Monday, November 16, 2009

People: James Lilley - spook, ambassador, cyclist - RIP

James Lilley recently died, and the New York Times published a nice obit. Lilley was the U.S. ambassador to China during the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests. The Times mentions early in the obituary how he got a sense of what was going on during the tumultuous period:

"Mr. Lilley was familiar with the students’ grievances: Only days after arriving in Beijing in 1989, he took to riding his bicycle on the streets to glean firsthand knowledge of what was going on."

Beijing is a radically different city from what it was during the late 80s. Like most major Chinese cities, it has become less bike friendly. I seriously doubt many diplomats now spend much time cycling around the Chinese capital. This will result in a different understanding of what's going on. It's easy to miss a lot while looking out from behind a car window.

No comments:

Post a Comment