ZGBriefs | April 23, 2020

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Featured Article

In 1911, another epidemic swept through China. That time, the world came together  (April 19, 2020, CNN)
As the world now faces a pandemic characterized by a lack of a globally co-ordinated response and multilateral effort on the part of political leaders, the collaborative aspects of the 1911 conference in north-eastern China are worth reconsidering.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Why Chinese Embassies Have Embraced Aggressive Diplomacy  (April 15, 2020, Foreign Policy)
The aggressive tone of China’s embassies could be the result of a direct order, but it’s more likely that individual staffers are adopting methods that they’ve seen lead to career boosts for other diplomats—such as the Twitter troll Zhao Lijian, who was appointed foreign ministry spokesperson in January, and the former Ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian, who was just appointed the head of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. 

China’s deputy public security minister faces corruption probe for ‘serious violations of discipline and the law’  (April 19, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The Chinese deputy public security minister whose responsibilities include Hong Kong affairs has been placed under investigation by China’s main anti-corruption body. Sunday’s announcement that Sun Lijun was under investigation for “serious violations of discipline and the law”, an indication of corruption, is the latest shake-up inside the country’s security apparatus.

After Guangzhou, 3 things will shape China-Africa “brotherhood”  (April 20, 2020, Panda Paw Dragon Claw)
The impact of the incident, on the hearts and minds of the African public and on the long-term prospect of China’s presence on the continent, will likely be long-lasting regardless of the intention of political elites on both sides.

Beijing marks out claims in South China Sea by naming geographical features  (April 20, 2020, South China Morning Post)
China has given names to 80 geographical features in the disputed South China Sea in the latest move to assert its territorial claims in the face of increasing opposition from Vietnam. According to a notice jointly released by China’s Natural Resources Ministry and Civil Affairs Ministry, it has given names to features in the Paracel and Spratly islands. These include 25 islands, shoals and reefs and 55 oceanic mountains and ridges.

Chinese Agents Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say  (April 22, 2020, The New York Times)
The amplification techniques are alarming to officials because the disinformation showed up as texts on many Americans’ cellphones, a tactic that several of the officials said they had not seen before.

A fresh crackdown in Hong Kong ‘will result in deaths’, says democracy leader  (April 22, 2020, The Guardian)
Martin Lee, the 81-year-old founder of Hong Kong’s Democratic party, has said there will be more fatalities and protests if authorities try to pass anti-subversion laws – which would outlaw “sedition, subversion and the theft of state secrets” – before the September legislature election.

Coronavirus Crisis Offers Taiwan a Chance to Push Back Against China  (April 22, 2020, The New York Times)
Saying “Taiwan Can Help,” the island is resisting China’s efforts to isolate the self-ruling democracy that Beijing claims as its territory.

China Confirms Hong Kong Reshuffle in High-Profile Announcement  (April 22, 2020, Radio Free Asia)
China on Wednesday confirmed reports of a reshuffle of several key officials in Hong Kong, following reports that the ruling Chinese Communist Party is taking a more direct role in the running of the once-autonomous city.


Covid-19, Conspiracy theories and Jesus  (April 16, 2020, Follow One International)
The main intent of this article is to invite American Christians to think carefully about how we respond to people who clearly have nothing to do with the origins of the pandemic. This is a call to pray and to demonstrate grace in addition to practicing social distancing and making our best efforts in medicine.

Christians in China Praying for the World  (April 21, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
May people think seriously about the meaning of life in the face of a raging epidemic, and then experience the wonderful guidance and transformation from God. 

From Here to There: The Straight-Line Fallacy  (April 22, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
In this sense our narratives are as much about what we as outsiders hope to do in China and for China as they are about China itself. Like the engagement narrative described above, the dominant Christian narratives each envision a desired future for China and offer a prescribed course of action in order to realize that future.

Society / Life

Translation: Backlash to Wuhan Diary “Reveals a Serious Problem Society Must Correct”  (April 21, 2020, China Digital Times)
While Fang Fang’s writings have resonated with many Chinese, their growing international prominence has attracted fierce criticism from others who feel that they harm the country’s reputation at a time when it is already under fire over the origins of the pandemic.

Coronavirus: How social isolation creates grounds for divorce  (April 22, 2020, Inkstone News)
Living in a pandemic is tearing families and relationships apart. In China, lawyers are overwhelmed with divorce inquiries and local governments are swamped by applications to separate.

Beijing Overseas Returnees Now Subject to Two Weeks Quarantine Plus One Week Home Observation  (April 22, 2020, The Beijinger)
Though foreigners are still unable to enter China, the change means that they will likely be subject to an extra week of quarantine when the country re-opens its borders to them.

Wedding photoshoots help Wuhan find some normalcy  (April 22, 2020, Inkstone News)
Weddings, birthdays and celebrations have been canceled around the world because of the coronavirus pandemic. In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus first appeared, they are finally resuming as authorities relax a strict lockdown that separated families, friends and lovers for over two months.

Street by street, home by home: how China used social controls to tame an epidemic  (April 22, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Like 11 million other people across Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, the Jiang family have been under “grid management control” since January 23. That means “waterproof surveillance” and monitoring within their community, or xiaoqu. Jiang said the apartment blocks in her compound were sealed off and all residents had to enter or leave via a single gate that was guarded around the clock.

Meet the Beijing-Based Artist Who Turned His 14-Day Quarantine Into a Mind Map  (April 22, 2020, The Beijinger)
For a man who usually busies himself exploring cities – as well as the entirety of the Sixth Ring Road – by foot, the Beijing-based artist had to instead make do with summoning inspiration from four walls and his circling mind. 

Missing Wuhan citizen journalist reappears after two months  (April 22, 2020, The Guardian)
Li Zehua was one of three Chinese journalists who had been reporting from the front lines in Wuhan during some of the worst weeks of the epidemic. He was last seen on 26 February after posting a video in which he was chased by a white SUV and an hours-long live-stream that ended when several agents entered his apartment.

Economics / Trade / Business

Xi fears Japan-led manufacturing exodus from China  (April 16, 2020, Nikkei)
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed building an economy that is less dependent on one country, China, so that the nation can better avoid supply chain disruptions. The call touched off a heated debate in the Chinese political world.

Pandemic Causes Biggest Drop In China’s GDP In Decades  (April 17, 2020, NPR)
NPR’s Steve Inskeep talks to James Mayger of Bloomberg News about China’s economy which shrank 6.8% in the first three months of 2020, compared to a year ago — the biggest drop in nearly 3 decades.

Health / Environment

How coronavirus hitched a ride through China  (April 16, 2020, Reuters)
One cluster in the northern city of Tianjin demonstrates how the virus spread weeks before the lockdown in Wuhan, kicking off a military-style quarantine that would take the country hostage for more than two months.

Coronavirus: China outbreak city Wuhan raises death toll by 50%  (April 17, 2020, BBC)
The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus originated last year, has raised its official Covid-19 death toll by 50%, adding 1,290 fatalities. Wuhan officials attributed the new figure to updated reporting and deaths outside hospitals. China has insisted there was no cover-up.

Literally chaos’: inside the stampede to buy masks and ventilators in China  (April 20, 2020, Inkstone News)
Surging demand for equipment for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic has turned the Chinese market for medical gear into the Wild West, forcing buyers, sellers and regulators to adapt at virtually a moment’s notice.

Recovered, almost: China’s early patients unable to shed coronavirus  (April 22, 2020, Reuters)
Chinese doctors in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December, say a growing number of cases in which people recover from the virus, but continue to test positive without showing symptoms, is one of their biggest challenges as the country moves into a new phase of its containment battle.

China Imposes Strict Measures In Northeast To Keep Out Coronavirus From Russia  (April 22, 2020, NPR)
China, in a further bid to keep a backwash of coronavirus infections from its borders, will ban all non-residents and outside vehicles from residential areas of the city of Harbin, a major industrial entrepôt located near the country’s northeast border with Russia.

A 600-Person Dormitory’: Life Inside a Wuhan ‘Fangcang’ Hospital  (April 22, 2020, Sixth Tone)
I was a late entrant to the fangcang. By the time I arrived, the center was fully up and running, and the beds were more or less full. The basketball court had been divided into six zones, each housing around 100 people. There were also 300 medical workers, mostly nurses.

Science / Technology

What’s New WeChat: Sticker Organization, Quoting Comes to PC, and Crypto-RMB Tests Begin  (April 17, 2020, The Beijinger)
Rejoice, ye sticky scoundrels! Gone are the days of tedious sticker deletion, when we were denied even the thought of organizing our carefully curated selection of 300 gifs.

History / Culture

Video: Sightseeing in Beijing in the 1970s (Everyday Life in Maoist China)

Pudong Pointilism: Snapshots From a District Transformed  (April 16, 2020, Sixth Tone)
A photographer spent a decade documenting daily life in the Shanghai district, watching as its old communities gave way to gleaming skyscrapers.

How Shanghai Tried to Master the Mall  (April 21, 2020, Sixth Tone)
While the state-owned firms who ran the department stores had little impetus to change, the city itself was set on improving the shopping environment.

Travel / Food

In Wuhan, hot dry noodle vendors reopening is a welcome sign of normalcy  (April 17, 2020, Matador Network)
Wuhan is known as the breakfast capital of China. A survey conducted by a national news outlet claims that more than 90 percent of its residents eat out for breakfast. About 25,000 registered breakfast vendors dot the city, operating year-round. Of the city’s countless breakfast specialties, hot dry noodles top the list.  

This incredible Shanghai church is now an eye-catching bookstore  (April 21, 2020, Lonely Planet)
A distinct and striking bookshop has been unveiled inside a historical church in Shanghai, allowing visitors to peruse the aisles of a modern store built into the shell of a unique building dating back to 1932.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

12 Classic Chinese Films are Now Available for Free on YouTube with English Subtitles  (April 16, 2020, Radii China)
A dozen classic black and white Chinese films from the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s are now available for free on YouTube — with English subtitles. The movies represent some of the key highlights from China’s first “Golden Period” of cinema and are a Sino cinephile’s dream come true.

Video: China builds one of world’s biggest soccer stadiums  (April 22, 2020, Reuters, via YouTube)
Chinese real estate giant Evergrande Group begins construction on ‘Lotus Flower Stadium,’ which will be one of the largest soccer stadiums on the planet in the southern city of Guangzhou.

Language / Language Learning

Learning Your ABCs… in Chinese  (April 20, 2020, The Beijinger)
The list usefully provides characters for letters where possible as well as approximate English transliterations, while the parts in parentheses are additions made based on our experience of how letters are used.

Choice Chengyu: Tea Terms  (April 21, 2020, The World of Chinese)
This splendid tea culture also birthed many chengyu. To celebrate tea, now consumed all over the world, let’s have a look at some tea-related idioms:

What’s in a name?  (April 21, 2020, China Channel)
All of this makes it truly remarkable how often Chinese people seem to choose utterly bizarre English names. Everyone who’s ever taught English in China can probably rattle off a dozen examples way more kooky than these, but my favorites include a tall, strapping man named Unicorn…

Dealing with Chinese characters you keep mixing up  (April 21, 2020, Hacking Chinese)
To be able to read and write Chinese, you need to learn several thousand characters. For beginners, this looks daunting, because learning the first handful of characters is hard. You might struggle with remembering how to write basic components, leading to situations where you simply don’t know what to write at all.

Living Cross-culturally

Are You Ready? Again?  (April 20, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
It has now been well over a year since the big exodus from China began. Although many are still leaving for various reasons—including now, with the coronavirus crisis—we thought it would be good to take a look at where those who left earlier are now and what their journey to get there looked like. 

Siblings and the Third Culture Kid Journey  (April 22, 2020, Communicating Across Boundaries)
If the time and sounds of childhood are marked by our siblings, then perhaps it is even more so for the third culture kid. The daily events, the arguing, the all out fights, but overall the undying loyalty to place and to each other that connects our memories.

Links for Researchers

NPCSC Session Watch: COVID-19 Responses, Copyright, Armed Police Reform & Silence on 2020 NPC  (April 17, 2020, NPC Observer)
Below, we will briefly review the session’s agenda before turning to the question on everyone’s mind (well, ours at least): when will the NPC meet this year?

Macro Outlook 2Q2020: No Swift Recovery as Demand Remains Weak  (Marco Polo)
Beijing will be able to deal with the anticipated export drop with fiscal stimulus, but it will have difficulty reigniting domestic demand because its policy responses will be inadequate in addressing private sector problems.


Online Course: Debriefing Covid-19 (Global Trellis)
You will forever be marked by this COVID-19 season. How could you not be? Yet debriefing in-person is expensive and often not available. Whether you left or stayed, you have a lot to unpack. Now you can.

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource 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 of Northwestern-St. Paul …View Full Bio