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IDEAS: You identified self-censorship as a problem among Chinese journalists.
ZHU: I use it as a descriptive term. I don’t mean to be judgmental or critical....Maybe better to say “to be very cautious”....I do understand, on a very very personal level, the struggles they went through because it’s precisely the struggle I went through when I was in China. I left China because I couldn’t handle being there anymore. I was eager for a breath of fresh air.
IDEAS: Given this level of control, right now the only place to get reliable news is in cyberspace?
ZHU: Right now the Internet would be the place. You have to try to “climb the wall” (install software to get by the Chinese censorship restrictions) to get the truth.
IDEAS: Were you worried Chinese authorities will retaliate, like by keeping you out of China, for writings they don’t like?
ZHU: Every time I enter China there is always a concern whether they will stop me at the border. Absolutely. Do I feel like I was watched? Yes, absolutely. I was watched, I know for sure.
IDEAS: How do you know?
ZHU: [laughs] I can’t really get into all the details....Being from China, I somehow know where the boundary is. If I want to continue going back and forth to do productive work...I have to walk a fine line. There’s a certain amount of self-censorship on my part as well.
IDEAS: Are you an optimist or pessimist about the next five or 10 years in China?
ZHU: I go back and forth between being optimistic and pessimistic. But overall, I’m optimistic. Change is unstoppable because China has opened its doors. You can’t close it again.
Patricia Wen is a staff writer for the Globe. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.