For Emily Feng, the empowerment of others through education and dialogue drives her commitment to the US-China sphere as much as any career goal. “If I’m being totally honest,” Feng says, “a good part of my interest [in US-China relations] came from my cultural heritage, from the simple fact that I was born Chinese American and was blessed with growing up hearing family stories of how Chinese history was experienced from the perspective of my various family members.”
Since moving to Beijing after graduating from Duke University earlier this year, Feng has worked to teach lessons of empowerment through education to traditionally marginalized groups in China, including women and migrant workers. Feng currently serves as Chief Education Officer of Three Guineas, an organization in which she also played a founding member role, and leads design and implementation of academic programs and events that “cover everything from writing a good essay to debate to feminism in China.” In her role at Three Guineas, Feng has also enjoyed marketing through social media, meeting with potential clients and partner organizations and “building up a community around feminism.”
Although Feng will be departing from the organization she helped form this year, she will continue to provide a voice for others to share their stories through working at the New York Times in Beijing. Journalism, according to Feng, “is one important part of [her] overall approach to leadership and empowerment,” because, as she puts it, “you need powerful reporting and writing so you have the necessary information” to create “a community through discussion.” Feng believes that “information can be very powerful” and even “give disempowered people a voice,” something that attracted her to the profession initially.
As made clear over the past few years, however, foreign journalism in China is not without its difficulties, a fact of life Feng is prepared to face as she enters the field. “Good journalism,” as Feng describes, “takes a huge investment of time, training and research,” making it “hard to find that continuous mentorship and employment,” especially in such a dynamic environment. Differing dialects, bureaucratic writing, and issues with finding credible information are just a few the aspects of journalism in China that make it so taxing, according to Feng. “It’s daunting sometimes to get out the door and just start,” she says.
Despite taking on such a challenging lifestyle head-on, Feng has also found the time to explore some of the peculiarities of Beijing and its surrounding areas. She has “gone to some pretty bizarre places and gotten into some absurd situations,” including a bar where you can practice archery and chase after a resident piglet, a Cultural Revolution-themed restaurant, and a medieval-themed bar, where you could rent armor and joist in in the courtyard. Feng has been particularly impressed with Beijing’s outdoor opportunities, including a biking trip to visit the famous Liyuan Library and climbing abandoned sections of the Great Wall. “All in the blistering smog,” of course.