Commentary managing editor Gary Rosen doesn’t necessarily recommend traveling to China for the first time the way he did: with a delegation of American journalists, or “media friends” as the Chinese called them, whisked from one fancy hotel to another for canned official speeches. But the two-week trip did provide an “extraordinary education,” according to Rosen, a fascinating peek inside China’s complicated bureaucracy that he recounts in the December 2007 issue of Commentary.
“For the Chinese government, every visitor, even the casual tourist, represents an opportunity to make a positive impression–to let the world know of China’s progress under the sage guidance of the Communist party,” Rosen writes. “But American journalists fresh off the plane are potential troublemakers and have to be handled with special care.” Rosen tried to ask hard questions of his hosts. A party official’s answer:
Thanks to a range of measures, he informed us, two-thirds of the days in Beijing now had “good air quality.” As he spoke to us in a glass-walled conference room, the smog outside was so thick that nearby buildings were visible only in outline. “Is this a ‘good’ air day?,” I asked, pointing toward the street. Without missing a beat, he replied, “it takes an expert to determine that.”