Jan Wong is a third-generation Canadian who grew up in Montreal speaking English, some French and zero Chinese. In the summer of 1972, while majoring in Asian studies at McGill University, she traveled alone to the People’s Republic of China. At 19, she talked her way into a spot at Peking University, becoming the first of two Westerners to study in China during the Cultural Revolution, a tale she recounts in her memoir, Red China Blues, My Long March from Mao to Now.
Later, as a foreign correspondent based in Beijing for six years, Jan was an eyewitness to the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square. Named one of Time magazines top ten books of 1996, Red China Blues remains banned in China.
Jan began her journalism career in 1979 as the first-ever news assistant for The New York Times bureau in Beijing. In 1981, after graduating with a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she became a staff reporter at The Gazette in Montreal and, later, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal and The Globe and Mail.
She is a recipient of the George Polk Award in the U.S. for business reporting, a National Newspaper Award in Canada for foreign reporting, the New England Press Association Newswoman of the Year Award, the Globe and Mail’s Stanley MacDowell Prize for Writing, the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Silver Medal, a National Magazine Silver Award in Canada for column writing and the Daily Bread Food Bank Public Education Award in Toronto, among other honors.
Jan has degrees in history from McGill University and Peking University. She has taught journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto. In 2010, she was the Visiting Irving Chair in Journalism at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. She currently divides her time between Toronto, where she is a columnist for Toronto Life magazine, and Fredericton, where she is a professor in journalism at St. Thomas University and a columnist for the Halifax Chronicle Herald.