It may also be the most story anywhere, judging by the way China is handled by the U.S. media, according to Brian Bremner, BusinessWeek's Asia regional editor.
Having worked as a journalist in Asia for more than 14 years, Bremner, 47, articulates the complexities of China and the rest of the continent better than most American journalists. He joined the Tokyo bureau of Bloomberg News in January 1993, after doing writing and editing for BusinessWeek in Chicago, New York and Washington.
Returning to BusinessWeek, a division of McGraw-Hill Cos. , in 1995, he has been the magazine's chief voice on Asian developments ever since. Hong Kong has been his base since 2005.
Eyes of the world
The start of the Olympic Games in Beijing is a little more than a year away. The eyes of the world are on the Middle Kingdom.
The task of covering the country of 1.3 billion people presents a daunting challenge to Western reporters and editors.
Bremner hopes writers will go beyond the boilerplate. "American journalists have to get away from the predictable headlines about China," he cautioned.
Those covering the scene will encounter a nation with a lot to prove. "China is very concerned with how the rest of the world perceives it," he said. "The country will want very much to show that the China of Mao's impoverished peasants is over. They want to command the respect of the rest of the world and reimage, or rebrand, the country as the ascendant economic power of the 21st century."
Journalists working in China now are bracing for the inevitable crush of visitors carrying notebooks and microphones, ready to give the folks back home their "expert" view.
Like most foreign correspondents, Bremner is irked by the time-honored practice of an American media star "parachuting" into a suddenly newsworthy nation for a snappy three-day visit. This type of superficial reporting invariably results in a shallow and misleading story.
"The journalists miss what's really going on because they work in a carefully choreographed, controlled situation," he commented.
Bremner, a sensitive observer of the journalism world, is amused by what he calls the American media's predictable "oooh-ahhh" tone of covering China these days. It's as if the only thing they deem worthy is the runaway economic growth.
American writers sit in their offices thousands of miles away and remain fixated on the easy-to-unfold narratives. But Bremner told me that China's growth could cause plenty of headaches, too.
"Serious developmental problems are creeping in," he said. "You've got a backward financial system grafted on to a high-speed manufacturing economy. The government is trying to slow down the growth of the economy because so much money is flowing in, it's more than the banks can really use."
Bremner also expects U.S. journalists to pay closer attention to such issues as China's much-criticized policy regarding Darfur.
"China is worried that people will be calling this the 'genocide Olympics,'" he pointed out, noting that many high-profile figures are pressuring China to change its hands-off attitude toward oppression in Africa.
Then there is China's "horrendous" pollution problem, Bremner added. "It has become a real health concern and a political issue."
China also matters to American media because of the nation's commercial potential. BusinessWeek, which has a thriving Chinese-language edition, is exploring the creation of a corresponding Web site. BusinessWeek.com maintains a channel devoted to Asia.
Bremner, who lived in New York during the tumultuous early 1990s, came back this month for a two-week hitch in BusinessWeek's headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. Hwas struck by the optimism of the city's residents.
We'd been talking about Asia nonstop for more than an hour over breakfast Thursday. I shifted gears and asked him what he thought about New York City.
"New York is at the top of its game," he said with a big smile. "The city seems safer, and Times Square! It is a high-tech Disneyland amusement park!"
You know what? I could've sworn that he looked a little homesick.
MEDIA WEB QUESTION OF THE DAY: What stories aren't being told about China?
FRIDAY STORY OF THE WEEK: "The Fox in the Henhouse" by Eric Pooley (Time). Pooley did a terrific job of capturing Murdoch as the News Corp. CEO proceeded with his plan to acquire Dow Jones, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal. The story offered a revealing look at how the media tycoon might run the Journal, too. (Dow Jones also owns MarketWatch, the publisher of this column.) Pooley demonstrated, once again, why magazines matter today.
Also of note: "A Mighty Shame" by Asra Nomani (Washington Post, June 25). The former Wall Street Journal correspondent. one of the last people to see Pearl alive, presents a riveting, heartfelt view. The piece also shows why the new movie "A Mighty Heart" could be interpreted as Hollywood's flawed account of the entire tragic Pearl saga.
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By Jon Friedman