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John Pomfret is an American journalist and writer.
Pomfret was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and raised in New York City. He attended Stanford University, receiving his B.A. and M.A. in East Asian Studies. In 1980, he was one of the first American students to go to China and study at Nanjing University. Between 1983 and 1984 he attended Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies as a Fulbright Scholar, researching the Cambodian conflict.
He started his journalistic career at the Stanford Daily as a photographer. After that he worked at a newspaper in Riverside County, California, and after a year was hired by the Associated Press to work in New York City, covering the graveyard shift.
After two years with the AP in New York, in 1988, he was sent to China as a foreign correspondent, thanks to his knowledge of Mandarin and his Asian studies background. There he covered the 1989 student protests in Beijing, after which he was expelled from China because of alleged links with student ringleaders. He then worked in Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and Iran. For more than 15 years he covered the armed conflicts in these countries and the politics of the post-Cold War era. He later served as the or of the Washington Post′s weekend opinion section, Outlook.
The experiences he had when he attended Nanjing University, and his perspective of the Chinese opening, are narrated in his 2006 book Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China.
Pomfret won an Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship in 2004 writing about education in China. In 2011, he was award the Edward Weintal Award for Diplomatic Reporting from Georgetown University for his work covering America's relations with China. He was a Fulbright senior scholar in China in 2013, where he researched a book on the interactions between Americans and Chinese. That book, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom, was published in November 2016. It won the 2017 Arthur Ross Book Award given by the Council on Foreign Relations.