James Mann is a Washington-based author who has written a series of award-winning books about American foreign policy and about China. He is a former newspaper reporter, foreign correspondent and columnist who wrote for more than twenty years for the Los Angeles Times. He is now an author-in-residence at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
Mann’s best-known work is Rise of the Vulcans: A History of Bush’s War Cabinet. Published in 2004, the book became a New York Timesbest-seller. The Wall Street Journal called it “a work of serious intellectual history and a nuanced analysis of the debates that will continue to shape American foreign policy long after the Vulcans themselves have left the stage.” New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani called it “compelling…lucid, shrewd and …blessedly level-headed.” The pathbreaking book served as the primary source for accounts about the careers and ideas of Vice President Cheney and his associates. For example, Jane Mayer’s book, The Dark Side, opens with two pages from Rise of the Vulcans. Another of Mann’s books is The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan, which reexamines the role Ronald Reagan played in the end of the Cold War. The book won the 2010 Ambassador Book Award of the English-Speaking Union of the United States.
Mann, a former Beijing correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, has also written three books about America’s relationship with China. The first, Beijing Jeep, is the story of a single American company and its frustrations starting to do business in China. Fortune magazine book placed the book on its list of 75 all-time greatest books for business executives to read. The second, About Face: A History of America’s Curious Relationship with China, From Nixon to Clinton, narrates the history of America’s diplomacy with China, starting in the late 1960s. The book won the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein award for best book of the year (2000). The third book, The China Fantasy, is a critique of the notion that trade will lead to democracy in China. It was listed by The Washington Post’s Book World as one of the best books of the year (2007).
Before become a full-time author, Mann worked for more than three decades as a newspaper reporter, foreign correspondent and columnist. In his early twenties, he was a metro reporter for the Washington Post, where he worked on some of the early Watergate stories (the Nixon campaign issued a subpoena for Mann, along with Post publisher Katherine Graham and reporters Bob Woodward, to testify about Watergate coverage). From 1978 to 2001 Mann wrote for the Los Angeles Times, where he served as Supreme Court correspondent, Beijing bureau chief, diplomatic correspondent and foreign affairs columnist. His work was awarded the Edward Weintal Prize in 1999 for distinguished career-long coverage of foreign policy, and he also was a two-time winner of the Edwin M. Hood Award for diplomatic reporting.
Mann has also been a contributor to National Public Radio and to several magazines, including The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books and The American Prospect. A 1992 article in The Atlantic, “Deep Throat: An Institutional Analysis,” was widely credited as having been the first to explain the hidden dynamics that led the FBI’s Mark Felt to leak information about Watergate. The article was included in the book The American Idea: The Best of the Atlantic Monthly, a collection of the magazine’s best articles from the past 150 years.
Mann was born in Albany, New York, and graduated from Harvard College. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Caroline Dexter, who teaches classics at Howard University. He has a daughter, Elizabeth Mann, and a son, Ted Mann.
For a video of Mann and his career, from an interview at the University of California (Berkeley), see
Magazine article on Watergate and Deep Throat in Atlantic magazine:
Miscellaneous Op-Eds,, Newspaper Pieces and Magazine Articles
New York Times:
“Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy Team Is Built to Fail,” Dec. 17, 2016
“America’s Dangerous China Fantasy,”Oct. 28, 2016
“Obama Isn’t Finished Yet,” Sept.23, 2014
“At the White House, What’s Old May Be New,” Jan. 24, 2009,
“Tear Down That Myth,” New York Times, June 10, 2007
Bush and Kissinger: “The Ghost in the Oval Office”: October 5, 2006
“The Speech Richard Nixon Would Have Given In the Event of a Moon Disaster,” July 12, 2019
“The Dick Cheney of ‘Vice’ Just Craves Power; The Reality Was Worse,” Dec. 27, 2018
“America’s Painfully Outdated Approach to China,” Sept. 17, 2015
“How Obama’s Foreign Policy Team Relates to the Vietnam War -or Doesn’t,” June 22, 2012
June 13, 2008: “What Will the Pillars of His Foreign Policy Be?”
May 18, 2007: “A Shining Model of Wealth Without Liberty”
Nov. 9, 2006: “Understanding Gates”
The American Prospect:
“On Realism, Old and New,” Oct. 30, 2014:
“Not Your Father’s Foreign Policy,” April 8, 2001
The New Republic:
“Enough With the Cliches Already: The Obama Administration’s Rhetoric on Russia Is Accomplishing Nothing,” March 3, 2014:
“Does China Have Any Friends Left in the Obama Administration?”, Aug. 26, 2010:
The New York Review of Books:
“Bliss Was It In That Dawn to Be Alive,” Sept. 27, 2018:
“Damage Bigly,” Jan. 18, 2018
“The Adults In the Room,” Oct. 26, 2017