ZGBriefs | August 27, 2020

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Featured Article

Life on the Slow Train: Views of a Vanishing China  (August 21, 2020, Sixth Tone)
First built in the 1950s, the iconic green trains are a relic of another age, differing in almost every way from the sleek high-speed rail cars replacing them. Tickets are dirt-cheap. The carriages are crowded, chaotic, and stifling in the summer heat. It can take hours for the lumbering locomotives to chug between cities.

Sponsored Link

Webinar: How Relevant is the Gospel for the Chinese?
Among Cultural Chinese everywhere, the Christian faith is often perceived as a foreign or Western religion. Hence, many do not see how it is relevant for them. In this upcoming webinar, I’Ching Thomas will talk about how we can articulate the gospel in terms that are attractive and significant to our Cultural Chinese friends. We will also see how a Cultural Chinese can be a follower of Christ without having to shed his ethnic identity— one can be Chinese and a Christian with honor. I’Ching is the author of Jesus: The Path to Human Flourishing. The webinar will include insights drawn from the book. 
Date: Thursday, September 10, 2020
Time: 7:00pm US Central Daylight Saving Time (DST)
The event is free and open to the public, but registration is requested.

If you or your company/organization would like to sponsor a link in ZGBriefs, please contact info@chinasource.org for more information.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Dynastic cycle and shadows of the past over Xi’s China  (August 14, 2020, The China Story)
Like Mao Zedong, Xi Jinping worries that his party could lose power through a combination of corruption, complacency, decay and crises. 

Xi’s 2021 political-legal rectification campaign  (August 18, 2020, The China Story)
A new nation-wide rectification campaign targeting political-legal institutions, including courts, procuratorates, police, prisons, and administrative bodies for lawyers will begin in 2021 and run for one year. 

Chinese Communist Party uses ‘talent stations’ to lure Australian scientists: report  (August 21, 2020, The Australian)
The Chinese Communist Party has at least 57 talent recruitment “stations” in Australia to lure the top scientists to work for Beijing on Xi Jinping’s goal of global dominance in critical technologies, a new report says. The ASPI report says an estimated 1000 Australian scientists are believed to have been recruited to participate in its overseas talent plans, with many working on technologies that can be harnessed by the Chinese military.

Li Keqiang In The Muck  (August 24, 2020, China Media Project)
Over the past week, as floods continued to devastate communities across southwestern China, the country’s top leaders descended from the capital to tour flood-stricken areas, visits meant to signal their resolve in dealing with the crisis.

With Hacks and Cameras, Beijing’s Electronic Dragnet Closes on Hong Kong  (August 25, 2020, The New York Times)
Under a new national security law, the police are targeting the social media accounts of executives, politicians and activists. American internet giants are struggling to respond.

Canada presses China’s foreign minister Wang Yi about detainees, Hong Kong  (August 26, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Canada’s foreign minister has called the release of two citizens detained in China a “top priority” for his country during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Italy. Relations between Beijing and Ottawa have been increasingly bitter since an executive for Chinese tech giant Huawei was arrested in Vancouver in December 2018 and China detained two Canadian nationals in apparent retaliation.

China says US U-2 spy plane disrupted its military exercises  (August 26, 2020, CNN)
Beijing has accused the US of sending a U-2 spy plane into a no-fly zone to “trespass” on live-fire exercises being conducted by China below. The high-altitude US reconnaissance craft went into airspace Beijing deemed off limits during drills by the People’s Liberation Army’s Northern Theater Command on Tuesday, Wu Qian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Defense Ministry, said in a statement.


Demographics Beyond Numbers (2)  (August 24, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Another factor is that China’s social environment does not allow the free dissemination of Christian thought, so church growth still occurs in the form of “life affecting life.” This is consistent with the “underground” status of Chinese Christianity.

The Spatial Cleansing of Xinjiang: Mazar Desecration in Context  (August 24, 2020, Made in China Journal)
In the ensuing two years, the Chinese state has destroyed and desecrated Uyghur historical and holy places at a scale unprecedented in the history of Eastern Turkistan (Altishahr, Xinjiang) as a Chinese-dominated region. 

Living a “Down to Earth” Faith  (August 25, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
A common concern for Christians in China is how they are to live out their faith outside of the church. How can Christians carry themselves winsomely around their non-Christian family and friends? In this article, Pastor Chen Shengfeng gives pastoral advice to Christians on how their faith is to be “down to earth.”

Russell Moore: American Christians must know about China’s Uighurs  (August 25, 2020, Axios)
Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is trying to educate Christians about the cultural and demographic genocide that China is perpetrating against its Muslim population.

Is China Rewriting the Bible?  (August 26, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
While the premise underlying the “China rewriting the Bible” story is, at best, shaky, it serves a role in buttressing the familiar Persecuted Church narrative. Placed alongside church closures, arrests of pastors, and expulsions of foreign Christians—all sobering realities under Xi’s authoritarian rule—the specter of “China” rewriting the Bible itself cuts to the heart of evangelical sensibilities.

Society / Life

Changes to China’s hukou system are creating new divides  (August 19, 2020, The Economist)
The rich find it easier to move to big cities; the poor are being pushed towards small ones.

Mukbang: Why is China clamping down on eating influencers?  (August 20, 2020, BBC)
For some, the idea of watching and hearing someone eat piles of food on camera is not appealing. But the trend, started about 10 years ago, has become extremely popular in Asia. Now, though, the Chinese government is cracking down on the videos, which soon may be banned altogether in the country.

Photos: China’s Summer of Floods  (August 25, 2020, The Atlantic)
Throughout the summer, unusually heavy rainfall has caused a series of devastating floods across parts of central and southwestern China. Tens of thousands of residents have been forced from their homes, hundreds have been killed, and authorities now warn that the Three Gorges Dam is facing the largest flood peak in its history. 

Sounds of the City  (August 25, 2020, The World of Chinese)
All across urban China, noise pollution is becoming a serious health and environmental hazard. According to a 2017 report by German company Mimi Hearing Technologies, based on statistics collected by the World Health Organization, Guangzhou suffered from the worst noise pollution among 50 surveyed cities in the world. Beijing ranked sixth, followed by Shanghai at 12th, and Hong Kong at 17th.

China Calls It A ‘Wartime Mode’ COVID-19 Lockdown. And Residents Are Protesting  (August 26, 2020, NPR)
A sweeping, western region nearly four times the size of California, Xinjiang remains largely cut off from the rest of the country and its some 22 million residents under heavy lockdown, an effort officials say is needed to contain a cluster of more than 800 officially diagnosed cases.

Collage: Shenzhen at 40  (August 26, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Once a humble fishing village cowed by Hong Kong’s splendor, Shenzhen has grown into a booming megacity at an astounding pace.

Economics / Trade / Business

China’s ageing rural peasants labour into their twilight years as pensions ‘cover only oil and salt’  (August 22, 2020, South China Morning Post)
According to Chen, who is in his late fifties, a peasant from the village can receive a monthly pension of just 112 yuan (US$16) after the retirement age of 60 – a tiny sum that is well below the average daily wage in Chinese cities and far from enough to support even a frugal rural lifestyle. It is also much lower than the national average pension payment of 2,000 yuan (US$290) per month for retirees from urban jobs.

How to Prepare for the Worst in China and Why You Should  (August 22, 2020, China Law Blog)
But even if you do not believe there will at some point be even more change for the worse for foreigners in China, it at least makes sense to be ready for it. 

‘It’s terrifying’: can anyone stop China’s vast armada of fishing boats?  (August 25, 2020, The Guardian)
The recent discovery by the Ecuadorean navy of a vast fishing armada of 340 Chinese vessels just off the biodiverse Galápagos Islands stirred outrage both in Ecuador and overseas. Under pressure after Ecuador’s strident response, China has given mixed signals that it could begin to reel in its vast international fishing fleet.

Life on the Edges of China’s Livestreaming Boom  (August 26, 2020, Sixth Tone)
It may not be glamorous, but savvy small-scale livestreamers still manage to eke out a living by knowing their audiences — and their limits.

China’s Ailing Factories Need a Little Christmas Cheer  (August 26, 2020, Bloomberg)
How the holiday season plays out will reveal a lot about how consumers worldwide are recovering from the pandemic shock. Exports are a declining share of China’s overall economic growth, and not all industries benefit from Christmas demand, but shipments of consumer goods are still a crucial indicator of confidence globally.

U.S. blacklists 24 Chinese firms, escalating military and trade tensions  (August 26, 2020, Politico)
The 24 companies will be placed on the agency’s “entity list,” preventing the export of U.S. goods to Chinese companies. The firms are largely dredging, shipbuilding, infrastructure and technology companies. The blacklisted firms include the state-owned China Communications Construction Company, one of the leading contractors in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the Communist Party’s global infrastructure investment program.


How To Teach China This Fall  (August 20, 2020, China File)
The coming academic year presents unique challenges for university instructors teaching content related to China. The shift to online education, the souring of U.S.-China relations, and new national security legislation coming from Beijing have brought new sensitivities and new risks to our classrooms.

Health / Environment

China has been giving potential vaccine to key workers since July  (August 24, 2020, The Guardian)
Zheng Zhongwei, the head of the National Health Commission’s science and technology centre, told state media organisation CCTV on Sunday the government had authorised “emergency use” of a Sars-Cov-2 vaccine for workers including health workers and border officials.

History / Culture

Video: Aerial View of Beijing, 1933 (August 23, 2020, Tong Bingxue, via Twitter)

Modern ‘Ai’: Passion, Patriotism, and China’s Politics of Love  (August 25, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Whether it was of God, country, or one’s fellow man, “love” has always been a political act in modern China.

Travel / Food

More flights to move to Beijing’s new airport  (August 25, 2020, China Daily)
The newly-built Beijing Daxing International Airport will see an increase in flights from Tuesday, with two airlines transferring flights from Beijing Capital International Airport. China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines will move 40 and 51 flights, respectively, to Daxing airport, part of a new round of flight transfers from the Beijing Capital International Airport to the new airport this year.

China suspends Etihad Airways Shanghai route frm August 24  (August 25, 2020, Reuters)
China has suspended Etihad Airways’ route from Abu Dhabi to Shanghai for one more week starting on Aug. 24 due to COVID-19 infections on an Aug. 15 flight, the Shanghai city government said on Tuesday.

No Man Is an Island, but You Can Buy One in Liaoning  (August 25, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Authorities in northeastern China’s Liaoning province are now offering hundreds of uninhabited islands for sale starting from an annual fee of 3,700 yuan ($535) per hectare, state broadcaster China Central Television reported Saturday, citing a notice jointly published by the provincial departments of finance and natural resources in late July.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium razed as China eyes World Cup bid  (August 19, 2020, AFP)
Groups of people gathered to watch as the stadium, a landmark for decades, was levelled within just a few days, with the goalposts poignantly left standing even as the stands crashed down all around. The Workers’ Stadium was built in 1959 as one of 10 major construction projects to mark the 10th anniversary of communist China.

Language / Language Learning

Manchu “princess” speaking English  (August 23, 2020, Language Log)
“Is your English better than that of this Qing dynasty ‘princess’?” This video, which was initially posted to the internet on May 15, 2018, for some reason has gone viral in recent days.

Reconstruction of Middle Sinitic  (August 23, 2020, Language Log)
“What ‘Ancient’ Chinese Sounded Like – and how we know” 

China ‘Will End’ Mongolian-Language Education Starting This Semester: Reports  (August 24, 2020, Radio Free Asia)
Hundreds of teachers in Tongliao and Ulaanhad cities have been called to urgent, secret meetings at primary and secondary schools in recent days, where they were told that the Chinese government has ordered them to switch to Chinese-medium education from Sept. 1, the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) said in a report on its website.

Living Cross-culturally

Expats resume work in China as business reboots  (August 25, 2020, China Daily)
In compliance with China’s epidemic control regulations, Rucci and some 200 passengers on flight NO942 from Italy to Tianjin underwent quarantine after arriving at the Tianjin Binhai International Airport. She said many of the passengers on board were foreign employees returning to work in China. As soon as she finished the quarantine on Aug 14 and tested negative on her nucleic acid test, she left for Shanghai. A day later, she made her way to the launch venue of a motorcycle.


10 Quotes from Jesus, the Path to Human Flourishing by I’Ching Thomas  (August 21, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
In the webinar, I’Ching will talk about how we can articulate the gospel in terms that are attractive and significant to our Cultural Chinese friends. She will also talk about how Cultural Chinese can be followers of Christ without having to shed their ethnic identity.

Links for Researchers

An Emerging China-Centric Order: China’s Vision for a New World Order in Practice  (August 25, 2020, National Bureau of Asian Research)
The Chinese leadership has embarked on a journey to reshape and redefine elements of the existing international system to better fit its worldview and interests. It has therefore become imperative to better understand the types of mechanisms, institutions, norms, and rules that Beijing would like to see emerge as part of a new China-centric order. The essays collected in this NBR Special Report investigate China’s objectives, describe its favored tools to achieve them, and assess the effectiveness of its efforts across a range of countries, institutions, and functional domains.

Pray for China

September 1, 2020  (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Sept. 1, 1901, Norwegian missionary Marie Monsen (孟玛丽) first arrived in China. In 1927, she was leading a Bible class for sixteen Chinese women, and the teaching led to unprecedented confessions about female infanticide. From this experience, God used Marie as a catalyst for a revival largely led by Chinese lay leaders that swept through Shandong in the early 1930s. Pray for Christians burdened by unconfessed abortions to repent and see the Lord use their healing to bring revival. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23:28-31

Image credit: Janice Edge (used by permission)

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