A Human Chain Reaction

Mr. Sun insisted that we have tea. My fellow researcher and I had already seen his ceramics plant—earlier, the manager had taken us through the factory and explained the workings of the machinery and the logic of the business. But Mr. Sun had just returned to Nigeria from a trip back to China, and he had a batch of top-quality green tea that he wanted to share with his visitors, in an age-old gesture of Chinese hospitality.

He ushered us into his office and motioned us toward a plump sofa. We had had tea the previous morning with another Chinese manufacturer down the road, sitting on low-slung stools in the weedy yard of his factory and drinking lukewarm brownish liquid poured from a cracked teapot. Mr. Sun clearly ...

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