China Beat Archive



Angilee Shah

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November 4, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright November 4, 2008 Angilee Shah. Used by permission.


Louisa Lim’s life as National Public Radio’s Shanghai correspondent is characterized by extreme variety. Much like China itself, Lim takes on many roles: hard-hitting investigative reporter, insightful trend spotter, art connoisseur, mother and even restaurateur. It turns out, she’s an excellent email-writer as well.

In a wide-ranging Web 2.0 interview, in between covering the Beijing Olympics and the ever-growing melamine disaster, she described her experiences in her three years as the Beijing correspondent for the BBC and then two with National Public Radio. She talked about the challenges of breaking news but still providing depth of coverage, the West’s growing interest in China and the joys of deep fried bumble bees.

Angilee Shah: There is a phrase in the West that has taken on mythical qualities: “Our man in China.” But you and many others prove that these days it’s likely to actually be “our woman in China” instead. What have been your most memorable (good and bad) experiences as a woman reporting in China? In the last five years, while you’ve been based in China, have you seen any changes with regards to women in the press?

Louisa Lim: The most memorable experiences as a woman reporting in China would probably have to be a trip I made to Xinjiang in 2003 to cover the AIDS problem there with my then producer at the BBC, Poppy Sebag-Montefiore. At the time she was around 23 and looked even younger. We’d arranged part of the trip officially because we wanted to interview local government officials from the department of health. When we arrived at their office, their faces fell. We sat around, drinking tea and waiting. In the next room, we could hear the government officials conferring with each other worriedly, “What’s the BBC doing?”, they were asking. “Do you think these are real reporters? They look more like kids on work experience.”