To report on tech, journalists must also learn to report on China

In my new article for Columbia Journalism Review, I look at some of the challenges and opportunities.

an xiao mina
Oct 26 · 3 min read
Image for post
Image for post
A photo I took in Shenzhen’s Huaqiangbei District.

I have a new article out in Columbia Journalism Review that explores some unfortunate patterns I’ve seen in technology coverage lately as many people writing about tech — already a difficult beat — turn their eye toward China, perhaps for the first time:

Through Western eyes, The Economist points out, China is often seen as an “Otherland that is as much an idea as a place on the map.” This orientation seeps into tech journalism. Recent reporting on TikTok has focused largely on the platform’s risks to data privacy; while this is indeed a concern, most coverage neglects to provide the larger context that data privacy is an ongoing problem for all major technology platforms…..

One problem I see is that many journalists reporting on Chinese technology have limited experience reporting within and about China. They might not fully understand the economic and media aims of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese language, or the underlying logic of global capitalism. China has a population of 1.3 billion people — more than the European Union and North America combined — but little of the tech coverage in the West recognizes the country’s complexity. Technology writers will argue at length the fine points distinguishing San Francisco and Silicon Valley tech culture but say nothing about the Pearl River Delta, a metropolitan complex whose population surpasses that of California and whose exports shape the global economy of electronic goods.

Some of the highlights:

  1. Technology stories are now as much about policy, power and diplomacy as they are about the tech itself.

We shortened the piece to cover just the core topics at hand, but some other issues I ultimately didn’t include in the piece are worth remembering:

  • Cultural, geopolitical, and professional diversity ultimately serve the public interest with the most enriching information. Diverse and interdisciplinary newsrooms are best equipped to navigate the sheer complexity of these issues while keeping an eye out for tired tropes, stereotypes, cultural blind spots, and potentially inflammatory rhetoric. Newsrooms on the technology beat need to hire people with cultural understanding, language skills, and working knowledge in the topics they cover. Stakeholders should have an opportunity to weigh in and contribute meaningful writing and editorial work. This can help ensure that the most effective and representative information can be shared with the public, while minimizing the risk for potential inadvertent harms and blind spots.

Read more at Columbia Journalism Review.

Digital Diplomacy

Technology, digital, and innovation, at the intersection with government and foreign policy

Sign up for We Are Digital Diplomacy

By Digital Diplomacy

Focus on technology, government, foreign policy and anything in between. Take a look

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

an xiao mina

Written by

author and technologist. words and commentary in ny times, bbc, atlantic, hyperallergic, etc. meedan.

Digital Diplomacy

Technology, digital, and innovation, at the intersection with government and foreign policy

an xiao mina

Written by

author and technologist. words and commentary in ny times, bbc, atlantic, hyperallergic, etc. meedan.

Digital Diplomacy

Technology, digital, and innovation, at the intersection with government and foreign policy

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store