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

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

Business, Economics and Jobs

Bringing the world into focus for some of the 2 billion people globally who need glasses but don't have them

If you wear glasses, you're in a majority in most developed countries. In developing countries, few have them, but many need them. By some estimates, two billion people in developing countries need eyeglasses, but don't have access to them. One of the groups working to bridge the gap is VisionSpring, a social enterprise that has already sold 3.7 million pairs of glasses, at affordable prices, to people in Africa and Asia making $4 or less per day, helping improve learning, work productivity, and quality of life.

Arts, Culture & Media

How a shortwave radio network is helping to counter Boko Haram

Boko Haram hasn't given up, but it's on the ropes after a push by the Nigerian military last year, and vigilance by regional peacekeepers. Also countering their influence is a regional shortwave radio network, Dandal Kura Radio International, started just over a year ago, as the world's first network to broadcast in Kanuri — the language spoken by 10 million people in the region, and by most members of Boko Haram. Anyone with a cellphone can call in and share information and ideas. This plus news, current affairs, radio dramas and other programming has started to help counter Boko Haram's power to attract, and is helping a bruised and fractured region move toward a less fraught future.