There are more than a billion people in China and sometimes it seems Rob Schmitz has an eye on all of them. Schmitz reports from Shanghai for Marketplace–and there is something reassuring about hearing his plainspoken voice on the radio from a world away. China a giant mystery to you? Worried it took US jobs and bought all the US debt, too? Questions about pollution, censorship, repression, worker exploitation giving you pause? The red monolith becomes a lot more comprehensible with Schmitz on the case. To be clear, he finds much of what goes on there–especially fantastic claims by the government–as strange as you do: it’s just that he’s bemused, not confused by it. Take this opening couple of lines, from an article about the ruling Party telling its officials not to smoke in public:
The new Party directive says smoking, “damages the image of the party and the government.”
So does rampant corruption – but smoking seems to be a more manageable vice among China’s ruling elite.
Schmitz has a Master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and spent time in China while in the Peace Corps. He speaks Mandarin, but what’s critical to his success is how well he listens. In fact it was Schmitz’s circumspect ear that ultimately exposed a popular muckraking story about Apple Computer’s activities in China as self-promotional malarkey. Taking an American journalist out over some popular accusations of Chinese and Apple malfeasance? More proof that if Schmitz is in anybody’s corner, it’s the truth’s.