Good evening. The Covid-19 pandemic hastened the urgency of an already developing narrative: China is closing itself off from the rest of the world. While this reality is undeniable, a less appreciated story is just how extensive China’s digital paper trail is. Our cover story this week explores the creative new ways researchers — and the U.S. government — are shining light into the black box. Elsewhere, we have a Q&A with Bonny Ling on values, sanctions and ethical supply chains; infographics on China’s electric vehicle evolution; a reported piece on how China’s spat with Lithuania is spilling over into the EU; and an op-ed about why Biden needs to join the CPTPP. If you’re not already a paid subscriber to The Wire, please sign up here.
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Armed with little more than a computer and an internet connection, Adrian Zenz, a 47-year-old researcher in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, has become one of the biggest thorns in China’s side. As Katrina Northrop reports this week, traditional information gathering inside China is nearly impossible these days, but researchers like Zenz are using creative methods to mine the Chinese internet — and they’re finding diamonds. From what’s happening in Xinjiang to the PLA’s use of AI to China’s new nuclear capabilities, these researchers are defying the perception that China is a black box.
The Big Picture: China’s EV Evolution
China’s EV sales increased by roughly 150 percent to more than 3 million last year, and they are expected to double again in 2022. This week, The Wire’s infographics by Eliot Chen look at China’s EV transition, including the hottest selling cars, which brands are benefitting the most and how foreign automakers have lost out.
A Q&A with Bonny Ling
Bonny Ling is the executive director of Work Better Innovations, a business consultancy that strives to promote a sustainable and inclusive economy, and a longtime human rights researcher. In this week’s Q&A with Jordyn Haime, she talks about values, the full complexity of human trafficking, how companies can ‘leave’ responsibly, and the very fast-evolving picture of sanctions.
Illustration by Lauren Crow
China vs Lithuania
Lithuania, a northern European country with a population under 3 million, sparked a row with China last March when it announced plans to establish a de facto Taiwanese embassy in its capital. But, as Anastasiia Carrier reports this week, what started as a diplomatic spat is now creating economic tension across the European Union, providing a test for the region’s leaders of their ability to stand up to the world’s second-largest economy.
What Biden Should Do on Trade
In this week’s op-ed, Takatoshi Ito, a former Japanese deputy vice minister of finance, argues that the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the TPP’s successor, is functioning well, but nonetheless misses America’s presence. Given the uncertainty about Japan’s readiness to play a tough political and economic game with China and Taiwan, strong U.S. leadership is needed more than ever. Moreover, he argues, America’s rapid accession to the agreement would enhance U.S. trade.
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