Good evening. Western companies often point to social audits done by third parties as proof that their supply chains in China are free of forced labor. But as our cover story this week shows, the social auditing industry is facing a bevy of challenges — both new and old — that has many observers saying their reports aren’t to be trusted. Elsewhere, we have infographics on where China is playing technological catch-up; an interview with Matthew Pottinger on flipping the U.S.-China paradigm on its head; a reported piece on the significance of the first ever China-Horn of Africa peace conference last week; and an op-ed from Kevin Rudd about the lessons China is taking from Russia’s war. If you’re not already a paid subscriber to The Wire, please sign up here.
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Crisis of Confidence
Brands have long relied on social auditing companies to monitor their supply chains in China. But as Nithin Coca reports this week, between the industry’s own flaws and a changing political environment in China, many say these reports aren’t reliable. With the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act now going into effect, this lack of trust in the industry leaves many global companies — and those hoping to hold them accountable — in a tricky spot.
The Big Picture: What China Needs
What isn’t China good at producing? A recent report has shed light on the key technologies where Beijing itself sees the country trailing. This week, our infographics by Eliot Chen look at where China is playing technological catch-up: the sectors where it’s trailing behind, why China is lagging, and the takeaways for policymakers in the West.
A Q&A with Matthew Pottinger
Matt Pottinger played a crucial, behind-the-scenes role in the Trump administration’s break with decades of bipartisan agreement about engagement with China. A former reporter and Marine, he outlasted three Trump national security advisors and was ultimately named deputy national security advisor. In this week’s Q&A with Bob Davis — part of our new series Rules of Engagement — he talks about flipping the U.S.-China paradigm on its head, the reality of the Chinese Communist Party’s ambitions, the value of concrete actions vs. rhetoric, how Xi was flummoxed by Trump, and why the CCP just can’t help itself.
Illustration by Kate Copeland
Peace With Chinese Characteristics
The first ever China-Horn of Africa peace conference last week followed months of shuttle diplomacy from China’s special envoy and resulted in seven of the eight often mutually hostile countries in the region attending. As Garrett O’Brien reports this week, the conference was the first real test of Xi Jinping’s ‘Global Security Initiative’.
China’s Lessons From Russia’s War
For Chinese President Xi Jinping, a Marxist-Leninist dialectician, the events in Ukraine won’t fundamentally alter China’s grand historical ascent, argues Kevin Rudd in this week’s op-ed. As a cautionary tale, he says, Russia’s military failures will simply impel China’s leadership to make even more substantial preparations before seizing Taiwan.
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