Journalist from China joins CIS as the Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow

Audrey Jiajia Li to study the use of government propaganda on social media and its impact on the rise of ultra-nationalism in China
September 7, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, MASeptember 7, 2017—Audrey Jiajia Li, a freelance journalist and independent filmmaker based in Guangzhou, China, has been selected as the 2017 International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF)/Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow. The fellowship provides a unique academic and professional opportunity for women journalists focusing on human rights and social justice reporting.

Beginning in September, Li will spend her seven-month fellowship as a research associate in residence at the MIT Center for International Studies (CIS). She will also complete journalism internships with The Boston Globe and The New York Times. Li will pursue coursework and projects to better understand the use of government propaganda on social media and its impact on the rise of ultra-nationalism in China.

“We’re thrilled that Audrey Jiajia Li was selected for this honor. We believe her determined reporting on social justice issues from China—in the face of censorship in a restrictive press environment—carries forward Elizabeth Neuffer’s spirit,” said Elisa Lees Muñoz, the IWMF’s executive director. She added, “We’re looking forward to seeing the evolution of her work through the Neuffer Fellowship.”

“An award-winning foreign correspondent for The Boston Globe, Elizabeth Neuffer was dedicated to journalism and social justice,” said Linda Henry, Boston Globe managing director. “The Boston Globe is proud to continue Elizabeth’s legacy through the IWMF fellowship as we work to inspire the next generation of courageous women journalists to hold the powerful accountable and champion press freedom.”

“The Center is delighted to welcome Audrey Jiajia Li to MIT,” said Taylor Fravel, associate professor of political science and the acting director of CIS. “We hope that Audrey finds her time at MIT productive in her efforts to provide objective coverage to her audience.”

Li covers current affairs in China, with a focus on politics, human rights, social justice, and freedom of speech. She first kicked off her career in journalism as a business news reporter in Shanghai, where she investigated cases of human rights violations resulting from China’s rapid economic growth. She produced and hosted an award-winning, nationally-televised program for nearly two years, where she interviewed guests about sensitive political and human rights issues. Li was also selected by the U.S. Department of State’s Media Co-op Program to create her documentary “LA, Say Goodbye to Smog,” to inform her Chinese audience about the importance of civic engagement.

Li has recently resigned from her position at an official TV station to become a freelance columnist and independent filmmaker.

“In my observation, two real Chinas exist in parallel at the same time. One is a super power with rapid economic growth and a quick rise of living standards, while the other is a vast nation where a sizable number of people still suffer from inequality, injustice, and a lack of individual liberty. Journalists have the obligation to raise awareness about these important yet ignored issues to make my country a better place,” Li said.

The fellowship was created in memory of Elizabeth Neuffer, a correspondent for The Boston Globe and winner of the 1998 IWMF Courage in Journalism Award. Neuffer died while reporting in Iraq on May 9, 2003. In collaboration with Neuffer’s family and friends, the IWMF started this program to honor her legacy, while advancing her work in the fields of human rights and social justice.

Li is the 13th journalist to win the fellowship. Jacey Fortin, last year’s Neuffer fellow, was hired full-time by The New York Times at the culmination of her fellowship. Since 2004, 12 journalists representing 10 countries have been awarded the fellowship. For more information about the fellowship, visit

The Center for International Studies (CIS) supports interna­tional research and education at MIT. It is the home of MIT’s Security Studies Program; the MIT International Science & Technology Initiative, its pioneering global education program; the Program on Emerging Technologies; and seminars and research on migration, South Asia politics, the Middle East, cybersecurity, nuclear weapons, and East Asia. The Center has traditionally been aligned with the social sciences while also working with MIT’s premier science and engineering scholars. CIS produces research that creatively addresses global issues while helping to educate the next generation of global citizens.