Wangs investigative team was disbanded last year at his former newspaper, the China Economic Times. His reports there ranged from a 2002 expose on a mafia-like racket in the Beijing taxi industry to a 2010 investigation of how the mishandling of vaccines in one province led to dead children.
He moved this year to The Economic Observer, known for its daring reports, where his job titles are assistant to the editor in chief and member of the editorial board.
Why did he leave the Economic Times after working there since 2002 and building a reputation as one of the best journalists in the country?
Wang stared at the shelves in front of his desk for a few moments and then declined to answer.
Sitting in a Shangahi cafe and sipping tea last week, Jian sounded wistful as he talked about the milk scandal story.
I definitely couldnt do it today, he said. Because now everyone is more cautious.
A 39-year-old with rectangular glasses and a slight paunch, Jian said that in the period leading up to his resignation editors were killing stories that tracked corruption. For example, he said, there was one about a provincial official who might have taken bribes.
As Jians frustration mounted, he used his account on one of Chinas Twitter-like micro-blog services to allude to topics he couldnt get into the newspaper. His bosses became concerned, he said. A former middle-school teacher from a tiny village, hed been reporting at the Oriental Morning Post since 2003. Nonetheless, he knew it was time to say goodbye.
Jians exit came on the heels of the Oriental Morning Posts publisher reportedly being transferred out of the job in July and the suspension of a deputy editor in chief. A similar shakeup took place in Guangdong province at about the same time, when the head editor of the New Express newspaper was said to have been shifted to another post. The Communist Party secretaries of Shanghai and Guangdong are in the running for seats on the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee this year. Some speculate that as a result, their administrations arent tolerating surprises in the run-up to the party congress.
Jian, who now wants to start an organization to support journalists, said the politics of the party are a fact of life. It must be recognized that under the system of governance of the Communist Party, although the media have gained a certain progress and freedom, they will always be attached to this state apparatus ... to say it in a simple phrase, theyre dancing with shackles.
In two hours or so of conversation, Jians comments were marked by pauses and careful wording. He kept his gray suit jacket folded neatly and ended with a request that his quotes be used judiciously. Jian reminded a Western reporter that in the long view, theres been positive change during the past several decades. Not too long ago, Jian said, the interview with him itself couldnt have taken place.
As he got ready to leave the teahouse, Jian said he and his friends sometimes jokingly asked one another, How long will it take until the dawn comes?
He preferred not to discuss for publication what that meant.