Pulitzer Center Update

This Week in Review: Crossroads: Burma

Porters at Rangoon docks. Image by Gary Knight. Burma, 2012.

The fabled Burma Road was originally carved out of jungles and mountains by 200,000 Chinese and Burmese laborers at the beginning of World War II. Its purpose was to provide China with a vital supply line in its struggle against Imperial Japan. Today, it once again serves as a critical supply line—this time feeding China’s increasingly voracious appetite for resources from its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Pulitzer Center grantees Jeff Howe and Gary Knight have taken advantage of recent political reforms in Burma to explore this country’s key role in the 21st century’s emerging power rivalries. “Burma now serves as a different kind of crossroads, where Chinese, Indian, and increasingly, Western governments and businesses jockey for diplomatic and economic influence,” says Jeff. “Burma is in possession of both strategic geography—offering China access to the Indian Ocean and a chance to bypass the troubled Malacca Straits by which 80 percent of its imported oil now passes—and riches in the form of rare minerals, natural gas, and oil.” Jeff’s full reports and Gary’s remarkable images are available on the GlobalPost website.

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Chinese migration is a two-way street. This week, on the front page of The New York Times, we read that despite China’s booming economy, hundreds of thousands of well-educated professionals are leaving the country in pursuit of better opportunities elsewhere. At the same time, as Pulitzer Center grantee Peter Ford reports in The Christian Science Monitor series “Brain Gain,” China is also the beneficiary of a reverse brain drain—a growing tide of foreign-educated Chinese nationals who are returning home in record numbers to be part of China’s economic miracle. But the road back is not always smooth. Despite China’s economic success, Peter reports that a deep-seated cultural fear of failure is a deterrent to many returnees. Share your thoughts and read more about the articles here.

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Join us next week when Pulitzer Center-supported photojournalists come to Washington for an exhibition of their work at FotoWeek DC. They also will be sharing their reflections on the challenges of reporting on the local costs of global goods. They'll provide the back story on how they tell complex stories through images and their efforts to sustain public interest in these important issues. The visit kicks off on Thursday, November 8 with a free public conversation at The George Washington University’s Jack Morton Auditorium. The event is free and a reception follows the program, but RSVP requested.

Ahead of his upcoming journey on foot around the world, journalist Paul Salopek spoke this week with students at the University of Chicago, a member of the Pulitzer Center’s Campus Consortium. Please listen in on Paul's talk.

Until next week,

Tom Hundley
Senior Editor