Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

In memoriam: our colleague, Li Xing

By John B. Wood and Ho Manli (China Daily) Updated: 2011-08-16 08:10

By John B. Wood and Ho Manli

Our colleague Li Xing died unexpectedly in Washington DC on Aug 7. We, her longtime editors and colleagues, wish to pay tribute to our dear friend.

We first met Li Xing in 1981 when we came from the Boston Globe to help found China Daily. Li Xing had just graduated from Beijing Foreign Languages Institute and, along with a half a dozen other young recruits, was sent to the University of Hawaii to study for a year.

In those days, college graduates were assigned to China Daily; for many of them, it was simply a job. For Li Xing it was, as she often said, a passion. She had an instinct for a good story, and a determination to get to the bottom of it, that is recognizable in any language.

When she returned from Hawaii, she went to work as a features reporter. In many ways, it was the perfect job for her. She soaked up culture like a sponge. When the Royal Ballet came to town, she asked Manli, a former dancer for help and all but learned to dance. She quickly became knowledgeable about a wide range of subjects, and expert in many of them.

Over the next decade, she recruited and mentored many of the paper's best writers, passing along her expertise and her enthusiasm. The features section became, and remains, one of the pillars of China Daily.

"He doesn't write all that well yet," she once said about a staffer she wanted us to help, "but he has passion". That young man is now one of China Daily's star reporters.

It was on an assignment that she met Sun Chenbei, an official at the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Li Xing lived with her grandmother for three years when she was young; her parents were diplomats and were not allowed to take her abroad. She told friends that her only requirements in a husband were that he not be a smoker or a diplomat.

Chenbei was both, but love prevailed; they were married in 1985. He lived with her at Stanford while she earned at MA in journalism; later, they were apart for four years while he served as first secretary at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa. Their daughter, Sun Weisi, is a senior at the University of Iowa.

Li Xing tried her hand at management, which she approached with her usual zeal. She spearheaded the paper's coverage of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and served as de facto managing editor of the daily paper during the 2008 Olympics.

But at heart, she was a reporter. She was particularly interested in women's issues and the environment, two issues that she pursued literally to the ends of the Earth.

She also wrote, with barely concealed indignation, about "ageism" and China's system of enforced retirement for women. At our suggestion, she moved to Washington and became the paper's chief US correspondent.

She was enthralled with her new assignment, crisscrossing the US between regular visits to Beijing. "The US is a vast country, and I have a lot to learn about it," she told Manli during a visit to the San Francisco Bay Area just days before she was stricken.

She also wrote a weekly column, which it was our privilege to edit. This began during one of our periodic stints at China Daily and continued after we left Beijing.

Li Xing's column traveled every Wednesday night from Beijing or Washington or wherever she happened to be to Maine or San Francisco or wherever we were and back again, usually several times.

Often there were brief, self-deprecating notes: "I hope I'm making sense". "Is this too much?" "In a hurry emailed from a Starbucks near my hotel."

In truth, her column required very little editing; we kept at it because it was such a pleasure to work with her.

We'll miss those notes. We'll miss the column. We'll miss our staff luncheons in Beijing, whether it was jiaozi (our choice) or Cantonese (hers), and the rollicking dinners with her and Chenbei. We'll miss the weekend expeditions and the afternoons playing Wii. We'll miss her relentless intelligence, her unstinting support, her friendship.

We'll miss her.

The authors are consultants to Chinas Daily. Email: homanli@chinadailyusa.com and jbwood@chinadailyusa.com

(China Daily 08/16/2011 page8)

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