The New York Times conceived of China Rules, a special project, as a way to answer a deceptively simple question: How did China do it? The nation has defied Western norms, and expectations, to become the world’s second-largest economy and the newest superpower. Almost a year in the making, and with collaboration from nearly all corners of the newsroom and correspondents around the world, the project explores how and why China achieved its stature. Max Fisher, who writes The Times’s Interpreter column with Amanda Taub, recently spoke with The Times’s managing editor, Joe Kahn, a former Beijing bureau chief. A lightly edited and condensed excerpt from their conversation follows.
Q. How did this project come together?
A. In the beginning of each year, we have a series of enterprise meetings and brainstorming sessions. Tech people were talking about doing something on the competition between Silicon Valley and the Chinese tech giants. International was talking about Belt and Road and the projection of Chinese power and clashes in the South China Sea. Business was talking about some of the long-term threads. At the same time, we were in this environment where Trump was sounding the alarm on China.
Out of all that came some discussion that we should really try to do something that is set apart. Not a series of typical newspaper stories about this or that about China, but something that made more of a statement that we’re in a different world now.
We’ve all, in the past generation, grown up with a sense that there is a single superpower in the world, the United States, and most of the issues have been defined as for or against American interests around the world, like radical Islamist terrorism. That’s changing, and it’s time to just pause and make a statement that it’s changing.
We spent a big part of the initial effort just gathering data, looking for some of the harder metrics on very broad issues like social mobility or export power or the size of the Chinese internet, to see whether that could help us make some broader statements. It was an attempt, rather than looking for the usual newsy development that allows us to say something broader in the middle of the story, to broaden from the start and tell this in a more explanatory way. So we really set out to put some bigger conclusions and data-driven analysis first, and then figure out the story.
The tricky part is that, when you take on a big project like that early in 2018 and try to land it late in 2018, you don’t know what the macro news environment is going to be. For all we knew at that time, we could be at war in the South China Sea, or on the Korean Peninsula, or Trump and Xi could become best friends and resolve the trade war. It kind of worked out, timing-wise, but we couldn’t have known that.
Is there anything surprising we’ve learned about what kinds of China stories will pull people in? We tried something similar to this when I was an editor at The Atlantic seven or eight years ago, but it was hard to get people into it.
It’s still hard to get people into it. We have a giant investment in a really high-quality China staff, we translate a lot of things into Chinese, we have everyone from the science desk to Washington paying attention to it.
The audience we have for this project is really a testament of the drawing power of The New York Times when we frame something well, present it well and promote it heavily — as opposed to there having been some unarticulated, deep desire for more China reporting that we’d suddenly tapped into.
It speaks to the role of the institution to pick a moment when people might not be pining for China coverage to say, “Actually, you should be paying attention to this.” And it seems like they are.
I hope so. I think that is a role that, ideally, from time to time, The New York Times can play. I think we play it pretty regularly on our big investigative efforts.
It’s not like people were saying, “Where’s your story on Trump’s family taxes?” But when we deliver the story on Trump’s family taxes, we create a moment around that and conversation around it. I think this is similar. You can’t do it all the time, but when we pick our spots well, I think we can help focus the conversation.
9-year-old genius to graduate university
(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.
Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.
Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.
He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.
His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.
“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.
Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.
While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.
But Lydia has her own theory.
“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.
The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.
“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.
“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”
Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.
“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”
Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”
His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.
“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.
“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”
While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.
“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”
Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.
However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.
In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.
Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.
New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne
Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem
Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.
The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.
Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.
🚨WANTED for ASSAULT: on 11/6 at approx 3:43 PM in front of 128 West 112th St in Manhattan, a 32 yr old male was walking with his 8 yr old son when a white BMW jumped the curb & hit the father & son. The driver then got out and slashed the father. Call @NYPDTips with any info. pic.twitter.com/cwd79rcM4c
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) November 15, 2019
Father and son were both knocked through a gate.
The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.
One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.
McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.
McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.
Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.
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