Good evening. Here’s a fun experiment: Read this week’s interview with Eric X. Li (yes, that Eric Li of viral Ted Talk fame) on how America is failing and China is succeeding. Then read our cover story this week, a profile of Jerry Cohen who has been working tirelessly for the past 60 years to both understand China’s legal system and push for its reforms. The juxtaposition between the two is both jarring and indicative of how complex the U.S.-China relationship is — and always has been.
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A distinguished scholar, corporate lawyer and human rights activist, Jerry Cohen has been integral to China’s efforts to modernize its legal system and to the West’s efforts to understand it. In the early 1970s, he advised Henry A. Kissinger and met Zhou Enlai. In the 1980s, he trained Chinese officials on international tax law. He also represented some of the first Fortune 500 companies seeking to do business in China. And since the 1990s, he has championed efforts to use China’s own legal system to ensure human rights protections. But while Cohen sits at the top of a pyramid of actors trying to help China develop its rule of law, he has also, in recent years, watched the Chinese Communist Party cement its rule by law.
The world’s auction houses often serve as a mirror for confidence among the wealthy — rising and falling with the markets. Although international auction houses couldn’t operate independently in mainland China until 2013, the country has quickly emerged as a major force in the global auction market. This week, The Wire introduces you to China’s two biggest auction houses and examines the global art auction market.
China manufactures most of the world’s solar panels, and its state policy banks are among the largest financiers of energy projects in the world, particularly along the Belt and Road, Beijing’s global infrastructure project. But as The Wire‘s Katrina Northrop reports, new data that tracks lending for overseas energy projects from China’s two leading policy banks, the China Development Bank (CDB) and Export–Import Bank of China (China Exim Bank), shows that just a tiny proportion is directed towards solar energy, which analysts say could make it difficult for the world to meet the renewable energy targets set by the Paris Climate Accord.
Eric X. Li is a Shanghai-based venture capitalist, philanthropist and political commentator. In the U.S., he is best known for his provocative op-ed articles and essays on why China’s political model is superior to the United States. In this week’s interview with The Wire’s David Barboza, he reflects on why he and others in China see the U.S. as failing and why the tensions between the U.S. and China constitute an “irrational rivalry” on America’s part.
Illustration by Kate Copeland
China recognizes that open source technology can accelerate innovation, because not only is open source free to use, it also tends to produce the most robust and secure technology. It’s a no-brainer. But, according to The Wire columnist Kevin Xu, there are many nuances, difficulties, and tradeoffs to open source development, maintenance and management. When a corporation or a country tries to control it from the top-down, this “splintering” creates a tension against the grassroots, internet-native nature of open source. And China appears to be doing exactly that.
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