Welcome to You May Also Like

A newsletter about where stuff comes from and why.

Thanks for subscribing to You May Also Like! I started this newsletter after spending years covering the rise of Chinese tech giants for publications like WIRED, NBC News, Semafor, and Rest of World.

My work often focuses on the wild world of e-commerce. I documented how counterfeits on Amazon are devastating small businesses, uncovered TikTok’s plans to build a shopping empire in the US, and revealed the tactics Shein used to become a fast fashion juggernaut.

Over time, I started to notice what seemed like a paradoxical trend: As political relations between Washington and Beijing unraveled, the average American was getting closer to Chinese manufacturers, companies, and social media platforms — not further apart from them.

While the Biden administration debates whether to ban TikTok, hundreds of thousands of Americans are watching Chinese livestreamers on the app hawk everything from crystals and stuffed animals to colored contact lenses. US teenagers are connecting directly with bubbly video hosts in cities like Shenzhen, who are bypassing the Great Firewall in the name of global capitalism.

While the number of US college students studying in China dwindles to almost zero, millions of American 20-somethings are filling their closets with clothes from Shein, a Chinese fashion marketplace now worth upwards of $45 billion.

Getting tough on China is one of the only things Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem to agree on. And yet, millions of Americans are flocking to Temu, a Chinese-owned e-commerce app that has been downloaded over 100 million times in the US. You may have seen one of the six separate commercials Temu ran during the Super Bowl last month.

For WIRED this week, I wrote about how American social media influencers are making money by promoting knockoff designer sneakers and streetwear imported from China on Facebook, TikTok, Discord, and Reddit. They earn income by partnering with sites like Pandabuy, which give consumers access to shopping apps usually only available in China:

Influencers guide their followers through the entire process, including how to correctly declare packages to avoid them being seized by customs officials in the US or Europe. Many recommend telling Pandabuy to discard shoe boxes to reduce the weight of their orders and cut down on shipping costs. They even educate followers about upcoming holidays in China that may cause unexpected delays. “You have to remember, we’re going by Chinese standards,” one influencer says in a TikTok video. “We go by their calendar.”

In this newsletter, I’ll cover similar stories that show how almost every event in America — from protests to stimulus programs — has “an immediate economic ripple effect somewhere in the People’s Republic,” as Peter Hessler put it. More broadly, I’ll report on how the stuff people buy from China is made and the way it winds up on your doorstep.

That includes investigating shopping marketplaces, uncovering dropshipping scams, interviewing garment workers, and speaking to shoppers like you. If you’ve ever wondered whether an Amazon review was fake or who was behind the products in your Instagram ads, you’re in the right place. I’m so glad you’re here.