By Adam Lashinsky and Jeff John Roberts
November 26, 2018

Good morning from San Francisco, where the air is finally clear again. I hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving, minimally marred by the downsides of intrusive technology.

Tomorrow I head to China, where Fortune is hosting its Global Tech Forum in Guangzhou, the powerhouse capital of Guangdong province and pivot point of the Pearl River Delta. As readers of Data Sheet know well, I’ve been fascinated by China’s technological rise, particularly its innovative Internet champions. (After first visiting China in 1994, when there were mule-drawn carriages in the streets of Beijing, this will be my sixth trip in five years.) We’ve supplemented this focus on China with weekly dispatches from Clay Chandler, Fortune’s Hong Kong-based Asia editor and my co-chair for this week’s forum.

Our Western, Chinese, and other Asian participants convene this year in Guangzhou to a radically changed landscape even from our time there a year ago. China, under leader Xi Jingping, has become more assertive than any time in its modern history. U.S. President Donald Trump has initiated a full-on trade war against the world’s second-largest economy. China remains largely off limits to U.S. Internet, media, and financial services companies trying to do business there. And Hong Kong is under threat, with press freedoms there in a more precarious state than at any time since Britain handed back the colony to China in 1997.

With this backdrop, my colleagues and I plan to report back what we learn this week from our panels, interviews, and hallway conversations. China’s quest for artificial intelligence leadership is a theme that will run through the event. I’ll host a panel on the “explosion” of data with top executives from Intel, Chinese appliance maker Haier, and “Internet of Things” platform company Tuya. I’ll also interview Terah Lyons, the American who leads the policy organization Partnership on A.I. It’s a group of A.I. scientists from top technology companies; it recently signed on Chinese search giant Baidu as a member. And I’ll moderate a panel of Chinese for-profit education executives, notably VIPKid CEO Cindy Mi. My session with two veteran investors, Hugo Shong of IDG Capital and Silicon Valley’s Jim Breyer, will conclude the conference.

If the subject of China interests you nearly as much as it interests me, I strongly recommend the monumental package The New York Times recently published, “China Rules.” (This link is for the introductory essay; be sure to click through to all the articles.) With meticulous reporting from its talented and experienced staff, The Times carefully explains and analyzes the methods behind China’s economic miracle—all while defying Western predictions its Communist Party would need to usher in democracy in order to thrive economically.

These aren’t necessarily the happiest of times to be examining China through U.S. eyes. But they couldn’t be more interesting.

Adam Lashinsky


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