Travel is one of my passions, and I used to read the long form journalism on a webpage called Roads and Kingdoms quite frequently. One of its editors/contributors was a Canadian named Mitch Moxley, so when I saw Moxley had written a book about China I was intrigued. Moxley lived in China for 5ish years in the years leading up to and following the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Apologies to My Censor is his account of his time in the city. He sets things out chronologically, beginning with his move to Beijing to write for a state news outlet, China Daily.
Moxley is, as he points out himself, not a model employee- he doesn’t like having to edit (or eventually write) the fluff and propaganda that China Daily requires its employees to put out. He shows up late, leaves early and spends his working hours looking for story ideas he can sell to other outlets. Those freelance pieces eventually allow him to cobble together something of a professional life in China although, as he gamely points out, foreign news outlets are much less interested in the hard hitting stories he envisioned himself writing (prostitution and human trafficking in China’s border cities) and much more interested in the anecdotal oddball human interest stories about being a foreigner living in China (his story about ‘rent a white guy’ went viral after publication in The Atlantic).
Having been to China relatively recently but before it started seeming scary (2017), his stories feel really relatable, and I appreciate the chance to stay longer vicariously through his work. China is a weird and complex and in some ways wonderful place, and Moxley cycles through all of these emotions. The Chinese friends he makes are likewise complex, and he is quick to admit how his own mistakes have limited the depth of his China experience (he waited until year 3 to buckle down and really try to learn Mandarin). This was an interesting read, especially as China has been in the news for other much less light topics.
The cover of this book has a nice Beijing cityscape on it, so this is my cbr13bingo Cityscape square.