ZGBriefs | April 30, 2020

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Featured Article

US education faces US$15 billion hit as Chinese students stay away  (April 23, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The Covid-19 pandemic  has upended the appetite for prestigious US degrees among Chinese students, jeopardising US$15 billion in revenue for American colleges. For American schools, it has meant reduced Chinese demand for higher education in the 2020-21 academic year, according to a congressional report into the cascading economic impacts of the pandemic published on Tuesday by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Xi Jinping sends corruption warning on trip to China’s northwest  (April 23, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Chinese President Xi Jinping made a three-day trip to the northwestern province of Shaanxi this week, urging officials there to remain vigilant against corruption and to redouble their efforts to protect the environment and deliver on the country’s anti-poverty goals.

China’s diplomats show teeth in defending virus response  (April 24, 2020, AP)
They belong to a new generation of “Wolf Warrior” diplomats, named after patriotic blockbuster films starring a muscle-bound Chinese commando killing American bad guys in Africa and Southeast Asia with his bare hands.

How Is the Coronavirus Outbreak Affecting China’s Relations with Its Asian Neighbors? A ChinaFile Conversation  (April 26, 2020, ChinaFile)
How has China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic—inside and outside of China—affected perceptions of China among countries in Asia? And how might this shape future policy toward China, or the regional policy landscape more broadly?

With a New Cold War on the Rise, What Next for Hong Kong’s Autonomy?  (April 27, 2020, The Diplomat)
China’s push for direct-rule over Hong Kong should be interpreted as part of its strategic response to the brewing new cold war. I will term this strategic response as the “North Koreaization of China,” an idea that John Hopkins sociologist Hung Ho-fung pioneered in 2015.

Podcast: Power Pandemic: How facemask diplomacy became China’s soft power play (April 27, 2020, Little Red Podcast, via China Channel)
China’s Covid diplomacy – dispatching facemasks and respirators overseas – is being hailed as the ultimate soft power play. But is this really soft power? 

‘A dream come true’: Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang reunited with family  (April 27, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Released human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang  finally reunited with his ailing wife and son in Beijing on Monday after police drove him home to the capital from eastern Shandong province. Wang, who was released from jail three weeks ago but was barred from returning to his family immediately, arrived home on Monday evening. 

Returning to the Main Theme  (April 27, 2020, China Media Project)
Spring has arrived in the People’s Daily, and the 2020 propaganda themes leaders had originally envisioned to dominate starting back in January are now in full bloom, having survived the frost of the coronavirus epidemic. Chief among these are the themes of eliminating poverty and achieving a so-called “all-round moderately prosperous” society…

EU revises China coronavirus report, courting controversy  (April 27, 2020, Axios)
Controversy over revisions made to a public report from the European Union under pressure from China is pitting EU staff against each other and against media outlets that have covered the issue.

Government renews crackdowns in Hong Kong  (April 28, 2020, World Magazine)
With global attention focused on the coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong authorities arrested 15 veteran pro-democracy figures April 18 for their involvement in last year’s protest movement. Among those arrested is the founder of the Democratic Party, 81-year-old Martin Lee. 

China Mounts Aggressive Defense to Calls for Coronavirus Compensation  (April 28, 2020, The New York Times)
Beijing has adopted a “no-holds barred” diplomatic push to quash criticism of its handling of the outbreak and to fend off efforts, including by President Trump, to hold it financially accountable.

China parliament sets key meeting for May as COVID-19 epidemic subsides  (April 28, 2020, Reuters)
China announced on Wednesday that its parliament will open a key annual session on May 22, signaling that Beijing sees the country returning to normal after being reduced to a near-standstill for months by the COVID-19 epidemic.

US Religious Freedoms Panel Urges Sanctions on China Over Violations in Xinjiang  (April 28, 2020, Radio Free Asia)
A U.S. bipartisan commission called on Tuesday for sanctions against entities deemed responsible for the persecution of Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and for the country to be placed on a State Department blacklist of the world’s worst abusers of religious freedoms.

‘Chewing gum stuck on the sole of our shoes’: the China-Australia war of words – timeline  (April 29, 2020, The Guardian)
An extraordinary war of words has erupted between Australia and China after Australia backed calls for an international investigation into the causes of the Covid-19 outbreak. Here we look at how the verbal stoush escalated.

Chinese navy puts two new nuclear submarines into service  (April 29, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Two new upgraded nuclear-powered strategic submarines have gone into service in China in time for the 71st anniversary of the navy, according to Chinese military sources. The vessels are revamped versions of the Type 094, or Jin-class, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) and will bolster the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s underwater combat strength, two military sources told the South China Morning Post.


How Chinese Pastors Developed Their Theology for Suffering  (April 22, 2020, The Gospel Coalition)
Even before COVID-19, leaders in the Chinese house church were working on a theology of suffering. […] The Chinese church was practicing a theology of suffering long before it articulated one.

Salt in the Soup  (April 24, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
We recently reached out to three church leaders in China, asking them to reflect on their experiences of “doing church” in the midst of a health crisis and quarantine, and to offer words of encouragement and advice to churches worldwide that find themselves in the same situation.

Is Having Insurance an Indication of Unbelief? — A Young Preacher Asks  (April 28, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
Many churches in China expect pastors to receive low salaries and compensation because it is the “spiritual” thing to do. This issue is especially pertinent today while pastors are facing the coronavirus pandemic. In this online Christian “Dear Abby” type column from the Three-Self Patriotic Movement WeChat account, Pastor Yuan Sheng answers a question about pastor compensation.

Approaching the Christian Tradition in Chinese Academic Settings  (April 29, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
It was during the spring term of my first year there that our textbook landed us in Jonathan Edwards’s Sinners in The Hands of An Angry God. Up until that point, questions about and discussions of God and things Christian/religious of course had arisen; it’s hard to introduce literature, even at a very superficial level, without such conversations taking place. However, this was a head-on encounter, and I really had no idea how it would unfold.

Society / Life

Who’s Making Hong Kong’s Ubiquitous Face Masks? Prisoners, Among Others  (April 24, 2020, The New York Times)
The medium-security Lo Wu prison, located near the mainland border, has been churning out masks 24 hours a day since February, when the Hong Kong government ramped up production to supply the city’s army of medical, public health and sanitation workers.

Coronavirus chokes the drug trade — from Wuhan, through Mexico and onto U.S. streets  (April 24, 2020, Los Angeles Times)
For drug traffickers interested in getting in on the fentanyl business, all roads once led to Wuhan. The sprawling industrial city built along the Yangtze River in east-central China is known for its production of chemicals, including the ingredients needed to cook fentanyl and other powerful synthetic opioids.

China Lifts Lockdown, But Strict Controls Still Curb Residents  (April 25, 2020, NPR)
China is using high- and low-tech measures to track its residents. The digital contact methods have allowed the country to restart most of its economy, but raise concerns about privacy and accuracy.

How Wuhan Cared for Pandemic’s ‘Temporary Orphans’  (April 27, 2020, Sixth Tone)
There are no public figures on how many children in Wuhan were left without guardians during the height of the country’s epidemic. But with 3,869 deaths and more than 50,000 confirmed infections, thousands of families lacked caretakers as they spent weeks in treatment, recovery, and quarantine.

China fails to stop racism against Africans over Covid-19  (April 27, 2020, The Guardian)
African people continue to be barred from hotels, shops and restaurants in Guangzhou, despite Chinese officials assuring governments across Africa that discrimination resulting from efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak would stop. 

China is installing surveillance cameras outside people’s front doors … and sometimes inside their homes  (April 28, 2020, CNN)
Although there is no official announcement stating that cameras must be fixed outside the homes of people under quarantine, it has been happening in some cities across China since at least February, according to three people who recounted their experience with the cameras to CNN, as well as social media posts and government statements.

Seeking Real Voices in China, Despite Censorship and Fear  (April 29, 2020, The New York Times)
Subjects get nervous. Interviews can end quickly. Still, one Times reporter found people who were eager to talk, at least before he was expelled.

Economics / Trade / Business

China Employer Protections in These Tough Times  (April 26, 2020, China Law Blog)
To operate with employees in China, it is essential to have proper employment documents in place for each employee, which should, at minimum, consist of the following…

U.S. imposes new rules on exports to China to keep them from its military  (April 27, 2020, Reuters)
The new rules will require licenses for U.S. companies to sell certain items to companies in China that support the military, even if the products are for civilian use. They also do away with a civilian exception that allows certain U.S. technology to be exported without a license.

China starts major trial of state-run digital currency  (April 28, 2020, The Guardian)
In recent months, China’s central bank has stepped up its development of the e-RMB, which is set to be the first digital currency operated by a major economy. It has reportedly begun trials in several cities, including Shenzhen, Suzhou, Chengdu, as well as a new area south of Beijing, Xiong’an, and areas that will host some of the events for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

China’s domestic aviation recovery is good news for the world’s airlines  (April 28, 2020, Quartz)
Now, with China in the early stages of re-opening, the global travel industry is taking notes. For global airlines still holding out hope for a V-shaped recovery, China’s domestic air travel may offer a rare glimmer of positivity.

Coronavirus: China’s economic woes could be worse than thought as legions of migrant workers return home  (April 29, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The scramble for labour as China sought to kick-start its economic engine proved short-lived amid vanishing export orders and a fragile domestic economic recovery,  leaving migrant workers with no jobs and no income to pay basic necessities, including rent.

Here’s how Luckin Coffee, the ‘poster child’ and ‘dream client’ of Credit Suisse, turned into the bank’s worst nightmare  (April 29, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Luckin’s dramatic fall from grace this month blindsided some of the top names in global finance but few have seen a bigger fallout than Credit Suisse. The lender lost a high-profile Hong Kong IPO in the wake of the scandal and reported a fivefold increase in loan losses at its Asia-Pacific unit, primarily due to a default by Lu.

China Banks on ‘Consumption Coupons’ to Stimulate Economy  (August 29, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Around two-dozen cities are giving out electronic vouchers that they hope will revive businesses hobbled by COVID-19.

Video: Coronavirus Crisis: The Short- and Long-Term Economic Impact in China and the United States(April 29, 2020, National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, via YouTube)
As the COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges to every level of the global economy, the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations is bringing together leading American and Chinese experts on economics and trade to share analysis and projections on the issues. We invite you to join us for a series of virtual programs, Coronavirus Crisis: What it means for U.S.-China Economic & Trade Relations, over the next month.

Video: China’s economy in the first quarter: The Corona shock and challenges ahead (MERICS Webinar)  (April 29, 2020, MERICS, via YouTube)
In this webinar, MERICS Chief Economist Max J. Zenglein and Analyst Maximilian Kärnfelt will present findings from the latest MERICS Economic Indicators, a project that monitors China’s economy. Their analysis will be followed by a short comment from Dr. Alicia García-Herrero, Chief economist for the Asia Pacific at NATIXIS and Senior Fellow at Bruegel.

Top US companies say sales are improving in China  (April 29, 2020, CNN)
Investors are watching China closely for clues about when a recovery from the coronavirus-induced economic slump may begin in the United States. Although it’s not yet clear that America is anywhere close to bottoming out — despite the fact that some states are getting ready to reopen for business — recent earnings reports from blue-chip Western firms with a big presence in China are encouraging.


Schools start reopening in China’s biggest cities  (April 27, 2020, BBC)
Shanghai welcomed back pupils in their final years of middle and high school, while Beijing allowed students preparing for China’s university entrance exam in July to return. Schools in other parts of China re-opened several weeks ago. Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began late last year, is set to reopen high schools on 6 May.

Chinese school gives pupils a hat tip to teach them how to keep their distance  (April 27, 2020, South China Morning Post)
A primary school in Hangzhou in the east of the country took inspiration from the headgear worn by officials in the Song dynasty, which ruled China between 960 and 1279, to reinforce lessons on social distancing. Pupils at the school wore their own handmade versions of the hats, which have long extensions, or wings, to keep them at least a metre (3ft) apart when they returned to school on Monday, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Health / Environment

Wuhan declared free of Covid-19 as last patients leave hospital after months-long struggle against coronavirus  (April 26, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The city of Wuhan, the initial epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, no longer has any Covid-19 patients in hospital after the last 12 were discharged on Sunday. Their release ended a four-month nightmare for the city, where the disease was first detected in December.

Beijing opens drive-thru testing sites to find more asymptomatic COVID-19 infections  (April 29, 2020, Global Times)
Beijing’s Haidian district opened a drive-thru testing point for nucleic acid tests of the coronavirus with the whole process taking just two minutes and experts said the move would widen the testing scale in Beijing to find more asymptomatic COVID-19 infections ahead of a massive work resumption. 

Wuhan Case Files (April 29, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Four medical workers share stories from the heart of China’s COVID-19 epidemic.

Science / Technology

Will China reinvent the Internet?  (April 28, 2020, MERICS)
But while the Chinese Party-state has political goals for technological development, these should not be the sole lens through which the actions of Chinese firms are perceived. The case of design for the future Internet illustrates how excessive focus on Chinese political motivations can obscure many other interests and factors involved.

Travel / Food

Learn To Hand-Pull Noodles And Make This Delicious Chinese Dish  (April 23, 2020, Sup China)
There are many types of noodles in China, but today we’ll introduce you to the hand-pulled variety (拉面 lāmiàn). It might sound daunting, but the truth is, hand-pulled noodles are one of the easiest handmade noodles for a beginner.

Uyghur Kebabs w/ Lamb | Xinjiang Cuisine  (April 28, 2020, Far West China)
If you’ve ever eaten Uyghur kebabs from Xinjiang, China, you know exactly why it’s one of the most popular dishes in the region. I’d like to introduce you to this regional cuisine, explain what makes it so special and take you with me as a Uyghur kebab master teaches me how it’s done.

Language / Language Learning

Chinese is fascinating and exciting, not weird and stupid  (April 28, 2020, Hacking Chinese)
Most of us oscillate back and forth along the attitude spectrum. I’m usually positive about learning and teaching Chinese, but I sometimes also feel frustrated when I mix up two characters with the same pronunciation, but with subtly different meanings. But does it matter? Does a negative attitude towards learning Chinese mean that you will learn less?

Bats in Chinese language and culture: Early Sinitic reconstructions  (April 28, 2020, Language Log)
Now why would officials in pre-modern China want to sport such loathsome (to some) creatures as bats on their rank badges?  The answer is simple:  the word for “bat” in Sinitic is biānfú / biǎnfú 蝙蝠, the second syllable of which is homophonous with fú 福 (“blessing; good fortune; bliss”). And this explains why five blessings were featured in Chinese texts already more than two millennia ago.

Living Cross-culturally

Are You Ready for Transition? Again?  (April 27, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
I have had the privilege to sit down and have coffee with some individuals who decided to face transition again; who decided to trust God again after their China dreams were crushed and they had to leave that country, some under traumatic and surreal circumstances.


Online Event: A Book Talk on “The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, The Factory, and The Future of the World” (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
In this pathbreaking work, Roberts looks at one of the biggest questions facing China: will it successfully make the transition from its decades-old role as “factory to the world” – reliant on cheap, low-skilled workers – and become a superpower with its own globally competitive companies and leading-edge technology?

Links for Researchers

Pandemics & Propaganda: How Chinese State Media Shapes Conversations on The Coronavirus  (March 19, 2020, Stanford Cyber Policy Center)
The perception of China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been a significant challenge for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over the past two months. The CCP has been attempting to control the narrative and deflect blame since the start of the outbreak, both domestically and abroad. It has done this by drawing on its substantial state- and CCP-owned media apparatus.  

Covid-19 and Europe-China Relations: A special report by the European Think-tank Network on China(ETNC), 29 April 2020  (April 29, 2020, MERICS)
This new special report of The European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC) seeks to identify and underline key developments in bilateral relations between China and a wide range of European countries, and to highlight debates that these relations inspire across Europe within the context of the evolving health crisis.

Translation: NPCSC’s New Public Health Legislative Plan in Response to COVID-19  (April 29, 2020, NPC Observer)
On Wednesday, April 29, the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) released a special legislative plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that is devoted to improving China’s public health legislation.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
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