
numerous references by the united states congress to vehicle-to-infrastructure technology, and specifically calling this out as something that the federal highway administration will be funding in the course of the next iteration of the highway bill. so, if anything, we're seeing the acceleration of the existing dsrc into the market. now, as i said, i don't have a technology religion and we could be completely wrong about this. but where is the evidence that this is going to take place, that this transformation in the band is going to take place? >> i think mary put it very well. the one thing i would add to that is clearly there's been a lot of time and effort that's been put into this by d.o.t., by a number of research arms, to get this to a place where we are starting kind of the leading
edges of commercialization of the project -- or the product. there's been a lot of effort and money invested on the private sector side to create these products to move forward. if it was to be rechannelled essentially a lot of that work would have to be restarted. i don't -- i wouldn't say that it will take ten years at least i hope not, but it will still be a significant delay in the safety benefits of it will be delayed during that time, some of the commercial benefits that a lot of these companies are banking on will be delayed. >> the other thing i want to add because i'm sure harold knows this and he's just forgotten it. in europe the use cases there for transportation are somewhat different than how we've decided to use i.t.s. so, they do not have a vehicle-to-vehicle technology deployed in the -- in the slimmed-down band that they use. they use it for other things
such as road tolling and other stuff, but they don't have the v-to-v use. the v-to-v safety to life use is red, white and blue usa. >> the only thing i want to just inject there is in terms of significant delay or not is, you know, the party that would bear the greatest inconvenience over putting the dsrc safety channel at the top of the band instead of the bottom of the band is qualcomm. we're the ones that make the chips. we've got to design the radios to work on the right frequency. we don't think it's a significant delay, and as i said when i spoke, the last thing that we want for many reasons including many of those that harold has said, the last thing we would want is anything that would, you know, significantly delay dsrc. we have our own private sector investment in dsrc. so, honestly, you know, the way we work in designing chips, you
know, yes, there would have to be some testing to make sure that there isn't any significant difference between the bottom of the band to the top of the band. but we really don't think that this is an issue of significant delay. if it was, we wouldn't be advocating this. and i've been saying that since 2013. so, you know, february of 2013 is when the nprm was issued and since then i've been consistently saying there isn't a significant delay and if there was, we wouldn't have this proposal. >> all right. i promised questions from the audience. we're running low, if not overtime. we'll start in the back, right next to you. >> hi, chris mccabe. i think all of us have been through this before. mary is looking at me and laughing. how do we get past the rhetoric of people are going to die? harold, you don't want to kill any moose or any deer and no one wants anyone else to die as a result of this in a car accident. so, let's assume that everyone
agrees in this debate and discussion that no one wants people to die as a result of any policy discussions. and if we could put that to bed, which historically we did it with aws-3 as an industry. general wheeler and others said war fighters capabilities would be harmed. we would lose people on the battlefields if we did, you know, if we evolved some of those bands into commercial use. after several years of debate and discussion, ultimately i think everyone agreed that there was a way to evolve some of those bands without really harming anyone. and i think the country's better off as a result. huge auction. lot of money to the federal government. and a lot of movement in spectrum from light use to robust commercial use. i think we have that here. and if we could have everyone agree -- i'm sure the six of you all agree that however this plays out, we don't want people to die as a result of a policy discussion, right? is that fair for everyone up there?
yeah, bill. bill says yes. i'll take everyone else as a yes. so, blair, my question to you is, can you help this process and make sure that going forward nhtsa and some of the federal government entities that we stop the rhetoric about deaths and dying and we focus on the assumption that everyone agrees that we don't want people to die as a result. the question then is, with that as a baseline, can we move forward with investigating how to share these bands whether it's the qualcomm approach, the cisco approach? but you know the rhetoric just keeps driving us back so that we do nothing, and i think nobody wants anyone to die. so can we enlist your help in driving the federal government forward and stop the rhetoric about deaths and the focus being on we're going to protect everyone we can protect, but can we do it with using less spectrum? >> i think we at nhtsa, we at d.o.t., we've said before and i said toward the end of my remarks, we are happy to work at
how do you do the testing. obviously we're always going to talk about safety. that's our mission. that's what we care about. lives on the highway, that's essentially what our entire game is about and trying to reduce that. so, getting away from mentioning that is always in the back of our mind. but we are, i think to your point, committed to working with the fcc. we're committed to working with ntia to look at and see if sharing can happen in this band. we are -- we're open to that. i think there is a test pan that we've been working on internally to figure out how you test these devices. our hesitation is on kind of backing away at this time when there's a lot of innovation taking place. and it's really just starting to blossom and explode.
constraining the amount of spectrum that there is for folks to innovate in. >> i think we're over time. and so i hope that as many panelists as possible can stay afterwards and answer questions individually, but i think we will end it on that. [ applause ] we've got more from the road to the white house with hillary clinton. former first lady and senator is
in iowa this evening. she will speak at the vr middle school. watch that tonight on our companion network, c spa- spans. c-span's campaign 2016 is taking you on the road to the white house for the iowa caucuses. monday, february 1st, our live coverage begins. at 7:00 p.m. eastern on c-span and c-span 2. we'll bring you live pre-caucus coverage taking your phone calls, tweets, and texts. see the event live in its entirety. be sure to stay with c-span and join in on the conversation on c-span radio and at c-span.org. now a look back at four decades of reporting on china. several new yorker magazine correspondents discuss covering china for two generation answers talk about u.s. and chinese perceptions of each other.
from the asian society and new york city, this runs 90 minutes. good evening, everyone. good evening. tonight is a sellout and it's so great to have you all here on this rainy and cold but very festive time in new york. and for a really fabulous evening. this evening the "new yorker" on china, a look back at four decades of reporting on china is indeed a special night and also a convergence of two anniversaries. the "new yorker" is celebrating its 90th this year. it was one of the first western media to have access to china after the revolution? 194 ? 194i? 194n? 1941949 1949. and of our five distinguished guest panelists tonight, one who
is not a guest, our own orville schell, they have collectively over 100 years of observation and writing on china. and i think you will all find this very enlightening and no doubt entertaining. this includes of course our own orville schell whose asia societies center on u.s.-china relations, arthur ross director and the founder districter. we're pleased to have janet ross here with us tonight. hello, janet. i've learned that orville's first contribution to if "new yorker" was in the '70s. almost whole issues on china solely devoted, quite a thing in the '70s. i've also learned that orville was so delighted with his first paycheck that he went and bought a tractor for his ranch in
california and this was following the directive in the cultural revolution to head to the countryside. orville, good. for asia society it's our 60th anniversary since our founding by john d. rockefeller, iii. i've been up to the archives and i became interested in one question. when did the rockefeller family get interested in asia and china? the route took me back to 1863 or '64 when the original john d. rockefeller, a very poor man at the time, 25 years old, sent half his monthly salary as a store clerk, which was all of about $24 a month, half of that to china to help malnourished children. from that you see a family's interest in the development of china, including the founding of the china medical board in 1914,
and then of course john d. rockefeller, iii, following world war ii really felt that the world needed a center to focus on u.s.-asia relations and in his mind if there were great troubles in the future and great opportunity, it would come from the west and the east. so created the asia society at the time. two important landmarks. this event in particular is part of our china file presents program. china file is an on-line magazine that we started about three years ago. editors and staff are here. just raise your hands. an amazing team of people. and we have done a series of these. so we brought in a generation of "the new york times" reporters on china.
seven correspondents, including seymour topping who reported on the chinese civil war and also "the wall street journal" come in and the financial times and now of course the "new yorker." usually orville is the moderator. tonight he'll be a panelist talking about his experience and his continued writing with the "new yorker." david, this is all yours. i will say to everyone, we have an online audience. they can join the conversation with #asiasocietylive on twitter and ask questions of the panelists. you'll be getting an ipad with there is always a lively spade of those from the on-line community. welcome everyone and please welcome david remnick, the editor of the "new yorker." and a panelist. [ applause ]
>> good evening. i am indeed david remnick and i need to caution you that if this were a panel on the middle east or russia or a few other subjects i would be swimmingly at home. i've been to china twice. so you'll forgive my naive questions. i'm going to do the best i can. but they are questions that are editor questions too. the kind of things i want to know from writers out in the field, whether they're writing from beijing, shanghai, hong kong or chinese american institutions right down the treat, to begin with.
i'm sure she'll be writing some day more frequently from china. let me introduce our panelists top jiayang fan moved to the united states at the age of eight. she blogs frequently about current events on newyorker.com about china. she quote has yet to publish any prize-winning books on her homeland unlike her compatriots up and down the table. she's produced a terrific piece on a bank in chinatown that was weirdly the one bank that was prosecuted in the financial catastrophe. of 2008. we're doing this slightly in age.
let me cast no as persian up or koun. down. evan oshos lived in beijing from 2005 to 2013. he was a staff writer for the chicago tribune and i stole him in 2008. his first piece in china for us was about an gold medalist in boxing. over the years he's written about a barber who beat the house and the cow and the triad gangs that tried to extract the money from him in all of the ways you can predict, as well as profiles of influential people. and earlier this year the president of china, an absolutely remarkable feat of reporting especially when you don't have access to the subject. last year she published a book called "the age of ambition" which basically won every award under the sun.
peter hessler, to my far right drinking some mountain dew which they have in china? they have everything in china. he first went to live in china with the peace corps which sent him to teach english at a teacher's college in a small city in the southwest from 1996 to 1998. and that became the subject of his astonishing first book "river town." in 1999 he moved to beijing to become a freelancer and the following year he started writing, thank god, for the "new yorker." he wrote a trilogy of books about the country and the other two are oracle bones and country driveiesnesgess. he's published a collection of pieces of china from the american west and other places like nepal and japan called "strange stones, dispatches from east to westato west.nto west. " he now lives with his wife and 5-year-old twins in an equally gentle and calming and under populated place, cairo. jianying zha was born in beijing
and has lived in the united states and china over the years. and writes -- i don't know how she does this -- fluidly and elegantly in both languages. not that i would know about chinese but i'm absolutely sure that's the case. her her books are best sellers transforming a country antide players, the movers and shakers of a rising china. and finally really in the case, the grand old man of china writing for the "new yorker" -- i mean that with love. he is an astonishment. a pioneer in the writing about china. he served as the deen of the university of california berkeley graduate school of journalism, a scholar, a writer, a producer and a teacher and he's written and edited a wrath
of books on china. and i want to start with orville. you went to china for the "new yorker" for the first time in the '70s. just to lay the ground work, not that the whole world is about what it's like for reporters but since the evening is dedicated to that at least in part, what was it like to arrive in china as a reporter? what were you able to do? what were queue not able to do? how did you live? what did you eat? who did you know? who did you not know? what was it like? >> well, it was literally i could say another worldly experience. because like others who had been trying to make sense out of china, we had to peer in at it from the outside. and it became something of a tremendous lure precisely because of its refusing to accept us. and its sort of unavailability and willingness to assimilate. when i finally got there was
something of a moment of, you know, a trip to the holy land if you will. but once there i was pretty perplexed because i spoke chinese. i had lived with chinese. i thought i had a rudimentary understanding of how to get along. and yet when confronted as a foreigner was kind of a profound indigestability. one was really shut out. nobody felt comfortable having an informal conversation with you, much les inviting you to their house or allowing any kind of unauthorized interaction. it was very much of -- i was on a youth work brigades working on a commune and then an in electrical machine factory in shanghai.
i was very ritualized and very perplexing leaving me to wonder what to make of this place. >> next week i'm going to israel and palestine to do a story. when i arrive at the hotel, my phone already starts ringing. not that i'm such a lure but this is the style. >> right. >> right? it's a democracy, all kinds of problems, palestinians are all kinds of things to say. but it is a -- it's easy. i have to admit, it's very easy. russia is easy. if you can't find a story there, you should go do something else. how did you -- so you're on a work brigade. so in other words you're not
there to write about politics. you're there to do what? how were you beginning to see a story to write about what the "new yorker" expects what? i can't even imagine this. >> well, i remember sitting in any room in the beijing hotel which had just gone up. it was the only high-rise building in all of beijing. and any of you who have been there recently will know, it's quite a step since then. but looking at the telephone and thinking, you know, there's literally nobody to call. and the phone was not going to ring. so i think in those days you pretty much had to resign yourself that the story was not to find out things through investigative reporting and interviews. the story was what china wanted to present itself as, what it wanted you to see, what it sort of stage craft was all about. >> when you look back at what
you were write in the '70s now that you know the country, you've been there a million times, it's much more penetrable to you. there's a giant literature you've availed yourself to by chinese writers and western writers and the rest. what did you get right? what was off? >> one thing i have to say being there while mao was still alive and the cultural revolution was still going on, there was not one single scintilla of evidence that this place would change. you looked at it and you could not see easily the fracture points. you could not see the contradictions. you saw what you were enabled to see. and i think it was very difficult -- the part that was with hard to get right was what were the, sort of the internal forces that would ultimately drive this country in the way it
would go. and i think it was a profound lesson for me because what it suggested was that china does often undergo tech tonic changes almost none of which are predictable or visible. >> you grew up there obviously. tell us how you first decide to write about this place from a very different angle of vision of orville schell who grow up in new york with a remarkably different job than you. >> as orville was telling his story about his first encounter with china, i was reminiscing about any first encounter with america. a decade later, in the early 1980s i came to the states as a student and i ended up in, of all places, south carolina. it was the state capital but when i arrived i felt this was nothing like i expected. it was like out in the booneys.
>> were you on a work brigade? >> i was just a student in scholarship. and i was actually shown around campus by the chairman of the english department, which i was a graduate student in. testifying, this is really someone from red china. and the first american friend i made was actually apologizing to me like we really don't know anything about china. do you have electricity. and then he actually asked me things like, is your delicacy something like grasshopper dipped in chocolate sauce? that was all he could think of. then there's very really little contact between the two county tris. when my classmates called me a year later -- because you didn't have any money to write or call.
so my classmates in china would be saying, so, you're in america aren't you. this is very poor area. >> they got that right. >> so we have this mutual kind of, i think, ignorance or maybe suspicion or misconception of each other. >> if i can interrupt, when you're picking up the "the new york times" in the '80s or maybe the "new yorker," and you're reading about china in english, did it resemble reality to you in any way or was it like reading about the other side of the moon? >> in the '80s when i was a student, this was before my "new yorker" ratings days. >> we can forget about that. okay. let's try the "the new york times." >> both i became addicted to later. after i went back to china and came back again. the "new yorker" was such an
icon in china. but it was literally amiss. it was kind of cool when i first published my piece in the "new yorker." people thought this was the sort of place that you could have, you know, good writing an in-depth, quirky takes on china. it's viewed as a writers magazine. and the fact that i decided to write in english. that was a long story. had something to do with returning to the states again. and that was one of the first subject of my first book, about the transition after tiananmen. that was a confusing period when my generation of chinese sort of had this very romantic idea
about the states, not just about the wealth but as icon of free speech and all that. >> and did we disappoint you? i'm not joking. >> this is a sobering subject now. because i think since then the vision has changed a lot on both sides. i was watching the republican debate the other day, and then, and i saw china bashing -- >> can i just say i'm sorry? i begin every day, i wake up and turn to my wife and just say i apologize. and for the republican debate, i apologize. >> and i think it really hasn't come out of nowhere. if you look at the u.s. reporting of the last 15 years or a decade, there's basically two kinds of china bashing going on regularly.
one lie is this image of china as this ominous giant that's been playing unfairly with us and eating our lunch, stealing or jobs and it's going to crush us. the other lie is this paper tiger that's on the verge of imminent collapse. you have people like gordon chung and jim channels and all of those people always betting short on china. but i think the reality is somewhere in between. that's where most chinese i know sit. people are really proud of chinese achievement but also very worried. unfortunately i think america now is also worried. so you know, looking at china from outside, most americans tend to see strength and they see this unstoppable march. in fact there's like a recent article that says more than 50% of americans see china, not america, as the number one super power. when the chinese hear about
this, they're taken aback. there's a joke in beijing that goes something like this is a western conspiracy. they're trying to kill us by overpraise. you get praise to the skies and you lose your heads and act stupidly and you fall. but in fact most chinese think that's because americans don't like us and they're trying to push us back and contain us. but i think the danger is, there's the perceptions that are mutually reinforcing. in fact, that's where some of these "new yorker" balance and subtle journalism of china do a lot of good. like eet peter he and evapeter . >> peter, you came to china in a highly -- not the usual way. you weren't sent by a bureau. you came as a peace corps volunteer. you were interested in writing at princeton. we're both students of john
mcphie. and i think you were interested in writing from the get-go. but you didn't land in beijing or shanghai. you started from a very different place. restrictions if any you felt when you got there. in other words, clearly couldn't have felt in orville's way an you spoke good chinese. did it seem impenetrable to you or so changed that you could dig in in a human way that was very difficult 15, 20 years before? >> because i arrived in the peace corps, i didn't see myself as a writer. actually, i mean, i did have a n interest in writing but in college i majored in fiction a and when i showed up i was thinking more of becoming a fiction writer. i remember my first semester there i was writing a short story, wasn't about china at all. i was trying to engage with the place. it felt -- it didn't feel impenetrable. it was difficult. the main difficulty was the language. i showed up with no chinese.
>> you had none? >> none of us in the piece corps had it. quite a few of us became -- >> i hear it's an easy language. >> it's easy if you're in a town of a couple hundred thousand and there's only one other foreigner. you know what i mean? that was really all you had to do. there was no internet. we didn't have cell phones. you know, we couldn't travel. >> so in other words that time that you weren't spent teaching or working for the peace corps, you were studying the language? >> i studied like crazy. because life was miserable otherwise. it was really hard. people would laugh at you. you were a freak. if you walked around, you know, there would be a crowd of 20 watching you which is entertaining for a little while but it becomes really wearing. it was really hard the first six months. i wasn't thinking of myself as a writer. i was a teacher. and one of the first things i actually saw was the way the u.s. looked to my students. my students who are all from
rural schezuan, poor backgrounds. they were good students and it was hard to get into college those days. there was a textbook that we posted, the culture of america. it was almost ridiculous thing. they would have a section on college life in america and they would have all of these things like there were 15 students raped at the university of south carolina, and then you know, students were robbed at the university of southern california. it was all over the place. just random facts. and, you know, and then they had a big section on homosexuality and how capitalism causes homosexuality. they didn't get to the point that maybe gay people have a lot of money because maybe then my students would have started to think about that. it was really hard to teach from this stuff. meanwhile people in town would be like, you know, you would have a farmer say i hear in america they use airplanes to farm. because they -- spread -- like sow the seed. >> like flying northwest. they do. >> they do somewhat.
all these were actually true things. i remember i had a student -- my students were from rural, remote areas. one kid, you know, they had all crazy english names like a boy named daisy and another kid turned out to be north. he was a prototype for kanye's kid 20 years early. but some kid used to ask me questions, he's like, i heard that the washington bullets had to change their name because of all of the gun violence in america. that's a true fact, right? why do you know that? it's like, your name is daisy. right? but you know this thing about the washington bullets. a lot of people probably don't know that in this room. so it was frustrating, you know? because it was kind of personal because you're the representative of this place. i was with the peace corps, of course, and also being the only foreigner. so when it did come time to writing about china, i felt conscious of not doing the same thing in the opposite direction. like i just felt like people
need some context. you know? that's what my students needed. not the most extreme stories. that's what the book had done. it took headlines basically. >> what's bad writing about china? what are you fighting against? i think you're trying to say -- >> how much time do we have? >> we have plenty of time. it's raining and cold outside. >> i think that, you know, i just think it's the extremelies. it's the same thing about the bad writing of america. you know, my students -- either america is a place of constant crime or a place with everybody is rich. this is not it. you should know something in the middle. i just think -- >> is that influenced by starting to write not from -- >> it's the way you write about your local community. i think actually foreign coverage follows the same patterns as local coverage basically. if you're living in new york and writing about -- you can't just write about average life for new york city if "the new york
times." you can do some but that's not what you're supposed to do. you do have to find the extremes and the things that are messed up that have to be fixed. it's an appropriate point of coverage. but i think the problem is that tradition is very deeply entrenched in american journalism and foreign correspondent arrive in another country and do the same thing. they find the most extreme cases in china that need to be fixed or egregious but if there's no context, it confuses the americans. so i think the foreign reporter has to serve a different function than a domestic reporter. you know, this is -- i think not everybody would agree with me. i was criticized a fair amount. >> when you're reading stuff that comes out of the bureaus by intelligent people who speak chinese for the most part, what are your frustrations with that? >> you know, i guess that often
it seems overly political whereas i think often the social, you know, maybe looking more to social frame reference helps. trying to give some sense to how people interact. sometimes rather than just picking one issue and one point in time, you need to show the trajectory of things. which is really important. >> we should be honest. this is a conversation that peter and i have had for years because i tend to come at things maybe more politically. you come at things for socially. and at the tradition of the "new yorker" is that the writer wins. i'm still alive. but the writer does win. and the idea is that you're there and i'm not. and that every writer -- it's meant to be a writer's magazine, that deeply influences what we do. although there are times when in a highly politicized moment, as when during arab spring, you
know, during egyptian counter revolution, you wrote politically. but it's not your go-to thing i think would be fair to say. you would usually be more comfortable writing about the social. now evan comes from a newspaper background. might see this 15 degrees differently. writers are different. they come at things differently. give me a sense when you land in china, again, what the restrictions are, what your approach is and the rest. >> well, i was thinking, you know, as pete was describing the experience of going there, how different it is than being the local paper. i sort of had that experience in the united states before because i was a correspondent for the "chicago tribune" based in new york. i was sent to new york as a new york correspondent. for a couple of years i wrote stories about -- they are a
proud people and they have taken me in as one of their own. the food is exquisite. and that actually was a useful function because in some ways, you know, this's what you were trying to do as a correspondent in a place. but there is that danger of essentializing people to one element. and that's true whether you're writing about new york or china. i should say i was informed -- by the time i set foot in china, i had sort of been shaped as a writer by orville, you know, by pete. in fact i had read jiayang's book "china pop." all the stuff was in the eithth. by the time i got there was a literature of china that didn't exist. they had to create a literature and i was the beneficiary of that. by the time i got there, the idea of the depravation that orville was dealing with on a lifestyle basis, it was
a little different in 2005. i remember once that the restaurant ran out of pate. it was brief but it was very unpleasant. very unpleasant. and the idea that china wasn't changing, it was -- everything had flipped on its head. the default position was that china was constantly changing and moving in this direction of we didn't know what. we had this outline in our minds that it was probably going to be similarish to something that we would recognize in the west. you would always couch that saying china will always be china. >> was that a mistake? >> it was a mistake. when i think back to that period, one of the things that i think we -- certainly that i came to assume about china was that it would move down this path where every year it would get a little more open and there would be moments where it could step back. but it would ultimately keep moving in that direction. and i think fundamentally this
is sort of a slightly different conversation, but fundamentally that's probably true but i think we need to talk for seriously today and in our writing about what's going on at the moment. china really has stepped back. >> was that a historical moment in time? in other words, the '90s, the collapse of communism, the collapse of the soviet union, the moment in 1989 in china gave the united states the sense that everything was moving in terms of political, culturally, tropism was towards some as it were americanism, universal americanism with chinese characters or latin american characters or whatever. a colossal delusion. >> yeah. i mean, orville wrote -- has written the text on this subject. that was a failure of our in some sense our expectation of china. >> but i think we are western and we look at china through our western eyes.