The cost of China's information vacuum

Reduced access for foreign experts is making it even harder for governments to understand decision-making in Beijing.

Then US President Richard Nixon (centre) and Secretary of State William Rogers (right) at the Great Wall of China in February 1972. PHOTO: AFP
Gift this subscriber-only story to your friends and family

In the summer of 1963, Jan Berris was sitting in an office half an hour outside Washington and converting a series of codes into English text. A student of Chinese at the University of Michigan, she was on a summer internship at the National Security Agency (NSA).

In theory, Ms Berris' task was translating and analysing telegrams from China. But instead of the original Chinese message, all she got to see was a four-digit code for each word.

Already a subscriber? 

Read the full story and more at $9.90/month

Get exclusive reports and insights with more than 500 subscriber-only articles every month

Unlock these benefits

  • All subscriber-only content on ST app and

  • Easy access any time via ST app on 1 mobile device

  • E-paper with 2-week archive so you won't miss out on content that matters to you

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.