ZGBriefs | August 20, 2020

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Featured Article

How to cook rice: in Asia, it’s no laughing matter  (August 16, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Rice, in Asia, is serious business. The culturally diverse region eats a variety of rice – Basmati rice, Jasmine rice, multigrain rice or Japonica rice and more – and cooks it in different ways. According to Statista, the average person in Asia consumes 60.4kg of rice a year, almost double the world average consumption of 38.4kg of rice per person.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Video: No, Jimmy Lai’s Arrest Does Not Mean Press Freedom is Dead in Hong Kong  (August 11, 2020, Nury Vittachi, via YouTube)
Writer Nury Vittachi urges people to look beyond the media narrative and see what is really happening in Hong Kong. For a start, the press is still free.

How far will China’s surveillance state stretch?  (August 12, 2020, American Enterprise Institute)
American lawmakers are the latest to find that Beijing is increasingly aiming to clamp down on critics in the democratic world.

U.S. requires Confucius Institute center to register as foreign mission  (August 13, 2020, Reuters)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a statement, labeled the Confucius Institute U.S. Center in Washington “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign on U.S. campuses and K-12 classrooms.” David Stilwell, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, told a briefing the dozens of Confucius Institutes in the United States were not being kicked out, but said U.S. universities should take a “hard look” at what they were doing on campus.

Hong Kong Media Comes to Grips with Impact of National Security Law  (August 13, 2020, China Digital Times)
The arrest of Next Digital publisher Jimmy Lai and the police raid of his Apple Daily offices marked an escalation of the crackdown on Hong Kong’s media freedoms, which entered a new, more active stage after the July 1 implementation of the National Security Law (NSL). For years, Hong Kong journalists have expressed fears that their media freedom was being eroded by Beijing’s encroaching power. 

Xi Jinping is trying to remake the Chinese economy  (August 15 edition, The Economist)
The Communist Party has greater control over all aspects of life, and Mr Xi has greater control over the party. This does not just mean it is a good idea for companies to butter him up. It means that he is in a position to reshape the economy within which they prosper or fail. What is he doing with it?

Hong Kong: National security law targets overseas activists  (August 18, 2020, DW)
Hong Kong authorities are seeking to arrest six pro-democracy activists living abroad, including one US citizen. Experts say that China’s security law for the city doesn’t just pose a threat to locals.

China’s Xi Jinping facing widespread opposition in his own party, insider claims  (August 18, 2020, The Guardian)
Cai Xia, who has been expelled from the elite Central Party School, says president’s ‘unchecked power’ has made China ‘the enemy of the world’.

Chinese provinces and administrative units  (August 18, 2020, Inkstone News)
China’s vast territory and 1.4 billion population are governed in a hierarchical administrative system, but the division of powers is not always uniform.

American Chamber of Commerce gets permission to fly business executives to China  (August 18, 2020, South China Morning Post)
A source from AmCham China said almost 200 people had signed up for a San Francisco to Beijing charter flight since Monday – well over the 120 needed to make it happen. The chamber said that only those who were employed by member companies who had received a letter of invitation, known as a PU letter, would be allowed on the flight. They also must obtain a valid re-entry visa.

US warship sails through Taiwan Strait under scrutiny from Beijing  (August 19, 2020, South China Morning Post)
According to the US Pacific Fleet, the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin conducted a routine transit through the waterway that separates Taiwan from the Chinese mainland. […]  Taipei confirmed the warship’s passage, but did not give further details.

US suspends its extradition treaty with Hong Kong  (August 20, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The US State Department halted its extradition treaty with Hong Kong on Wednesday, the latest sign of deteriorating US-China relations in the weeks since Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong. The treaty was one of three US bilateral agreements with Hong Kong that the Trump administration announced it was suspending.


Christians Worry Hong Kong’s New Law Will Hamper Missions  (August 4, 2020, Christianity Today)
or Christians outside of China who have connections in Hong Kong, or for international ministries with offices there, a new Beijing-imposed security law prompts a raft of troubling questions and unknowns.

Demographics Beyond Numbers  (August 17, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
The chart shows that at least 72% of adult Christians who have the ability to complete the survey are women. This is basically consistent with the results of the government-led “household” survey in 2008. The “majority women” among the “four majorities” or “three majorities” basically is confirmed. This shows that the feminization rate of the Chinese Christian community is relatively high.

Closer Scrutiny of Chinese Christian Media  (August 18, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
Censorship on Christian-themed videos seems to be stricter on an increasing number of media platforms. One Christian, live broadcast channel recently said that one of their programs was canceled and they were denied permission to give lectures on Renrenjiang, one of the biggest live broadcast platforms in China.

The Testimony of a Wuhan, China, Coronavirus Survivor  (August 18, 2020, Missions Box)
One of the early Wuhan victims was Christian music producer Xiong Yan. Here’s the inspiring story of what he experienced as God brought him through the the pandemic.

Society / Life

The Artist Confronting China’s One-Child Past  (August 14, 2020, Sixth Tone)
In 2011, Zhou Wenjing discovered her mother was forcibly sterilized soon after her birth. Ever since, the young artist has been exploring how China’s birth-control policies have affected the country’s women.

Phone number full of lucky ‘eights’ sells for 2 million yuan (August 17, 2020, China Daily)
A cellphone number that ends with five “eights” was offered 2.25 million yuan ($324,000) at a court-organized online auction on Sunday, Beijing Daily reported on Monday. The phone number, which begins with “1890” and ends with five “eights”, was issued by China Telecom, one of the country’s largest telecom operators. It was put up for auction on the Taobao e-commerce platform with a starting price of 2,000 yuan.

Wuhan coronavirus: From silent streets to packed pools  (August 18, 2020, BBC)
Thousands of people packed shoulder-to-shoulder with no face masks in sight, frolicking on rubber floats and cheering along to a music festival. It’s not a very 2020 image, but it was the scene this weekend in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where Covid-19 first emerged late last year. Pictures of partygoers at the Wuhan Maya Beach Water Park – looking very much removed from the outbreak that the rest of the world continues to battle – have now gone, well, viral.

China floods: Leshan Giant Buddha statue at risk after torrential rainfall – video  (August 19, 2020, The Guardian)
Floods on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River in China forced authorities to evacuate more than 100,000 people and threatened a 1,200-year-old Unesco world heritage site, the Leshan Giant Buddha. Staff, police and volunteers used sandbags to try to protect the 71-metre (233ft) statue in Sichuan province as muddy flood water rose over its toes for the first time since 1949, the state broadcaster CCTV reported

Economics / Trade / Business

Four in 10 American firms ‘could leave Hong Kong over national security law’  (August 14, 2020, Inkstone News)
Respondents to an American Chamber of Commerce survey cited the law’s ambiguity as a reason to leave, as well as clients’ reluctance to deal with US firms and Washington’s recent sanctions and revocation of Hong Kong’s preferential trade status.

Chinese bicycle makers geared up to handle demand as they ride pedalling boom  (August 17, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The bicycle industry in China, where the disease was first reported, has had an unexpected boom, while more people around the globe are acknowledging cycling’s convenience, eco-friendliness and scope to maintain social distancing.

China’s rail shipments to Europe set records as demand surges for Chinese goods amid coronavirus (August 17, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The latest figures from the state-owned railway builder, also known as China Railway, showed that a total of 1,232 trains were arranged from different Chinese cities to European destinations in July. It was the highest monthly figure ever, and an increase of 68 per cent from a year earlier.

Trump Cancels China Talks, Raising Questions About Trade Deal  (August 18, 2020, Bloomberg)
President Donald Trump said he called off last weekend’s trade talks with China, raising questions about the future of a deal that is now the most stable point in an increasingly tense relationship. “I canceled talks with China,” Trump said Tuesday in Yuma, Arizona. “I don’t want to talk to China right now.”

Government Connections are Fleeting  (August 18, 2020, China Law Blog)
I am not saying never do business in a foreign country because of “connections.” But I am saying that if some or all of your business overly relies on your “connections” you should start now to plan for what happens when those connections evaporate, because eventually they will.


‘Gaokao’ Grader Disciplined for Publishing Student’s Exemplary Essay  (August 14, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Netizens are also questioning whether there may be a conflict of interest between Chen Jianxin’s dual roles as head grader and study guide author.

Health / Environment

Chongqing on high alert for flooding  (August 19, 2020, China Daily)
Chongqing is facing its biggest potential flood since 1981 as its flood control and drought relief headquarters upgraded the alert level from Level II to Level I, the most serious of China’s four-tier emergency response system, on Tuesday afternoon. Because of recent heavy downpours in the Sichuan Basin in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, conditions are building for the fifth flood of the Yangtze and the second of the Jialing River.

Local Officials in China Hid Coronavirus Dangers From Beijing, U.S. Agencies Find  (August 19, 2020, The New York Times)
Communist Party leaders oversee an authoritarian system that inhibits local officials from freely sharing information with national-level officials, they said, and this has had deadly consequences for the world. It is a version of the so-called Chernobyl effect, where local officials avoid telling central authorities about a catastrophic event until it is far too late, American officials said.

China Will Have a COVID-19 Vaccine by Year’s End, Sinopharm Says (August 19, 2020, Sixth Tone)
The head of the state-owned pharmaceutical company said a vaccination course could cost up to 1,000 yuan, but whether it will be covered by the government remains unclear.

Science / Technology

Apple’s China Loopholes Are Starting to Close  (August 18, 2020, The Information)
The technology giant operates the App Store and many other services without government licenses and local partners in China. That has left it vulnerable to regulatory risk in China as Trump attacks TikTok and WeChat in the U.S.

History / Culture

How Guan Yu Became China’s God of War, Wealth, and Everything Else  (August 12, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Born 1,860 years ago, the bearded warrior’s unlikely combination of traditional values had something for both emperors and commoners alike.

The Life and Ministry of Emma Ekvall  (August 19, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
A blind girl begging at the gate of the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA) mission compound in Wuchang, China in 1919 stirred the heart of Mrs. Emma Ekvall, née Ek. The school she then founded as a personal work of faith—beginning with four abandoned blind waifs—continues in operation today upon the anniversary of this pioneer missionary’s 150thbirth. In fact, a statue commemorating her vision was erected in front of the school’s impressive new campus by the People’s Republic of China two years ago.

Video: A Sensational Encounter with High Socialist China  (August 19, 2020, National Committee on US-China Relations)
Paul Pickowicz, long a professor of Chinese history at the University of California, San Diego, was among the first Americans to go to China after the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949. He kept a detailed journal and took nearly a thousand photographs during his four-week stay, some of which are collected in A Sensational Encounter with High Socialist China, a recollection of the historic visit. Professor Pickowicz uses the five senses to draw the reader into his experiences.

Travel / Food

Shake Shack Draws a Crowd of Burger-Lovers in Taikooli  (August 14, 2020, The Beijinger)
The branch seemed to be prepared for its own popularity, as well, placing the restaurant in not one, but two separate buildings, with a sizable outdoor dining area to boot. Taikooli Mall also seemed to celebrate the arrival, placing a large bulldog statue with fry-and-shake sunglasses and a burger t-shirt at the entrance.

China restaurant apologises for weighing customers  (August 15, 2020, BBC)
The policy was introduced after a national campaign against food waste was launched. The beef restaurant in the city of Changsha placed two large scales at its entrance this week. It then asked diners to enter their measurements into an app that would then suggest menu items accordingly. […]  The restaurant said it was “deeply sorry” for its interpretation of the national “Clean Plate Campaign”.

Delta, United to double China flights under new US-Sino accord  (August 19, 2020, The Points Guy)
Delta Air Lines and United Airlines will double their flights to China beginning later in August this month under a new accord that increases air service between the U.S. and China. Both carriers can fly up to four round-trips per week between the two countries under the new agreement, according to U.S. authorities. Chinese airlines are also able to fly a combined total of eight weekly flights among them. 

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Beijing art exhibition glorifies China’s Covid-19 response  (August 16, 2020, CNN)
A triumphant art show celebrating the “great spirit of the Chinese people” in fighting Covid-19 opened this month at the country’s National Museum, near Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing. Through a collection of almost 180 artworks, including sculptures, watercolors and dramatic oil paintings of heroic doctors, the exhibition aims to document the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and its aftermath.

Living Cross-culturally

What Rights Do You Have as an International Teacher in China?  (August 15, 2020, The Beijinger)
International teachers – usually affiliated with training centers – are reporting that they are barred from leaving their provinces, or even the cities in which their schools are located. These teachers claim that they have been coerced into signing contracts that bar them from leaving their cities or provinces under penalty of contract termination. Others say they have had their salaries arbitrarily slashed and office hours increased.


The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: A Book Review  (August 14, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
The rather battered and dog-eared cover to my copy of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom. America and China, 1776 to the Present by John Pomfret is testimony to both prolonged and careful reading. The fact that this historical account of the relationship between these two nations is dense with fascinating information spanning diverse topics over more than two centuries accounts for both.

Links for Researchers

Urban Grid Management and Police State in China: A Brief Overview  (August 12, 2020, China Change)
In brief, this is the background for understanding how and why China has been implementing grid management for, among other things, social control.

Strengthening the CCP’s “Ideological Work”  (August 13, 2020, Center for Strategic and International Studies)
This article focuses on “ideological work,” or the Party’s efforts to build and maintain a coherence of values and beliefs within the Party ranks in order to strengthen organizational integrity. Huang expounds with great directness some of the key messages the senior Party leadership aims to disseminate amongst lower-level cadres and government officials. In contrast to Beijing’s external messaging—which emphasizes peace and cooperation with the United States—internal discourse is imbued with a much darker view of China’s relationship with the outside world.

Image credit: by moritz320 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