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Howard Waring French (born October 14, 1957) is an American journalist, author, and photographer, as well as professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Prior to re-entering academia, he was a longtime foreign correspondent and senior writer with The New York Times. His latest book is Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China's Push for Global Power (Knopf, March 2017).

Howard French
Howard Waring French

(1957-10-14) October 14, 1957 (age 62)
Occupationjournalist, author, photographer, Columbia University professor
Notable credit(s)
The New York Times; A Continent for the Taking (book)
Spouse(s)Agnès French


French was a university instructor in the Ivory Coast in the 1980s before becoming a reporter. He has reported extensively on the political affairs of Western and Central Africa. These reports were the basis for the book A Continent for the Taking.

French has also reported on the political and social affairs in China, where he covered the growth of civil society, the government crackdown of dissent in the Dongzhou protests of 2005, and the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, among other topics. His most recent work for The New York Times was centered on China where he was the paper's Shanghai bureau chief, from 2003 to 2008.

French was New York Times bureau chief for the Caribbean and Central America from 1990 to 1994; he covered Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and numerous other countries. He was one of the newspaper's first black correspondents.[1]

From 1994 to 1998, French covered West and Central Africa for the Times, reporting on wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Central Africa, with particular attention to the fall of the longtime dictator of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko.

From 1998 to 2003, French was Tokyo Bureau Chief for the Times, covering Japan and the Koreas.

In addition to his native English, French speaks Mandarin, French, and Portuguese.[2] He became Tokyo bureau chief for the Times in 1999, after a year studying Japanese at the University of Hawaii in Manoa. He has written for The New York Review of Books and also contributed frequently to The Atlantic and to "The Guardian Longreads".

In addition to covering China as Shanghai Bureau Chief for the Times, French worked as a weekly columnist on regional affairs for The International Herald Tribune. In addition to his 2017 book, "Everything Under the Heavens: How China's Past Helps Shape its Push for Global Power", French is also the author of China's Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa, published by Knopf in 2014, and A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa (Knopf, 2004). French is also an internationally exhibited documentary photographer, whose multi-year project called "Disappearing Shanghai", photographing the rapidly shrinking old quarters of Shanghai, was shown in Asia, Europe and the United States. A book containing this work, Disappearing Shanghai: Photographs and Poems of an Intimate Way of Life, was published in 2012, in collaboration with the novelist and poet Qiu Xiaolong.[3]

French is president of IRIN, a not-for-profit news agency that focuses on the humanitarian sector, based in Geneva, Switzerland.


  • 1999 Jefferson Fellow, East-West Society, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • 2011 Open Societies Foundation fellow


  • 2016 Professor of the Year, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
  • 2004 Honorary Doctorate - University of Maryland, for commentary on East Asia


  1. ^ French, Howard W. (May 25, 2016). "The enduring whiteness of the American media". The Guardian. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  2. ^ Davies, Dave (May 27, 2014). "China Turns To Africa For Resources, Jobs And Future Customers". Fresh Air. 1:10 minutes in. NPR. ("China Turns To Africa For Resources, Jobs And Future Customers", transcript.)
  3. ^ French, Howard W. (photography); Xiaolong, Qiu (poetry) (2012). Disappearing Shanghai: Photographs and Poems of an Intimate Way of Life. Homa & Sekey Books. ISBN 1931907811.

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