Orville Schell

Orville Schell

Research Interest

Chinese history

Orville Schell was born in New York City and graduated from Harvard University Magna Cum Laude in Far Eastern History studying under Professors Benjamin Schwartz and John King Fairbank. Schell then studied Chinese language at Stanford University, was an exchange student at National Taiwan University and finally received his MA and Ph.d (abd) from the University of California, Berkeley.

While best known as one of the country’s most well informed and thoughtful observers on China, Orville Schell has also been a ship-hand, a war correspondent in Indochina, a rancher, and a journalist reporting for such magazines as The New York Times Magazine, Harpers, The New Yorker, TIME, Wired, and Foreign Affairs. He has been a contributor on China for PBS, NBC, and CBS, where a 60 Minutes program of his won an Emmy. He has also served as a correspondent for several PBS/Frontline documentaries on China and Tibet and covered the war in Iraq for The New York Review of Books.

Orville Schell served for many years as Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley. While he remains on the UC Berkeley faculty as Professor Emeritus, he is now Director of the Asia Society’s newly established Center on US-China Relations in New York City. In this capacity, he leads new programs on the environment, the media and foreign policy in an effort promote more constructive dialogue between key Chinese and American leaders.

Schell served on the boards of the Climate Policy Institute, Current TV and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His written work includes some fifteen books, ten of them about China, including Virtual Tibet, Mandate of Heaven, and Discos and Democracy, as well as the five-volume China Reader. He is currently working on issues relating to the environment, politics and economic reform in China.

His lecture topics include: “Why There is No Solution to Climate Change Without China”; “Meltdown: Melting Glaciers in The Himalayas: Threat To Asia’s Rivers”; and “Does China’s Economic Development Threaten The US?”

Schell has been honored with fellowships from the Alicia Patterson Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Freedom Forum at Columbia University. He has also received numerous honors, including the Overseas Press Club of America Award, a Page One Award, and, most recently, the Shorenstein Journalism Award from Stanford and Harvard Universities for the best coverage of Asia.

Schell, who has an active interest in photography, has also written the opening essays for such books as Jack Birns’ Assignment Shanghai, James Whitlow Delano’s Empire: Impressions from China, and Sebastiao Salgado’s Sahel: The End of The Road.

Among other projects, he is now heading up the Initiative on U.S.-China Cooperation on Energy and Climate at The Asia Society.



Orville Schell and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century (Random House, 2013).

Orville Schell, Virtual Tibet: Searching for Shangri-La from the Himalayas to Hollywood (Metropolitan Books, 2000).