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Top Ten Zgbriefs Links—Coronavirus Wins!


Each week I “scan the internet so you don’t have to,” looking for interesting stories from China to include in ZGBriefs. Not only is it time for our annual look back at the most clicked articles in 2020, we also have an end-of-year opportunity for you to support ZGBriefs and help keep it available free in the coming year.

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At least we can say this about 2020, it was not a slow news year! And as much as we may be feeling fatigued about coronavirus news, it was the major event of the year, not just in China, but globally.

At the beginning of this year while doing my prep work for the January 2 issue of ZGBriefs, I spotted an AFP story dated December 31:

China probes mystery pneumonia outbreak amid SARS fears   (December 31, 2019, AFP)
Authorities are investigating an outbreak of viral pneumonia in central China amid online speculation that it might be linked to SARS, the flu-like virus that killed hundreds of people a decade ago. There were 27 cases of “viral pneumonia of unknown origin” reported in Wuhan, in central Hubei province, the city’s health commission said in a statement.

I remember thinking, “uh-oh, this doesn’t sound good.”

The following week, for the January 9 issue, I included two more stories:

Just in Time for Lunar New Year, Another SARS-like Epidemic Is Brewing in China  (January 8, 2020, Foreign Policy)
Scores of people in Wuhan and Hong Kong have been sent to hospitals because of a mystery respiratory ailment—and true to form, China is trying to keep it quiet.

China pneumonia outbreak may be caused by Sars-type virus: WHO  (January 8, 2020, The Guardian)
A cluster of more than 50 pneumonia cases in the central Chinese city of Wuhan may be due to a newly emerging member of the family of viruses that caused the deadly Sars and Mers outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization. While the UN health agency said it needed more comprehensive information to confirm precisely the type of pathogen causing the infections, it said a new coronavirus was a possibility.

“Yikes!” I thought. This is “very not good!” (That’s a Chinese language grammatical construction.)

By the time I was putting together the issue for the following week, the coronavirus had slipped across the border and was beginning its murderous path of destruction around the globe:

Wuhan pneumonia outbreak: First case reported outside China   (January 14, 2020, BBC)
A tourist in Thailand has become the first person outside China diagnosed with a new, pneumonia-like virus that has already infected dozens of people. The woman was quarantined after landing in Bangkok from Wuhan, eastern China, where the outbreak began in December. One person has died and 41 cases of the virus have been recorded so far.

While at the time, the focus was on how this new disease would affect China, little did we know that it would come to touch all our lives, either directly or indirectly.

It should come as no surprise that of the top ten most clicked on stories from ZGBriefs in 2020, eight were about the coronavirus pandemic. Here then, are the stories that attracted the most attention:

  1. Everything You Need to Know About Traveling Into and Out of China Right Now  (February 19, 2020, The Beijinger)
    Amid growing uncertainty as to what faces both foreigners returning to China and those trying to leave, China’s National Immigration Administration recently released details on what Chinese and foreigners can expect when dealing with immigration.
  2. These airlines have suspended flights to and from China   (February 5, 2020, CNN)
    Airlines around the world have responded to the coronavirus outbreak by suspending flights to and from China, severely disrupting travel by tourists and business executives in one of the world’s busiest aviation markets. Here’s a roundup of some major airlines that have suspended or reduced their flights to mainland China.
  3. China doubles down against foreign teachers spreading Christianity   (September 6, 2020, South China Morning Post)
    New regulations underscore ban against unauthorised promotion of religion in the classroom and require new overseas hires to complete 20 hours of study on the country’s political system.
  4. Reflection on Different Reactions to Death of Dr. Li Wenliang – Was He A “Christian”?  (February 12, 2020, China Christian Daily)
    Many Christian WeChat groups are retweeting a message that Dr. Li Wenliang was a “Christian”, like Luke in the Bible. 
  5. This US church with expansion in its DNA wants to open a temple in China      (June 6, 2020, CNN)
    The Church claims it won’t change anything, but the idea that a US church with expansion in its DNA could open an official temple in China is likely to be controversial — and may not be allowed by Beijing.
  6. China Considers New Rules, Mandatory Trainings for Foreign Teachers  (July 20, 2020, Sixth Tone)
    Four ministries of China’s central government on Tuesday issued a draft regulation that would require foreign teachers to be taught about the country’s laws and refrain from “harming China’s national sovereignty, honor, and public interests.”
  7. How China Deceived the WHO  (April 12, 2020, The Atlantic)
    The organization’s major structural weakness is that it relies on information from its member countries—and the WHO team that visited China in February to evaluate the response did so jointly with China’s representatives.
  8. How Will Coronavirus Impact China in the Long Term?  (February 26, 2020, China File)
    What signs are there of the economic and political impact of the virus? And what should the world be keeping an eye on in the next few weeks?
  9. Infection numbers fall in China but coronavirus experts remain cautious  (February 12, 2020, The Guardian)
    Health authorities in Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak, reported 1,638 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, down from a peak of more than 3,000 new cases on 4 February and the lowest daily number of new infections since 31 January.
  10. 5 Prayer Requests from Behind the Coronavirus Curtain  (January 31, 2020, The Gospel Coalition)
    We’ve been back for a few days now—checking in with church members and neighbors and mostly staying indoors. Having received numerous questions about our well-being and needs, I thought it might help to share some prayer requests from behind the Coronavirus Curtain. 

Hoping and praying that we can pivot to a better news year in 2021!

Image credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.
Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio


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