The NY Times has hired Li Yuan, a China tech columnist at The Wall Street Journal, to be its first Asia technology columnist for the Business section. She starts in May and will be based in Hong Kong.
Li has been a China tech columnist at WSJ since 2015, writing a weekly column called China Circuit. She previously worked at The Journal as a telecom reporter in New York and as editor of its Chinese-language website in Beijing. Before The Journal, Li was a foreign correspondent at Xinhua who was deployed to Afghanistan, Thailand and Laos.
Her work on China Circuit has covered the gamut. Li has revealed unknown apps that were being embraced by China’s rural population. She has examined how China became the big test lab of retail, with unmanned stores and other experiments. She wrote about gender discrimination and sexual harassment in China’s tech industry. And she has written about the long arm of the Chinese government in tech, with Beijing’s push for more direct ownership of the companies as well as online censorship.
Her coverage is widely respected, with Chinese internet entrepreneurs and investors including Kai-Fu Lee calling her the best columnist on tech in Asia. She is deeply sourced in the region’s tech industry.
Li’s hiring underscores the NY Times’ commitment to tech coverage in Asia, where activity is ramping up and giving Silicon Valley a run for its money, especially as the United States and China compete for technology dominance. Li joins Paul Mozur, Raymond Zhong and Vindu Goel as our chroniclers of the growing influence of tech in the region.
Li, whose hometown is Yinchuan in northwestern China, holds four degrees (from Central China Normal University, China School of Journalism, Columbia University’s School of Journalism and George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs). A native Mandarin speaker, she says she knew she wanted to become a journalist in 1980 after the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci asked China’s then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping a no-no question: “Will Chairman Mao’s portrait above Tiananmen Gate be kept there?”