26 April 2021
The Last Correspondent: Dispatches from the frontline of Xi’s new China
The ultimate insider’s account: living and working in China in a period of unprecedented economic and social upheaval
It was just after midnight when China’s notorious secret police came knocking.
A late-night visit to his Shanghai laneway house by China’s notorious secret police triggered a diplomatic storm which abruptly ended Michael Smith’s stint as one of Australia’s last foreign correspondents in China. After five days under consular protection, Smith was evacuated from a very different China to the country he first visited 25 years earlier.
The late-night visit marked a new twist in Australia’s 50-year diplomatic relationship with China which was now coming apart at the seams. But it also symbolised the authoritarianism creeping into every aspect of society under President Xi Jinping over the last three years.
From Xinjiang’s re-education camps to the tear-gas filled streets of Hong Kong, Smith’s account of Xi Jinping’s China documents the country’s spectacular economic rise in the years leading up to the coronavirus outbreak.
Through first-person accounts of life on the ground and interviews with friends as well as key players in Chinese society right up to the country’s richest man, The Last Correspondent explores what China’s rise to become the world’s newest superpower means for Australia and the rest of the world.
‘Michael Smith’s account of his time as a journalist in China makes for riveting reading. I learned so much about the texture of life as a foreign correspondent in this enormously complex, often mystifying and rapidly changing nation. For Australians who want to learn more about our giant neighbour but don’t want to pick up an academic tome, you couldn't do better than let Michael Smith take you on his kaleidoscopic journey of discovery.’
Clive Hamilton, author of Silent Invasion
‘Smith’s account of his three turbulent years in China is a compelling, entertaining, racy read. He has a laser-like eye for the apposite anecdote drawing on extensive conversations with eyewitnesses living through these momentous historic events. Importantly, he lays bare the fibres of the twisted knot of bilateral relations between Australia and China.’
Dr Geoff Raby, Australian Ambassador to China 2007–2011
‘A lively, colourful and revealing book both about China and his own experience of the country, which is full both of excitement, admiration, adventure, horror, and, finally, an escape in the most frightening circumstances.’
Richard McGregor, Lowy Institute
‘An important contribution to understanding China from a must-read China correspondent.’
Melissa Roberts and Trevor Watson, co-editors of The Beijing Bureau
About the author
Michael Smith has been covering China for over 20 years and is currently the China correspondent for the Australian Financial Review. He lived and reported from China up until September 2020, when the Chinese government compelled the last Australian journalists to leave the country. He currently resides in Sydney with his partner. Their dog Huey, however, remains in China awaiting his opportunity to be reunited with his family.