NüVoices Podcast #89: A Conversation with Liza Lin on Digital Surveillance in China

“When we first started writing the book in 2017, 2018, I would probably characterize Xinjiang as the true, perfect surveillance state … Now I think that you can apply that term to the entirety of China.” 

Liza Lin, NüVoices Podcast

This week we speak to Liza Lin, an award-winning journalist and technology reporter at The Wall Street Journal who has covered China for over a decade, first from Shanghai and now from Singapore. 

Liza has reported on the acceleration of digital tools like facial recognition in China, tracing the initial large investments in this sector to its implementation by the Chinese government to oppress Uighurs in Xinjiang. This reporting is the basis of her book Surveillance State which Liza co-wrote with colleague Josh Chin. 

In this episode, Liza also helps us understand how Covid sparked the deployment of more invasive technology and how it was behind the swift response by the police to quash the recent A4 protests. 

This surveillance affects her work, too. Currently based in Singapore, Liza delves into the difficulties of reporting on China from abroad when Wechat conversations can be cut off instantly if too many sensitive terms are picked up by voice recognition.

Though this riveting conversation paints a bleak picture, the work of journalists like Liza offers a glimpse of hope. 

About Liza Lin:

Liza is an award-winning technology reporter at The Wall Street Journal who has covered China for over a decade. Her work has covered artificial intelligence, surveillance, venture capital and more. Liza was part of a team at The Wall Street Journal to be named Pulitzer Finalists for the International Reporting category in 2021 for their work covering Xi Jinping. She also won the Gerald Loeb Award for International Reporting together with other reporters at WSJ for a series they wrote on China as a Surveillance state.

About Surveillance State: Inside China’s Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control: 

Surveillance State is co-written by Liza Lin and Josh Chin. It examines the social aspect of Chinese technology and digital surveillance from the politicians who implement the policies, to the harrowing stories of victims affected by the technology, to those making a profit. 

About Rui Zhong

Rui Zhong is the Program Associate for the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center. At the Kissinger Institute, she manages Mapping China’s Cultural Genome, a curated project that collects top-level speeches and commentary on China’s global cultural ambitions. Her research interests include China’s role in the East Asian Political Economy and how nationalist interests can impact business, technology, and cultural policies. 


Surveillance State: Inside China’s Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control by Liza Lin and Josh Chin


The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Rouge Street by Shuang Xuetao translated by Jeremy Tiang

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