Writing for the Chinese Diaspora

Monday: Introducing a revamped Chinese-language briefing.,

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ImageChinatown in downtown San Francisco in February.
Chinatown in downtown San Francisco in February.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Good morning.

The past year has been momentous for so many reasons it’s hard to even begin to describe them. A harsh spotlight has been cast on deep inequities in American life and on the myriad ways that racism and hatred afflict our nation.

But if there’s one thing I hope we carry forward, it is a greater understanding of the history, breadth and growing power of the diverse Asian communities in California and across the country. Among them is the Chinese diaspora.

Today, I’m excited to introduce Rong Xiaoqing, a journalist who each Friday will write a revamped version of The New York Times’s Chinese-language newsletter. (The rest of the week, the Chinese Daily Briefing will highlight the best of our journalism in Chinese.)

I asked Rong to tell me about the launch. Here’s our conversation:

First, tell us a little bit about the new newsletter — who will it be geared toward and what can subscribers expect?

The newsletter is designed for Chinese language readers, especially the Chinese diaspora in the U.S. Here readers can find a hot topic interpreted from a Chinese perspective, such as how to understand rising anti-Asian hate, and where Chinese-Americans fit in an increasingly diverse Asian community. It also provides a recommended list of Times stories that Chinese readers are likely to be interested in but may not have had time to find themselves given the large number published every day.

And Rong, tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live, and what issues are you most interested in?

I grew up in China but have lived in the United States for the past 20 years. I am a bilingual journalist based in New York, and I have been covering the Chinese community here for almost two decades. I am interested in any and all issues relevant to this community, from the struggles and tensions people face to their achievements and their intricate relationships with their home countries.

If the newsletter is geared toward the Chinese diaspora, I’m guessing you’ll have lots of California readers. What will you be paying attention to that might have particular resonance in the Golden State?

As the state that has the largest population of Chinese-Americans, California has been in the center of many hot topics among Chinese readers, be it the application of affirmative action, the rising political clout of Chinese-Americans, the hate attacks on Asians in the past year, and real estate investment by mainland Chinese in California’s major cities. I envision that sooner or later, all of these will be discussed in our newsletter.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell Chinese-Americans in California?

Years ago, during a trip to San Francisco, a friend drove me to China Beach, which I’d never heard about until then. For a long while, the beach was named James D. Phelan Beach State Park after the white nationalist former mayor of the city until it was changed back by the federal government in the 1970s to its original name commemorating Chinese fishermen who congregated there in the 1800s.

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking about it often. We’ve all been through a lot lately. But I am sure the wrongs will eventually be corrected. You just have to stand firm as the stone by the ocean that has “China Beach” etched on it now.

For more:


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The ashes of a home that burned at Lake Berryessa in Napa County in September.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

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Langston Hughes with a dog on the beach in Carmel in 1934.Credit…The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley

Gertrude Stein may not have given her Oakland upbringing much credit for her success as a poet. She famously minted the cliche: “There is no there there,” in describing her hometown.

But her poodle, Basket?

Well, that’s another story, as my colleagues wrote in this (belatedly shared) National Pet Day feature.

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Gertrude Stein, right, and Alice B. Toklas walking their pet poodle, Basket, at the time of the liberation from German occupation in 1944.Credit…Getty Images

“Listening to the rhythm of his water drinking,” spurred a flash of insight about “the difference between sentences and paragraphs, that paragraphs are emotional and that sentences are not.”

She wasn’t the only writer to be inspired by her canine — or feline — best friend.

John Steinbeck wrote about a road trip he took with his dog Charley. And Langston Hughes hung out with a dog on a beach in Carmel, which seems like an inspiring way to spend any amount of time.


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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