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Reporters on the Job

Why Focus on Families? China gets plenty of media attention as a rising economic power, or a "lurking giant," or the "new hegemon of Asia," notes staff writer Robert Marquand. But a family story?

"The family is the central institution in Chinese society and it is making waves," says Bob. "As one China expert told me, the radical changes to the family in the 1950s probably played a larger role than even the Cultural Revolution in shaping the society. If China today is an important geopolitical and economic story, how are those changes affecting the social fabric? If the family is a possible incubator of different thinking, then it is a useful subject to examine. The family is also one of the few institutions that isn't completely hidden to a Western reporter, though most families are reluctant to talk about themselves."

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As he interviewed families in Beijing, Taipei, and Hong Kong over the past six months (between reporting other stories) Bob says he was "shocked by the sheer numbers now unwilling to live at home. Living with parents has been a venerable practice for centuries. Now, all of a sudden, that's no longer so (page 1)."

Follow-up on a Monitor story

Arrested for Essays: Two Chinese intellectuals whose writings criticized the ruling Communist Party were released Tuesday after being detained overnight by Beijing police, says the Associated Press. As reported in the Nov. 30 story, "China 'gray lists' its intellectuals," the latest detentions appear to be part of an effort to muffle public dissent among historians, economists, writers, and environmentalists. Yu Jie and Liu Xiaobo said they were questioned about essays that had "jeopardized national security." Former Communist Youth League official Zhang Zuhua was also detained Monday, but human rights groups did not have any details on his case.

David Clark Scott
World editor