JUNE 2022

Three questions with...
2019 Fellow Josh Chin

Your Fellows project, Surveillance State, will be published this fall. Can you share the origins of the project and why this book now?

The book grew out of an investigation into Chinese state surveillance that the Wall Street Journal launched in 2017 after we stumbled onto a Chinese startup that was raising millions of dollars to develop facial-recognition systems for police. That piece went on to win a Gerald Loeb Award for international reporting. After we finished that initial wave of reporting, it was clear that what the Communist Party was trying to do with technology in China was the kind of tectonic development that called for the deep excavation you can only really do with a book.

Surveillance State and many of your reported pieces are co-authored by Liza Lin. What is the collaborative reporting and writing process like?

We originally started working together because we had complementary reporting beats. Liza was plugged into China’s tech industry, and I’d spent years covering Chinese politics. We needed knowledge of both to properly tackle state surveillance as a topic. But in the course of reporting, we discovered that our skills fit together in other ways. Liza is a whiz at getting important people to tell her things they probably shouldn’t. Often, I was able to set the gems of insight she uncovered in the right context for them to shine a bit brighter. When it came time to write the book, we divided up the chapters based on expertise, but we stuck to the same dynamic. There was plenty of give and take, but we managed to achieve one of our primary goals, which was to keep the voice and the quality of reporting consistent throughout.

What goals do you have for the book? What do you hope US audiences will take away from the book, and are those goals different for a Chinese audience?

We don’t intend this as an anti-surveillance Jeremiad. There are plenty of those out there already. Instead, the hope is the book will give people a way to grasp state surveillance in its totality—its seductive side as well its nightmarish one—so that they’re prepared to face a future in which these technologies are pervasive, and hopefully shape it in ways that preserve as much of our humanity as possible.

Unfortunately, censorship in China is now so sophisticated that probably only a handful of people there will get to see the book. For those few, we hope it helps them make a little more sense of the new world they’re living in. To Americans, the book stands as a warning. China’s surveillance state was fertilized by technology and ideas produced in the U.S. The more our commitment to democracy withers, the likelier we are to see something similar sprout out of American soil.

Hot Off The Press

We Refuse to Forget

We Refuse to Forget tells the extraordinary story of the Creek Nation, a Native tribe that two centuries ago both owned slaves and accepted Black people as full citizens.

By: Caleb J. Gayle, Class of 2021

Learn more

Two Cents

Fellows on when they know they're on the right track with a project.

1: When I start seeing connections to the ideas in the most unusual places—there's a "zone" in which nearly every podcast, every magazine article, every conversation with a friend seems to magically surface the project's themes.
— Sara Hendren, Class of 2018

2: I'm feeling good about it when I wake up to write in the morning.
— Yi-Ling Liu, Class of 2021

3: I know I am on the right path when I wake up with new ideas for my project. When things are going well, I am constantly generating new ideas and coming up with new questions to explore in my research and writing.
— Keisha N. Blain, Class of 2022


Andrea Elliott was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction for her book Invisible Child

Azmat Khan was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting for her work in the New York TimesMatthieu Aikins also contributed to the reporting. 

Anand Gopal was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing for his work in the New Yorker

Daniel Bergner's new book, The Mind and the Moon, was reviewed in the New York Times. 

Keisha N. Blain will join Brown University as a professor of Africana Studies & History this year.

Eve L. Ewing received tenure at the University of Chicago.

Karen Levy received tenure at Cornell University. 

Caleb J. Gayle and Francesca Mari were named Fellows at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies. 

Two Cents
New America Events

The top 3 New America events we recommend you check out. Now.



Geography is Destiny

Join the International Security Program for a conversation with author Ian Morris on British history and the ways geography and how people relate to it have shaped the British story. Learn more


We Refuse to Forget

Join the Fellows Program for a conversation with Caleb J. Gayle, Class of 2021, about his new book. Learn more


Pop-Up Magazine

This spring our friends at Pop-Up Magazine are heading on tour. Contributors tell vivid, new, multimedia stories accompanied by illustration, animation, photography, and an original score performed onstage. Use code 10PUMFRIEND for $10 off your ticket! Learn more

Reading this month

The depth and breadth of the research and writing is really impressive and explains much more than just the history of one country. 
— Mike Giglio,
Class of 2021

Learn more

A sociology of science exemplar on questions of genetic ancestry and race in the United States. 
— Sarah J. Jackson,
Class of 2019

Learn more

Tiya Miles is a historian with the eye of a novelist and this book is a new, innovative way to explore the history of slavery. 
— Clint Smith,
Class of 2020

Learn more

Free Swag

Fill out this short form for a chance to win a copy of The Mind and the Moon by Daniel Bergner, Class of 2021!

(Please submit by Monday, June 13th to be considered.)

Get swag!

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