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Reporting from China: How this trip was different | 60 Minutes


Correspondent Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes this week Reports from Beijing and ShanghaiVery few Western journalists have visited since 2020, when China began expelling some journalists and restricting others' access to foreign media. Stahl visited at the invitation of US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, who talked about China's economy and its relations with the US

According to Stahl, this trip was different from his previous reporting trips with 60 Minutes, as he was not accompanied by a government representative.

“The Chinese authorities left us alone, except that there were a couple of cars following us. We saw them,” Stahl said. “But they were not intrusive. They never interfered.”

Stahl has faced considerable interference on previous trips. At times, Chinese Communist Party advisers were involved in the shooting, sometimes coaching the subjects on what to say. Once, a convoy of police cars without numbers arrived at the shooting to stop it, and another time, a special police unit confiscated videotapes from 60 Minutes cameras.

This time, Stahl said, it was more subtle: Stahl and his 60 Minutes crew were told that the government's ubiquitous surveillance cameras were watching them. Stahl also later learned that the government had tried to shut down some interviews 60 Minutes conducted with Chinese businesses.

Getting American companies to open up was equally challenging. Stahl and his team requested interviews with several American companies doing business in China, but most of them declined to speak to 60 Minutes, even off the record.

Stahl said American companies are concerned, on the one hand, about what might happen to them in China — and on the other hand about the American reaction at home, including from members of Congress who are demanding a tougher policy with regard to China.

“They're concerned about the backlash against their companies for doing business in China,” Stahl said.

But according to Burns, in Beijing and Shanghai, the state of the economy is the basis for decision-making at this time.

“They're facing economic problems the likes of which they haven't seen in 40 years,” Burns told Stahl. “They're worried about American, Japanese and German companies leaving. They're worried about foreign direct investment. I think they want a calm environment.”

Photos: Courtesy of Karen M. Sughrue.

The video above was originally published on February 25, 2024 and produced by Britt McCandless Farmer. It was edited by Sarah Schaefer Prediger.

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