Speaking and Media

I comment in the media and speak regularly at companies, universities, high schools, think tanks and appear in the media on many of the issues I write about. (Please see the articles page for a complete list of subjects and publications.)

Some of the most popular Chinese topics include: how changing social values impact foreign businesses, China’s political climate, the government’s reform agenda, and Chinese people’s search for values and religion. European topics include the rise of Islamism, history, Germany after reunification, and the creation of the new Berlin. 

Please feel free to contact me via The China’s Speakers Bureau, or directly by email at info@ian-johnson.com 


Chinese Literature Podcast
11 May 2024

Interview with Lee Moore on the novelists and writers challenging the state’s monopoly. Listen here.

New Books Network
9 May 2024

Interview with Ed Pulford of the network’s East Asia channel. Listen here.

China Law & Policy Podcast
28 April 2024

Interview with Elizabeth M. Lynch. Read the program notes and listen to or download the podcast here.

Princeton University
23 April 2024

Lecture to students, visit with grad students.

Boston University
2 April 2024

University-wide lecture on history battles in China. Details here.

WFMU Radio Techtonic
20 March 2024

Interview with Radio Techtonic‘s Mark Hurst on the technology behind the growth of China’s unofficial history movement. You can find it on Apple podcasts or listen here. The interview starts at 8’30”

UC San Diego
19 March 2024

“Counter-histories in China.” Organized by the 21st Century China Center (21CCC) at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy. 5 pm For map and registration, please click here. Video of the talk on YouTube here.

Stanford University
18 March 2024

Talk with Orville Schell and Glenn Tiffert at the Hoover Institution from 4 to 5:30 pm. Details and registration here.
See the YouTube recording here.

Annual Meeting Association for Asian Studies, Seattle.
16 March 2024

8:30 am. Panel discussion with independent journalist Jiang Xue, publisher and bookstore entrepreneur Zhang Jieping, and U Wisconsin’s Guo Jian. Panel details here. Details on the AAS meeting here

Yale Club New York City
12 February 2024

“Art and Politics: How Artists Respond to Turbulent Times Through Their Creations.: Discussion with author Kejia Wu. Registration and information here.

Yale University
12 February 2024

The Battle for Memory in China. 12 noon to 1:30 pm. Details and registration here.

York University, U Toronto
6-7 February 2024

Feb 7, noon lunch with faculty and staff, York University. Private.
2:30 pm, public lecture, York University. Details and registration here.

Feb 6, 3 pm Critical Studies Group. Private.

2023 Events

(For Sparks book events, see dedicated page here.)

University of Westminster
13 December 2023

Launch of the China Unofficial Archives with Shao Jiang and Gerda Wieländer. View details here. View it on YouTube here.

Asia Society
30 October 2023

Panel discussion on dissent inside and outside China with the independent journalist Jiang Xue (who is also a main character in my book, Sparks), the publisher and columnist Annie Zhang Jieping, and the NYT columnist/host of one of the most popular sinophone podcasts, Li Yuan. Moderated by the Asia Society’s Susan Jakes. Details here. Watch the discussion here.

Asia Society
12 October 2023

Launch of China Review of Books, panel discussion. Details here. Watch the discussion here (Ian and David Barboza appear at minute 36.)

→SPARKS TOUR (Sept-Dec 2023), see dedicated page here.
Queens Library
8 September 2023

In conversation with Chun Han Wong on his new book, Party of One: The Rise of Xi Jinping and China’s Superpower Future. This is viewable on YouTube via the Queens Public Library feed. 

Institute for Advanced Study
29 March 2023

Discussion with Franciscus Verellen at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin on “Religion, Civil Society, and Political Power in China.” Watch the discussion (in German)  here.

Asia Society
1 March 2023

“Hell in China”–no, not a panel on politics or Sino-US relations but on concepts of morality and the afterlife. From the description:

What are the conceptions of hell in China, and what role have these traditionally played in shaping the contours of the moral universe for many if not most Chinese? What happened to that moral universe when China’s Communist Party under Mao largely banned the practice of religion, with what lasting effects, and with how much rebounding to previous norms once those restrictions eased up? Has a renewed search for meaning and spirituality in China over the past couple of decades, an era of rapid growth and rapid change, led to different understandings of hell and the role it plays in modern life? 

Join us at the Asia Society March 1 for a discussion–in person or by video. Details here. Watch the video here.

Fordham University
25 January 2023

“China’s New Civil Religion:” A talk jointly sponsored by the US-China Catholic Association, ChinaSource, and the China Academic Consortium. To watch the talk, here it is on YouTube.

Live Recording of Sinica Podcast
24 January 2023

Recording the Sinica podcast with Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn at Rizzoli Bookstore in Manhattan. Here’s the podcast, and a transcript.

University of Wisconsin
2 November 2022

I’ll be spending two days on the University of Wisconsin at Madison campus. Details for the main talk at the Upper House can be found here.

The President’s Inbox
12 October 2022

An interview on one of the snappiest podcasts about foreign affairs. Topic: the 20th Party Congress. Listen here.

Workshop: Digitization of Memory
22 September 2022

I’ll be presenting a paper to this workshop, being held virtually and in person at the University of Bonn, Germany. My talk will be on the samizdat publication Spark, 《星火》.  The outcome is supposed to be a conference book that will include my paper–we’ll see if it’s good enough…

I’ll post links to the conference here if there is a public video component.  

New York Times Book Review Podcast
5 August 2022

I join the Aug 5, 2022, NYT Book Review Podcast to discuss my recent review for the Times of Wang Xiaobo’s classic 1990s novel, Golden Age.

C-Span Washington Journal
13 March 2022

I join Greta Brawner on her weekly Washington Journal for a 40-minute discussion of China’s role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Classical Ideas Podcast
1 February 2022

This 2019 podcast with host Greg Soden has recently been reissued on the New Books Network. Greg is a high school teacher who has done hundreds of interviews with faith leaders, practitioners, and authors. He’s incredibly engaged and this was one of my favorite interviews. Listen to the show here.

University of Nottingham
14 January 2022

A lecture on the underground Chinese journal Remembrance (记忆). See my post on this lecture.

China Institute
10 December 2021

I had the privilege of discussing with the Chinese non-fiction writer Liang Hong about her newly translated book about her home village and the changes sweeping through rural China. See the summary and YouTube link here

Hong Kong Baptist University
11-13 November 2021

Thirty years after the Cold War ended, how does it affect our view of the world, including the ongoing rivalry with China. Watch our roundtable on YouTube here.

IIS Madra China Studies Centre
4 November 2021

Discussion with experts from India, China, and elsewhere on China’s role in Afghanistan after the U.S. pullout. Details here.

University of Manchester
12 October 2021

Lecture on my history and memory project: “Digital dissent: How grassroots historians are challenging the Chinese Communist Party’s version of the past—and its right to rule.” Details here.

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
6 October 2021

I joined Biao Xiang, director of the institute’s Anthropology of Economic Experimentation, in discussing a lecture by David Ownby, Université de Montréal, on “The Changing Intellectual Landscape in China.” David is super knowledgeable about this topic (see his
website) and it’s a rare chance to hear him synthesize his years of work translating leading Chinese thinkers.
Event details here.

An edited recording is on the Max Planck website at https://www.eth.mpg.de/5597703/reflexive_brokerage_for_a_global_anthropology .

 Thanks to Professor Xiang and the folks at Max Planck for putting on such a professional lecture and recording.

Note on Media Appearances

Since joining CFR on July 1 (see here), I’ve had an increasing number of media appearances so will no longer list them all. From this point on I’ll list major public speeches and media appearances that seem particularly noteworthy. 

This month, I’ve talked to: the radio show “Inside Sources” on China and Afghanistan; al-Jazeera on Afghanistan; Canadian Press on Afghanistan;  and The Signal on youth culture.

23 August 2021

Interview with Abigail Ng on China’s “tricky” problem with the Taliban.
Read the article here.

U.S.-China Catholic Association
06-07 August 2021
“Catholicism in the Xi Jinping Era” Keynote address. Details here.
China Hirn
28 July 2021

Interview with Wolfgang Hirn (in German) who puts out the Chinahirn newsletter. Mr. Hirn profiles me under the title “Old China Hands,” which seems appropriate… Read the profile here.

17 July 2021

Interviewed for in-dpeth piece on the Chinese Communist Party at 100. Link here.

BBC Analysis
01 July 2021

An interview, starting at minute 6:15, with Isabel Hilton on a documentary about the Chinese Communist Party at 100. Check out the show’s page here and listen to the broadcast on this permanent link..

Sophia University Tokyo
13 May 2021
China’s political landscape.
Private lecture.
Pulitzer Center Annual Conference
21 April 2021
“Environment (Re)Defined.”
China Panel, 9 am
Details here.
Princeton University
21 April 2021
“Writing a New History of China”
Details and registration here.
International Horizons
12 April 2021
A podcast with John Torpey of the City University of New York’s Ralph Bunche Institute. We discuss China from imperial times to today–a fun, freewheeling discussion.
Listen to it on Soundcloud here.
Transcript and background here.
Brown China Summit
10/11 April 2021
Keynote address and panel discussion
Details here.
International Visitor Leadership Program
6 April 2021
Private discussion with State Department-sponsored program to explain prospects for change in China.
St. Teresa of Avila Parish (Chicago)
24 March 2021
Public talk on Catholicism in China
YouTube recording of presentation here.
Duke University China-U.S. Summit 2021
20 March 2021
Panel 1: Culture and Society
Details here.
University of Virginia’s Religion, Race & Democracy Lab
18 March 2021
Informed Perspectives lecture series.
Panel discussion: “Race & Religion in China”
Details and registration here.
Recording of event on vimeo here.
Afternoon Drive Home
9 March 2021
Radio 101.5 Pittsburgh interview on Souls of China
Listen and watch on Facebook feed starting around 1’15” here.
Princeton US-China Coalition
6 March 2021
Discussion with PUCC students on journalism in China after the expulsion of U.S. journalists last year. With Amy Qin from the New York Times and Jeremy Goldkorn from SupChina.
28th Annual Asian Studies Development Program, East-West Center
4 March 2021
“Knowing Practices Intersecting”
Keynote address on how knowledge evolves, including bodily knowledge, such as martial arts, meditation, and medicine.
California State University San Bernardino
22 February 2021
“Modern China Lecture” on the state of Sino-US relations, and the state of journalism in China. Details here.
YouTube recording here.
National University of Singapore
15 December 2020
“Civil Society or Nostalgic Escapism?” Public lecture on how to interpret the popularity of pilgrimage associations in Beijing. Registration here.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
21 November 2020

Private discussion with faculty about how to engage with China.

European Citizen Education Network
6 November 2020
 “China’s Moment in World Politics?” Panel disussion with Zhang Junhua, EAIS; Kristin Shi-Kupfer, Uni Trier; Christoph Müller-Hofstede moderator.
 Details here
Chulalongkorn University
5 November 2020
Facebook live discusion with students of the Faculty of Political Science. Thanks to Prof. Wasana Wongsurawat for moderating the event.

Watch the video here.

University of Chicago
29 October 2020
“Writing a New History of China: How Chinese Intellectuals Are Trying to Fill in Blank Spaces in Contemporary Chinese History.” 6 pm Chicago time.
Details here.
Bridge Project
16 October 2020
 “The Souls of China.” Zoom lecture and discussion about the role of religion in China, as part of the Bridge Project’s new exhibition on Chinese sacred art. Discussant will be Promise Hsu, author of a new book on liberty in China. Info here.
Chinese University of Hong Kong
16 October 2020
 “My Successes and Failures as a Twenty-Year China Hand.” Zoom lecture open to the public at CUHK. Registration and more info here.
You can see the talk on YouTube here.
Rutgers University
25 Sept 2020

“Twenty Years in China: A Journalist’s Experience on Trends and Developments.” Talk to Asian Studies and Journalism students via Zoom. For a summary, please click here. To watch the video, click here.

Hong Kong Baptist University
10 Sept 2020
“Losing Perspective: How the Rupture in Sino-US Relations Will Hurt Our Understanding of Grassroots China.”
A talk to journalism students via Zoom.
The World and Everything In It
20 August 2020
An interview on what it means when the United States closes itself off to China. Listen to the interview here
ABC Australia Late Night Live
18 August 2020
A long interview with one of Australia’s top radio shows on what it was like having my life turned upside-down by being expelled from China. The host was more than a little too flattering in comparing me to Joseph Needham (“the man who loved China”). Listen to the show here.
Barbarian at the Gate
7 July 2020
 An irreverant podcast with the inimicable Jeremiah Jenne and David Moser. We discuss working in China, fatherhood, and basically what a crazy-ass year 2020 has turned out to be. Listen to it here.
Asia Matters
18 March 2020
Podcast discussion with Parag Khanna and hosts Andrew Peaple and Vincent Ni on the coronavirus, China, and Asia.
Listen here.
Deep Background
14 March 2020
Podcast with Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman on the coronavirus. Listen to it on iTunes or other services here.
Abu Dhabi ECSSR
11 December 2019
Book lecture at the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research on the origins of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe
Details here.
University of Notre Dame
28 October 2019
South Bend, IN
Notre Dame University
Details here.
You can see a video of my talk here.
Loyola University
29 October 2019
Public lecture on religion in China
Details here
BBC Weekend
27 July 2019
Ten-minuted taped interview about the death of former Premier Li Peng, nicknamed the “butcher of Beijing” for his role in the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen crackdown and his legacy as an authoritarian technocrat–in essence a template for the people running China today.
Show site is here but episodes only stay up for three weeks.
Leipzig University
3 July 2019
Public lecture: “Religion in China: Back to the Center of Society and Politics.”
Biblioteca Albertina, Cafe Alibi, 8 pm. Details here.
BBC Television
4 June 2019
Interview on how Chinese people keep the memory of Tiananmen alive despite efforts to eliminate it. Based on this op-ed in the New York Times.
Princeton University
24-25 April 2018
Public lecture details here.
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
22 April 2018
Discussion about Li Rui papers.
Closed event.
Foreign Policy
30 March 2019
Interview on Islam’s troubles in China. Read the article here.
The Initium
15 March 2019
Interview with the Hong Kong publication on Chinese politics, search for values. Read it (in Chinese) unpaywalled here.
13 March 2019
Outtakes of my March 8 interview with Sherry Lee. One small correction: I meant to say my stick-fighting was *not* good (because it isn’t!).
Read it in Chinese here.
The Reporter
08 March 2019
In-depth interview by Sherry Lee, editor of Taiwan’s leading magazine of long-form journalism.
Read it (in Chinese) here.
BBC The Real Story
3 March 2019
One-hour roundtable discussion on the economic and demographic challenges facing China, Inc.
Listen to the podcast or download the show here.
Talks in Taipei, Taiwan
15 February 2019
Discussion at Tapei Book Fair for launch of Taiwan edition of Souls
Click here for the FB event page.
16 February 2019
 一個西方記者如何書寫中國?[How Does a Western Journalist Write About China?] 討論會(地點:未定,與談人:林育立、李雪莉)
Tickets here.
18 February 2019
「當代華人宗教中心」學術討論會. 地點:國立政治大學,主辦人:林敬智助理教授)
The Economist
17 January 2019 issue
The magazine discusses my Foreign Affairs piece (read it unpaywalled here) on how China is coopting some religions and persecuting others.
26 December 2018
“Beijing’s crackdown on religion clouds the holiday season for the country’s faithful.”
Read the article here.
National Public Radio
26 December 2018
“Chinese Authorities Raid Two Prominent Independent Churches.”
Read or listen to the piece here.
Brush Talks
December 2018
An interview about journalism, working in China, cliches about China, my pet peeves about how foreigners write about China and…. Read the interview here.
Dec. 3 and 5
Talks in Bratislava and Kosice as part of their Pulitzer Prize winners’ lecture series. Summary of the talk in Bratislava here.
Einstein Forum
13 December 2018
Potsdam, Germany
“Die Seelen Chinas” (lecture in German)
Details here.
Portland State University
10 October 2018
Baylor University
3 October 2018
Details here.
Auburn University
2 October 2018
Littleton-Franklin Lectures
Details here.
Gethsemane Church Berlin
13 July 2018
Keynote speaker for a global commemoration on the anniversary of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo’s death, along with Herta Müller, Wolf Biermann, Liao Yiwu and Liu’s recently released widow Liu Xia.
The German version of my talk was published in die tageszeitung,while the Chinese edition of The New York Times published it in Chinese. The English text has never been published but follows an article I wrote for The New York Review of Books here.
China Institute
New York City
7 June 2018
“Ethical Dilemmas: Rebuilding China’s Moral Foundation,” panel discussion with Rutgers University’s Jiang Tao, moderated by Barbara Demick.
Details here.
China Zentrum
(Sankt Augustin, Germany)
12 April 2018
Talk at the Jahresakademie:
“Gott und Glauben in Xi Jinpings China.”
A modified version of the talk was reprinted in the center’s quarterly journal.
Konfuzius Institut an der FU Berlin
16 April 2018
“Die Rückkehr von Tradition und die Suche nach
neuen Werten im China der Gegenwart”
19 April 2018
“Li Manshan: Portrait of a Folk Daoist”
Moderation of film screening by Stephen Jones.
UCLASchool of Law
19 March 2018
“China’s Search for Faith and Values”
12 noon to 2 pm. Details here.
UC Irvine
20 March 2018
Search for Meaning: Return of Religion and Spirituality in China
UC San Diego
21 March 2018
“The Return of Religion and China’s Future”
5 pm. Details here.
Association of Asian Studies Annual Meeting
Washington, D.C.
24 March 2018
Book signing.
2-3 pm.
Washington Marriott Wardman Park, Random House booth.
Purdue University
27 March 2018
Center on Religion and Chinese Society
“The Confucian Dream?”
West Layfayette Public Library
University of London
School of Oriental and African Studies.
15 January 2018
5-7 pm. Details here.
Cambridge University
16 January 2018
5-7 pm.
Chatham House
(Royal Institute of International Affairs, London)
17 January 2018
1-2:30 pm. Details here.
Reform Club London
18 January
Invitation only.
14 December 2017
Mercator Institute for Chinese Studies, Berlin
ThinkIn China Beijing
5 December  2017
Event report and pictures here.
Singapore Writers Festival
11 November 2017
5-6 pm “Media: Friend or Foe?”
8:30-9:15 pm “China Soul-Searching”
12 November 2017
2:30-3:30 “Turning to Faith”
Details for all events here.
Hong Kong University
6 November 2017
Details here.
Hong Kong Baptist University
6 November 2017
Details here.
Hong Kong Literary Festival
4 November 2017
11 am to 12 noon, Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences
“The Souls of China.”
5 November
13:30-14:30, Hong Kong Museum of Medical Science
hosting Zhang Lijia talk about her new novel, “Lotus.”
The details of these talks are no longer on the festival’s website (which offers its archives only on request).
National Committee for U.S.-China Relations
26 October 2017
“The Souls of China”
New York City.
Details here.
Yale University
23 October 2017
“The Battle for China’s Soul”
Luce Hall Auditorium, 4:30 pm
Details here.
University of Virginia, Charlottesville
19 October
“China’s Religious Revival”
East Asia Center, 5 pm.
Details here.
Young China Watchers
18 October 2017
Discussion of faith, values and the Communist Party’s once-every-five-year meeting.
New York City.
Details here.
Columbia University
18 October 2017
Discussion on “Souls of China,” moderated by Andrew Nathan.
Weatherhead East Asian Institute, 12 noon to 1:30 pm
University of South Florida
16 October 2017
Centro Asturiano,
1913 Nebraska Avenue, Tampa
Details here.
Council on Foreign Relations
24 May 2017
Panel discussion with Elizabeth Economy, Andrew Nathan, and Yang Fenggang as part of CFR’s Religion and Foreign Policy Workshop.
Watch the video here.
Foreign Correspondents Club of China
18 May 2017
Details here.
Beijing International Society.
18 May 2017
Details here.
Duke Kunshan campus
16 May 2017
Details here.
Shanghai Foreign Correspondents Club
15 May 2017
Details here.
University of Notre Dame
27 April 2017
Talk on China’s religious revival.
View on YouTube here.
Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown University
19 April 2017
Talk on China’s religious revival.
View on YouTube here.
Center for Strategic and International Studies
18 April 2017
“The political uses of religion in China.”
Watch the video by clicking here.
The Bookworm
8 March 2017
Conversation with Jeffrey Wasserstrom of UC Irvine to talk about his new Penguin book: Eight Juxtapositions.
Details here.
Sinica Podcast
29 December 2016
“Ian Johnson on the Vatican and China:” 45-minute Q&A on the SupChina Sinica podcast about Catholicism in China, chances for a rapprochement between the two states, and recommended readings.
Click here to listen and to read a description.
National Library of Singapore
2 November 2016
“China’s Religious Renaissance:” A 90-minute talk and discussion about China’s religious revival, hosted by Kenneth Dean of the National University of Singapore and Francis Lim of Nanyang Technological University as the discussant.
Some photos are online here.
Princeton University
22-24 October 2016
“How and Why Chinese Language Learning is Useful in Careers:” This obvious-sounding workshop (agenda here, including downloads of many of the papers) actually turned into a profound and lively discussion about how we engage with other cultures. I gave a talk–a “new manifesto” for foreign reporting that (I hope) will emphasize more language and culturally savvy reporters. The proceedings might be published in the coming year or two.
Beijing Capital Normal University
24 September 2016
“Non-fiction in China:” Part of a panel discussion with writers and academics about the future of long-form non-fiction in China. Click here for a link to an article in Chinese about some comments I made.
Fieldstead Company, Irvine, CA
19 August 2016
“Christianity in China:” A talk at Fieldstead Company, the private charity run by the Ahmanson family of Los Angeles, at its “Perspectives on China” conference. Click here for details
Freie Universität Berlin
7 July 2016

“China’s Religious Revival:” A talk at the East Asian Seminar on why religion is growing in China and the implications for society and politics.

The Beijing Center
28 May and 5 June 2016

Talk to undergraduates from NYU and Universität Antwerpen on China’s search for values.

Colgate University
23 May 2016

Talk to visiting students putting together a video project on religion on China, especially the Miaofengshan pilgrimage and Sydney Gamble’s 1920s films.

NYRB China Conference
16 January 2016

A talk in Hong Kong at the New York Review of Books’ conference on “The Governance of China.”

Selected Earlier Talks
Sinica Podcast
7 June 2015
“How to write about China:” Appearance on one of the most popular China podcasts, “Sinica,” with regular hosts Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn, and David Moser. They interview me on a recent article I did in the New York Review of Books on journalism in China.
Listen to the podcast here.
The Beijing Bookworm
20 May 2015
“From Beijing to Berlin:” Public talk and discussion with Timothy Garton Ash on how 1989 played out in China and Europe, and its implications today.
Listen to the podcast here.
InterFaith Radio
26 March 2015
Radio discussion with Rebecca Nedostup of Brown University on China’s religious boom, the country’s spiritual vacuum, and the rise of indigenous religions, as well as Christianity.
“On Point”
4 November 2014
Appearance on Tom Ashbrook’s On Point, with University of Chicago’s Dali Yang and Duke’s Kang Liu on why Xi Jinping has embraced a nationalist blogger.
High school, university talks in Chicago, St. Louis
27-31 October 2014
Talks in Chicago- and St. Louis-area high schools and at the U Chicago and U Missouri-St. Louis as part of the Pulitzer Center’s public education program. No recordings available but links herehere, and here.
The Asia Society
How Stable is China?
Sinica podcast
China’s territorial claims
Hudson Institute
A speech given at the Hudson Institute’s Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World about my book A Mosque in Munich
Carnegie Council

A talk on A Mosque in Munich
View Video

New America Foundation

NPR’s “Fresh Air” a discussion on my first book, Wild Grass.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis das ist wirklich iste natus.

    Send me a copy