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David Schlesinger

Based in London, UK

  • Former Global editor-in-chief of Reuters and Chairman, China of Thomson Reuters
  • An expert in political risk analysis, offshoring, localization, labor relations, and acquisitions as well as all aspects of traditional, online and social media
  • Founder and Managing Director of Tripod Advisors,  a consultancy specializing in global media issues, China political risk and market access, and startup strategies and blockchain


  • Former Global editor-in-chief of Reuters and Chairman, China of Thomson Reuters
  • An expert in political risk analysis, offshoring, localization, labor relations, and acquisitions as well as all aspects of traditional, online and social media
  • Founder and Managing Director of Tripod Advisors,  a consultancy specializing in global media issues, China political risk and market access, and startup strategies and blockchain


David SCHLESINGER is former Global editor-in-chief of Reuters and Chairman, China of Thomson Reuters, with a three-decade career as a journalist and businessman that has given him a global perspective while maintaining a specialty in China and Asia. As global Editor-in-Chief of Reuters, the world’s largest multi-media international news service, he strategically remade the organization to deal with significant changes in the media, financial services, and information industries. He has deep experience with political risk analysis, offshoring, localization, labor relations, and acquisitions as well as all aspects of traditional, online and social media. His 30+ years’ experience with China and Asia includes government relations and negotiation at the highest levels.

He currently runs Tripod Advisors, a consultancy specializing in global media issues and China political risk and market access. Before founding Tripod, Schlesinger was Chairman of Thomson Reuters China and was the global information services group’s senior representative in the region. He was responsible for building relationships, providing thought leadership and advising on strategy for operations across Thomson Reuters interests in financial markets, legal and regulatory databases, scientific information and journalism. He was appointed to that role after four years as Editor-in-Chief of Reuters News, running all aspects of the 3,000-journalist strong international news service.

Before that, Schlesinger was Global Managing Editor of Reuters news for three years, in charge of the worldwide operations and news editing. Schlesinger joined Reuters Hong Kong bureau in 1987 as a correspondent. From 1989 to 1995, he ran Reuters editorial operations in Taiwan, China and the Greater China region in a series of posts. He then transferred to New York to serve in turn as Financial Editor, Managing Editor for the Americas and Executive Vice President and Editor of the Americas.

Schlesinger has served on the board of ChinaWeb, the parent of, China’s leading business/investing portal. He is on the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists and is a trustee of Index, the voice of free expression. Schlesinger is active in the World Economic Form, where he has served as a member of the International Media Council and the China Agenda Council, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2008, he was awarded an Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award for Business and Financial Reporting by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in the United States. Schlesinger graduated from Oberlin College and has a Masters degree from Harvard University, where he concentrated on Chinese politics in the Regional Studies East Asia program.

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Interview with David Schlesinger


“I’ve become less and less sure about what I actually understand about China.”

That’s a disarming admission from the former editor-in-chief of one of the world’s biggest news organizations who has spent three decades observing China.

But the point that ex-Reuters News chief David Schlesinger is driving home is that he, like the world, is still coming to grips with China’s complexities.

“Here I am, 30 years on, and I really think that I’ve been on this journey towards ambiguity,” Schlesinger says in an interview. “Where once I was very sure about things, now I’m really not sure at all.”

In the above video, Schlesinger, who is founder and managing director of the media and China independent consultants Tripod Advisors, talks about his first exposure to China, when as a school boy he followed from afar former U.S. President Richard Nixon’s ground-breaking 1972 trip to a country that had been Washington’s foe for more than two decades.

In the video, Schlesinger says:

  • coverage of China by foreign news organizations tends to follow “clichéd notions;”
  • many young Chinese today do not know about events at Tiananmen Square in 1989;
  • the world has underestimated the difficulties China faces in modernizing its economy;
  • China, like other countries, is self-interested and will pursue its “its dream, its growth, its trajectory.”

The interview with Schlesinger is the first in a series of chats with News-Decoder correspondents.

Source: January 15, 2016,

By: David Schlesinger

Written September 30, 2015 as a response to the article “The Future of Autonomy in Hong Kong”


What is it that makes a place work? What is it that separates a world city from a second- or third-tier city?

More specifically, what is it that has made Hong Kong (a major port city on China’s coast with a population of just over seven million) different from Dalian (a major port city on China’s coast with a population of just under seven million)? And what can continue to make it different and relevant and international? My belief is the answer isn’t a simple checklist, where having six or seven out of 10 items is a passing grade and good enough.

Fundamental to a city being a world-class city is its belief in its own uniqueness and its pride in its institutions. The case of the University of Hong Kong and its council’s tortured, months-long consideration and ultimate rejection of distinguished legal scholar Johannes Chan as a university pro-vice-chancellor undermines that belief at its core and threatens what had been Hong Kong’s strength and uniqueness. It makes Hong Kong much more like Dalian than it was.

Hong Kong’s uniqueness was encapsulated in the phrase “One country, two systems” that was supposed to define its post-colonial existence as a Special Administrative Region of China. The phrase represented the strong sense of independence in which Hong Kong’s institutions prided themselves, even though, to be fair, it was an ideal they weren’t always able to live up to fully in practice.

An independent judiciary. An impartial civil service. A free press. An uncowed university system. A public atmosphere of free debate. As ideals these were all things that contributed to the atmosphere that made Hong Kong an international center, an incubator of talent, a locus of business and commerce. The strong smell of politics surrounding the Chan case was so overt and the circumstances—from email hacking to character assassination—have been so ham-fisted that it has eroded that very crucial aura of uniqueness.

The question now is simply: is the experiment of a special, world-class Hong Kong over?

If those behind the ultimately successful attacks on Chan are today simply reveling in their victory, they are making a mistake. For by winning this battle, they’ve made a huge step towards losing the war to keep Hong Kong prosperous and relevant. For if the universities are so subject to politics, how long before the courts are undermined? And if that happens, there is no reason to locate oneself or one’s business in Hong Kong as opposed to Shanghai, Chongqing, or, even, Dalian.

If those people, however, come to realize the danger and now work very urgently and diligently to shore up the beleaguered institutions, from the press to the courts to the universities, then Hong Kong has continued hope. If Hong Kong’s sinking into the sleepy irrelevance of a second-tier city is actually what they want, then this was a great step forward on that sad journey.


Please visit here to view the original article on ChinaFile.


Listening to many bemoan China’s recent market volatility and watching how its stock and currency actions have affected world markets, it would seem everyone believed reforming the country’s huge, lumbering and unbalanced economy would be easy.

How could it ever have been?

Changing from an economy centered on investment and low-cost labor manufacturing to a consumption-driven economy led by a strong middle class would be hard enough.

Dealing with a huge and imminent demographic challenge — a swiftly aging society and a rapidly slowing rate of population growth? That would be hard enough.

Adjusting a currency regime that has funded stunning domestic growth by keeping savings at home and controlling interest rates, but that needs change to become international and free-flowing? That would be hard enough.

Grappling with the bubbles of exuberant investment and debt that need to be managed down but not popped? That would be hard enough.

Coping with anemic growth, at best, in the key markets of the U.S. and Europe? That, too, would be hard enough.

Handling these and other challenges simultaneously? The only real surprise should be the shock over the volatility, the bumps and the missteps.

Sitting at the World Economic Forum in Dalian this week, it is fascinating watching and listening to both foreign investors and Chinese entrepreneurs wrestle with the “new normal” in China. The starry eyes of a few years ago are, in some cases, glassy with shock, but in others, clear with a new realism.

The Chinese success story of the past 30 years is responsible for the magnitude of the negative reactions to current problems. The world got used to the recurring “wow” factor from China’s economic reports, from journalists writing about amazing transformations, from corporate board visits that had chairmen issuing commands modeled after the Olympic motto, “faster, higher, stronger.”

The 2008 Beijing Olympics marked a high point of China’s emergence on the world stage, but the great and wonderful show had to be backed up by reality and could not go on forever.

China’s government has been clear about its desire for reform. It has also been clear about its commitment to let the markets drive more decisions. What it has not been clear about is its ability to tolerate uncertainty and volatility. That is what has spooked many.

Recent ham-fisted intervention in the stock market stand in stark contrast to the confident bureaucratic moves that charmed investors a decade earlier. A currency devaluation, unexpected and poorly explained, shook investors at a time when they wanted reassurance. The continuing and inexorable grind of the anti-corruption crackdown — though long needed and much welcomed — has slowed decision-making by frightened officials at a time when investors need to see resolve and decisiveness.

Courage and radicalism

Many of the those who for years said China’s double-digit growth was miraculous, then unsustainable, are the ones now filled with the deepest kind of pessimism that growth is, and will be, far below the government’s stated goal of 7%.

This is actually a time when realism is needed more than either optimism or pessimism.

Reforming still-huge and inefficient state-owned enterprises is necessary but is neither a simple nor a fast task. Merely changing structure will not cut it; simply merging some and selling off others will not do it either.

What’s needed is hard, gritty work affecting millions. And that will take time.

China’s workers need many new skills to deal with the changes coming in the economy. That will take time.

China’s bureaucrats need to learn and internalize whole new modes of governance. That, too, will take time.

And to unleash innovation, investment and creative experimentation in the economy? That will take not only time but courage and radicalism that will be extremely hard to reconcile with conservative imperatives that value social stability and control above all else.

For innovation to flourish and transform the new normal into something ultimately positive and productive requires a ground where fairness, transparency and the rule of law are givens and never in question. It needs a ground where information can flow freely, both domestically and internationally. It needs a government that trusts in thinkers who are outliers, knowing that true faith is repaid.

Who said this would be easy? It will not. Success is not guaranteed. Volatility will be a fact of life. Patience will not simply be a virtue but a necessity.

China’s new normal does contain the seeds of success, but only for those willing to stay the course, swallow incipient panic and place a long bet.


Click here to read the original post by David Schlesinger.

By David Schlesinger
David Schlesinger
 Like looking in a funhouse distorted mirror, China reflects back at you what you want to see—and it always has.

Sometimes it has been the relentlessly positive view of the land of ever expanding markets the Lancashire mill owner dreamed of in the 19th century when mentally adding an inch to every Chinese shirttail, or the land of ubiquitous penetration today’s smartphone analysts extrapolate on a straight line from today’s 40%. Sometimes it has been the unremittingly negative view of a Yellow Peril washing over the earth as in the 19th century, or a cascade of falling dominos spreading Communism in the 1960s.

We’re just coming off a period when it was, by near unanimous acclimation, China’s century. Posh Western families gave their children Chinese nannies to sing them Mandarin lullabies to better prepare them for a Goldman Sachs intern competition 20 years hence; hipsters moved from Brooklyn to Beijing’s Sanlitun to notch their belt with cool experiences; banks, brokerages, private equity houses, consultancies and media companies bulked up their Beijing and Shanghai offices to harvest the seemingly inevitable riches.

But how much of the investment and planning was ever based on hard analysis versus emotion and momentum?

One need only read back a bit in the archives to see some people making decisions based on Chinese economic data, then writing long screeds decrying the value and accuracy of said statistics, then panicking when those self-same statistics looked bad, then criticizing those statistics again, and finally—as we saw this week—saying the current market carnage would only stop when Chinese statistics took a turn for the better!

Much of this is China’s own fault for making its system and workings so opaque. That opacity and lack of transparency is precisely what has created romance and stirred the emotions.

Emotional investments, however, revert to the mean in the same way financial investments do.

That reversion is precisely what we are seeing when an anchor for a major American news network claims he’s never heard the name of the president of the world’s most populous nation and its second largest economy. That’s what we see when a leading U.S. presidential candidate claims the Chinese president only deserves a fast food hamburger instead of a state dinner. And that’s what we’ll see when—and you can count on it—board room after board room will demand papers on whether “our China investment is worth it”.

One need only look to Japan for the model (much as Beijing’s leaders might hate that comparison, particularly as “Victory day” approaches on September 3). In the 1980s, Japan was “Number One”; its wise bureaucrats could do no wrong in working with industry to steer the economy; the stock market moved ever upwards. Inevitably, U.S. students flocked to introductory Japanese courses; financial institutions and media companies bulked up their Tokyo presences; and all was rosy and bloomy—until it wasn’t. Today, though Japan is still the world’s third largest economy, the romance is off and few global companies give it an equivalent share of attention and investment.

China has many real things going for it. Its huge population surely will produce more, consume more, and build more. Its cities will grow in number and size, as will its infrastructure needs and dreams. Both its currency and diplomacy will take on greater roles in the world. But what can’t be manufactured is the romance; what can’t be forced is the dream.

The future reapers of all that China has to offer will be the realists, not the dreamers. And that, while a painful transition, will probably be a good thing.


Hear more from David Schlesinger

Originally posted by David Schlesinger August 25, 2015 on China File


Richard Barton, Newgate’s managing partner for Greater China, said, “Since our launch in Hong Kong in January 2013 we have made strong inroads into the Mainland China market across our corporate, financial and public affairs practices.”

Newgate Communications, part of the group, has opened an office in Beijing, China. The leading international strategic communications consultancy added it has appointed David Schlesinger and Tom Grimmer as senior advisors to Newgate in Greater China, while Newgate Hong Kong partner Grace Zhang will act as the head of Newgate’s new Beijing office, further developing its growing business in mainland China.

“Grace Zhang has a strong track record in advising both local and multinational corporate clients and will drive forward our development in Beijing,” said Richard Barton, Newgate’s managing partner for Greater China.

“As we continue to hire in both Hong Kong and Beijing, we are also delighted that David Schlesinger and Tom Grimmer have joined us as senior advisors. Both have been at the cutting edge of journalism, communications and business in the People’s Republic of China. Their insights and advice on business and communications in China are proving to be an invaluable resource for our fast-growing global client roster,” Barton added.

Mentioned: David Schlesinger, Source: Oct 20, 2014 Campaign Asia Pacific


David Schlesinger was part of a rollicking discussion at The Bloomberg Fallout: Where Does Journalism in China Go from Here?

His piece is below:

David SchlesingerThe Chairman “rethinks,” a journalist departs with a bang, and Bloomberg, which had led the way in authoritative investigative reports on the government/business nexus in China becomes instead the poster child for the ills of the business/pressure nexus in journalism.

Does this mean that it is impossible to do good journalism in China? Of course not.

In some ways, this is a golden age for foreign reporting in the People’s Republic. Key wire services, newspapers and magazines have more and better trained reporters in China than ever before, travel is freer, sources are more available and the amount of sheer official data, information and verbiage that is turned out is unrivaled—and almost impossible to keep up with. The trick is turning all this raw input into journalism of the highest order.

Bloomberg and The New York Times showed that weaving publicly available information with source material can yield treasures, but also bring China’s wrath and financial penalties. That’s a big risk to take, but it is one worth taking and also possible to take, if you have courage and prepare the ground properly.

First, you have to be clear about what you are and what you stand for, and not let any opportunity go by without repeating it. Just as China repeats its “principled stands” on Taiwan, Tibet, human rights, etc., in word-perfect order year after year, so too I, when I worked for Reuters, would use that company’s Trust Principles and fundamental journalistic values as the introduction to any official meeting. If your principles are strong and steadfast, they become something that has to be dealt with. If your principles can be rethought and changed, they become simply a negotiating point.

Second, you must make sure you have plenty of opportunities to talk about your principles! Government relations is not something that is just for crisis times, it must be a key job for bureau chiefs, editors and senior company officials year in and year out. Your reporting focuses should never be a surprise. Your standards should be the stuff of regular conversations.

Third, you have to be good. We know Bloomberg’s first stories were good—we read them. The story that has caused the current uproar has not been published so quite honestly none of us can really judge. We have excellent reporters and editors saying it was ready to go, we have the editor-in-chief, himself an excellent journalist, saying it wasn’t. Is this the reporter vs. editor tension that every organization has—and which is actually what you need for quality—or is it something nefarious? We really can’t and shouldn’t say. What we can say is that if you want to do tough reporting on China, your stories had better be bullet proof, because the bullets will come.

Fourth, you have to be ready for all your preparatory work to be for naught and for China to sanction you. China has expelled reporters in the past, it can and has caused monumental and even insurmountable bureaucratic headaches for others, it has caused economic harm by restricting sales and blocking websites. But China, with its 5,000 years of history, is excellent at playing the long game, and if you want to be in China that is the game you must play. Ignore quarterly results. Ignore annual profit. Concentrate on the long term effects on your reputation and standing, and on the eventual need for China to be more open.

Fifth, you need to get your stakeholders involved. You should be writing the tough stories because your readers need them. The banks and brokerages who subscribe to Bloomberg should be demanding more of the investigative reports because they help them make decisions. The exchanges who list Chinese IPOs should be demanding more of the reports because they bring needed transparency to the market. And if your readers aren’t demanding the stories, you’re either writing them wrong or you’re not working with your readers closely enough.

Sixth, you must be fair and acknowledge that China’s reflexive paranoia that foreign reporting on China is out to “get” the People’s Republic can sometimes be stimulated by the stories themselves. If you go after the intricate relationship between business and government in China without going after the intricate relationship between business and government in the United States with the same fervor, you are doing no one any favors. If you write China stories loaded with snark and without empathy for China’s point of view, you merely play into perpetuating an unhealthy antagonism instead of the healthy skepticism and drive for the truth that good journalism must be.

Source: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 – 12:05am, China File

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