Mary Kay Magistad

Mary Kay Magistad is formerly The World’s East Asia correspondent. She lived and reported in the region for two decades. Mary Kay is now based in San Francisco.

During her time in Asia, she traveled regularly and widely throughout China and beyond, exploring how China’s rapid transformation has affected individual lives and exploring the bigger geopolitical, economic and environmental implications of China’s rise. She stepped back every so often to do an in-depth series on such topics as the China’s urbanization — the biggest and most rapid move from the countryside to the cities in human history, on the potential for innovation in China, and on the ripple effects on Chinese society of the One Child Generation coming of age. Mary Kay’s seven-part series on that subject, called “Young China,” won a 2007 Overseas Press Club Award, one of several awards she has received.

Mary Kay started out in Southeast Asia, based in Bangkok, as a regular contributor to NPR, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and other news media. She covered the Cambodian civil war and the UN peace process, the Burmese army’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and the United States’ wary rapprochement in the early ‘90s with Vietnam. Mary Kay also reported farther afield, covering the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda, tensions with Iraq in Kuwait, and other stories.

Mary Kay became NPR’s full-time Southeast Asia correspondent in 1993, and in 1996 she opened NPR’s first Beijing bureau. She took time out for two fellowships at Harvard — a Nieman and a Radcliffe fellowship — enough time to realize China was too interesting a story to leave — before going back to China for The World.

Mary Kay graduated from Northwestern University with a double major in journalism and history, and has an MA in international relations from the University of Sussex in England, completed on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship.

Recent Stories

Business, Economics and Jobs

Brazil defies (positive) expectations

Roiled by two years of recession, the impeachment of one president and indictment of another, and its worst corruption scandal ever, Brazil is not exactly on the path predicted at the beginning of this century, when it was hailed as one of the globe's most promising rising economic powers. What happened? Inequalities and imbalances at home may have been papered over in boom times, but they didn't go away, and now Brazil's leaders face the challenge of finding a more sustainable and equitable way forward.

Business, Economics and Jobs

South Africa's cautionary tale

It wasn't so long ago that South Africa was seen as the natural leader of its continent, with bright economic prospects and a nascent, post-apartheid democracy. It developed strong trade ties with China, and, in 2010, was named one of the BRICS countries — with Brazil, Russia, India and China, the economies seen by some investors (the term was coined by a Goldman Sachs executive) to be the era's dynamic up-and-comers. But it hasn't quite turned out that way. This year, South Africa dipped into recession, with unemployment near 30 percent. What happened?

Arts, Culture & Media

Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo remembered

At a time when a surprising number of young Americans say it's not important to them to live in a democracy, when honest journalists are accused of pedaling fake news, while purveyors of actual fake news are too often taken seriously, spare a thought for a man who thought democracy, freedom of speech and a just society are so worth fighting for, he spent four terms in Chinese prisons and work camps, and died in custody, of liver cancer. Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is being remembered for his tenacity and principled focus, and for believing in the power of peaceful protest and the possibility of change, in the face of authoritarian repression.

Business, Economics and Jobs

It's carpe diem time for China. What that might mean for the world.

China's rise has been fast, impressive, and a little intimidating to some. Howard French, author of "Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China's Push for Global Power" argues that while this rate of growth won't go on forever, the next 10 to 20 years is a potentially dangerous time, as China's leaders consolidate their gains before growth slows, the population ages, and already thorny problems at home demand more attention. Building islands in the South China Sea, a new infrastructure investment bank, and an ambitious new Silk Road network of regional infrastructure may just be the start of a shift of the global center of gravity, back to what many Chinese see as its rightful, historic place.

Business, Economics and Jobs

Why China's embrace of renewable energy matters, and is more complicated than you think

China's former leader Deng Xiaoping once said that it doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice. A new twist on the theme might be, it doesn't matter if China's leaders are committed environmentalists, or acting in pragmatic self-interest, if China's rapid ramping-up of renewable energy and easing away from coal yields a net benefit of reducing climate change-causing emissions, and helping to slow the rate of climate change. A look at what China is doing and why, as President Donald Trump declares an American retreat from global leadership on climate change