So it’s come to this? Remembering the ‘New York Times’ China bureau (1852-2013)

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On the 18th December, the deadline for the first J visa for the New York Times’s China bureau expires, and the world will discover if Beijing follows through on threats to expel the errant staff, along with those of Bloomberg, for publishing investigative reports into the senior leadership.

As the world waits with bated breath to see if the bureau survives, we look back at the long and glorious history of the New York Times’s reporting in China.

1852 The Times publishes its debut dispatch from China, entitled ‘In Peking, Xiangfeng Emperor mulls reform’

1859 The first full-time Peking correspondent, Wilbur Bartholomew III, is appointed. He speaks fluent Mandarin and Cantonese, is conversational in seven regional dialects and also an inveterate pederast

1860 The correspondent for the Times has his whiskers badly singed when a case of baijiu allegedly explodes as he takes his evening constitutional near a local bordello. Peking, Bartholomew writes, “is descending into utter chaos”

Without the Times, credible sourcing may soon be a thing of the past (e.g. 1900)

Without the Times, credible sourcing may soon be a thing of the past (e.g. 1900)

1872 It is reported that the offices of the NYT in China are going through 48 kilos of penicillin a month

1900 The Times’s China office packs its bags and books it as the Boxer Revolution nears Peking, but continues to file quality copy from the vantage of a steamship moored in Canton

1910 January’s dispatch from China contains a report by Sir Thomas Fryedman – ‘In Peking, Cixi Plots Brave Reform’ – in which Fryedman announces that he has spoken privately with a mandarin: Dowager Empress Cixi is currently road-testing a full blueprint of far-reaching economic and political restructuring, he reveals, in order to save the ailing Qing Dynasty

1911 The Qing Dynasty collapses, plunging the country into chaos. The Times interviews a waiter at Shanghai’s Long Bar in the mistake belief that he is Sun Yat-sen

1912 Wilbur Bartholomew IV is awarded a prestigious Rosenheim Award for his series of detailed reports into Emperor Yuan Shikai’s family wealth. There is no suggestion of any impropriety on the part of Yuan. Later that year, Bartholomew investigates Yuan’s continuing attempts to crown himself Emperor, asking ‘In China, will Emperor Yuan prove a reformer?’

1937 The Times’s office packs its bags and books it as the Japanese occupy Peking but continues to file quality copy from the vantage of an aircraft carrier in the Pacific

1945 Victory! The Times notes that the streets of Peking are filled with celebration at the Japanese defeat but warns that, without urgent reform, all may be in vain for Chiang Kai-shek

1949 The Times’s office packs its bags and books it in anticipation of the Communist assault on Peking, but continues to file quality copy from the vantage of a steamship moored on the Yangtze

1950 The Times establishes new digs in Hong Kong, bringing penetrating insight and analysis from the vantage of gazing over the border

1968 The Times retracts a report claiming that The Beatles are to play the Great Hall of the People

1969 A Swinging Sixties Special on the social upheavals of the late 60s reports that “all across the nation, hemlines are rising and the east is reddening, as Red Guard Mania grips the country’s youth. With a cultural revolution in full swing, is Beijing the new Haight-Ashbury?”

1976 Mao Zedong nears death and the Times predict imminent collapse or reform. The city of Tangshan promptly collapses

1977 Supreme Leader Deng Xiaoping promises deep reform but the Times gracefully declines to take full credit

1980 The Times re-establishes a Peking office inside a heavily guarded compound next to the Offices of State Security

1989 The Times’s Peking office packs its bags and books it following the Tiananmen Square Massacre, but continues to file quality copy from the vantage of a four-star hotel suite in Taipei

2003 On a business trip to Shanghai, new Times columnist Thomas Friedman discovers rickshaws; China commentary will never be the same again

2008 As Beijing Olympics fever reaches its peak, the bureau goes with a lifestyle feature revealing that Beijing’s Gulou is “the new Brooklyn.” The newspaper continues to break the story in 2009, 2010, 2011 and twice more in 2012

2013 The Times’s Peking office packs its bags and books it in anticipation of Xi Jinping’s new Communist Revolution, but promises to continue to file quality copy from the vantage of a skyscraper in Times Square

Follow the New York Times in China with @chinadailyshow on Twitter

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