US-China talks, Canadians on trial, AI hearing aids

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Here’s what you need to know

Two Canadians detained in China get their day in court. Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were arrested in 2018 on charges of spying. They will face trial on March 19 and 22 as US and Chinese officials meet in Alaska (more on that below).

The suspect in the Atlanta shootings was charged with murder. Robert Aaron Long faces eight counts of murder and homicide, including for the killings of six Asian women in Georgia.

Europe’s drugs regulator reports on the safety of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. After some people who received the shot developed blood clots, many countries paused its use pending an investigation by the European Medicines Agency.

A UN body is bullish on the world economy. The UN Conference on Trade and Development revised its global growth forecast from 4.3% to 4.7% for this year, thanks to the US’s faster-than-expected recovery.

Toshiba shareholders won a victory. They passed a motion to conduct an independent investigation into the Japanese conglomerate’s corporate governance. It’s expected to spur more shareholder activism in Japan.

Nike reports earnings. Analysts expect it to report strong third-quarter growth in all geographies, especially China.

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What to watch for

The US and China’s top diplomats meet. Later today in Anchorage, Alaska, US secretary of state Anthony Blinken and national security advisor Jake Sullivan will sit down with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi, and top foreign policy official Yang Jiechi. In their first face-to-face meeting since US president Joe Biden took office, they will take the temperature of a relationship that became bitterly hostile during Donald Trump’s presidency.

The meeting comes after Blinken made his first overseas visit—to Asian allies including Japan, where he warned China against “aggression and coercion,” and to South Korea. This week, the US also sanctioned more Chinese officials over Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, while Blinken criticized the country’s “strings attached” vaccine diplomacy. For China’s part, Wang recently declared it would not accept “groundless accusations or defamation” from the US.

In other words, a substantial “reset” in US-China ties is unlikely. But for the next four years, the rivalry might at least be conducted on more polite terms than in the last four.

Even a change in tone will be welcome. Biden’s pull back from Trump’s xenophobic and often racist way of talking about China might do something to repair a climate that, with the arrival of the pandemic, has seen an uptick in acts targeting Asians. Many in the US worry that Tuesday’s shooting spree in Georgia, which led to the deaths of six Asian women, may have been one of them.

Charting the e-commerce industry

E-commerce in the US is approaching a major milestone: In 2022, it will record its first trillion-dollar year, predicts Adobe Analytics, which analyzes online transactions across millions of products.

A chart showing the share of US retail sales that belong to e-commerce since the year 2000, with a vertical spike in 2020.

The pandemic is speeding US online sales to new heights far faster than they would have climbed otherwise. While some of that activity is likely to return to stores once life gets back to normal, experts expect many of the new behaviors shoppers picked up out of necessity will stick around. Retailers will have to adapt.

Pop quiz: What’s the geopolitical buzzword of the moment?

Here’s a hint: it’s a region that most people probably can’t identify on a map, but that European leaders think is the center of gravity of the world.

OK fine, it’s “Indo-Pacific,” and really it’s more of a political construct than a geographic one.

A map showing the inner states and littoral states of the Indo-Pacific.

It’s a rich and diverse place that contains, according to the US Indo-Pacific Command, “more than 50% of the world’s population, 3,000 different languages, several of the world’s largest militaries…two of the three largest economies…the most populous nation in the world, the largest democracy, and the largest Muslim-majority nation.” It’s also the heart of global trade. Annabelle Timsit takes us on a journey to determine why everyone’s got their eye on the region.

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Surprising discoveries

Hearing aids are turning to AI. New products will utilize deep neural networks to isolate sound to eliminate background noise.

Spam FaceTimes are the new terrible thing… Users are being bombarded with as many as 20 video calls in short succession at all hours.

… but a hacker rerouting all your texts is still pretty bad. And it can happen for less than $20.

The oldest new car in America was sold… The 2014 Lotus Evora S had been sitting since 2014, and sold for $20,000 under sticker price with an expired warranty.

…which actually isn’t very old at all. Israeli archaeologists discovered a 6,000-year-old basket and a few Dead Sea Scroll fragments in the Judean desert.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, new-old cars, and old-old baskets to Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our iOS app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Annabelle Timsit, Jane Li, Marc Bain, Tripti Lahiri, Jordan Lebeau, and Susan Howson.