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

Business, Finance & Economics

Southeast Asia hopes a new common market will give it clout, but it may have a weak link in Thailand

Not so long ago, Thailand could boast about having one of the fastest growth rates in the world. But political turbulence, protests and a couple of coups have taken their toll. And there's anxiety about what will happen when the beloved king dies. How might the new Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community help Thailand get its act back together? What risks does Thailand's volatility have for a nascent regional grouping, with big aspirations to counterbalance China?

Arts, Culture & Media

What China could learn from Japan's experience

A new Asian power rises, fueling awe and anxiety. Its economic rise seems inevitable, until it doesn't. We've seen this movie before, with Japan in the '80s. Now it's China's turn, and while history rarely repeats itself, it can rhyme, and it's rhyming now as China's economic growth slows and challenges, some similar to those Japan faced, mount. So what might China learn from Japan's experience? And how is Japan shaping a new role for itself, so it will continue to matter in this century?

Conflict & Justice

How the Rosie the Riveter era changed America: an African-American woman's story

While America still has far to go in reducing racism, we've come a long way. Over almost a century of life, Betty Soskin has lived through segregation, the civil rights era and Black Lives Matter. As the nation's oldest park ranger, she reflects on how the needs of the nation during World War II helped speed social change — not just for women but also for African Americans.

Global Politics

Is global democracy in trouble? Or does it just feel like it?

Crackdowns, coups, the reversal of most of the Arab Spring, the rise of ISIS, a harder edge in authoritarian states and erosion of civil rights in democracies — is the world entering a new era where authoritarian tendencies win out? Not so fast. Here, with a little perspective, and an argument for the resilience of democracies (to a point) are Steven Levitsky, a professor of government at Harvard, and Bill Hurst, a Northwestern University associate professor of political science.

Global Politics

Got an authoritarian streak? Study says odds are, you're for Trump.

Authoritarians like strong leaders, feel threatened by outsiders and like plain language and rousing promises like "make America great again." No surprise, then, that Donald Trump is drawing them in. About 18 to 30 percent of Americans skew authoritarian on polling questions, and in recent years, ever more have concentrated in the Republican Party and, specifically, in Trump's camp. Career political consultant and mid-career PhD candidate Matt MacWilliams talks about the phenomenon he's found through his own polling, and other polls, about the appeal of a strongman in a democracy.