ZGBriefs | December 10, 2020

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Featured Article

Pandemic fuels an RV boom in China  (December 7, 2020, Inkstone News)
The global coronavirus pandemic created strict border controls in China, but the ability of the country to contain the virus has allowed people within China to live a reasonably normal life for the past six months. And as Chinese people look toward domestic tourism to scratch that travel fix, a small but growing number has been taking the road less traveled, and RVs are suddenly a popular transportation mode.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

United States imposes visa curbs on members of Chinese Communist Party  (December 3, 2020, Reuters)
The policy reduces the maximum validity length of B1/B2 non-immigrant business and tourist visas for party members and their immediate family members from 10 years to 1 month, the State Department said in a statement on Thursday. The measure was aimed at protecting the nation from the party’s “malign influence,” it said, adding the party works to “influence Americans through propaganda, economic coercion, and other nefarious activities.”

Hong Kong activist Agnes Chow denied bail after landmark sentencing  (December 8, 2020, Reuters)
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow was denied bail on Wednesday pending an appeal against her 10-month jail sentence on charges related to unauthorised assembly during anti-government protests last year. The 24-year old activist was jailed on Dec. 2 along with Joshua Wong for their roles in an unlawful rally near police headquarters in 2019, the toughest and most high-profile sentencing of opposition figures this year.

FBI warns state, local police about China targeting people on U.S. soil  (December 8, 2020, Yahoo! News)
The FBI is warning local law-enforcement agencies to beware of cooperating with a Chinese government campaign to coerce U.S. residents to return to China to face criminal charges, according to a counterintelligence bulletin obtained by Yahoo News. The bulletin comes shortly after eight people, including a former New York Police Department officer, were indicted on charges of acting as illegal agents for Beijing.

‘Being young’ leads to detention in China’s Xinjiang region  (December 8, 2020, The Guardian)
A rare leak of a prisoner list from a Chinese internment camp shows how a government data programme targets Muslim minorities for detention over transgressions that include simply being young, or speaking to a sibling living abroad. The database obtained by Human Rights Watch (HRW) sheds new light on how authorities in Xinjiang region use a vast “predictive policing” network, that tracks individuals’ personal networks, their online activity and daily life.

Exclusive: Suspected Chinese spy targeted California politicians  (December 8, 2020, Axios)
A suspected Chinese intelligence operative developed extensive ties with local and national politicians, including a U.S. congressman, in what U.S. officials believe was a political intelligence operation run by China’s main civilian spy agency between 2011 and 2015, Axios found in a yearlong investigation.

Details revealed of secret deal that gave Chinese spies free rein in Switzerland  (December 9, 2020, The Guardian)
The full text of a secret deal between Switzerland and China that allowed Chinese security officials access to the country at Swiss taxpayers’ expense has been revealed for the first time as the government pushes to renew it.

For Canadians Held in China, Two Years of Isolation and Uncertainty  (December 9, 2020, The New York Times)
The fates of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor appear tied to a Chinese technology executive detained in Canada on a U.S. warrant. Some hope the new Biden administration could hasten their release.

Pompeo warns of Chinese threat to US colleges, says many ‘basically bought’ by Beijing  (December 9, 2020, Fox News)
The top diplomat said that many American scholars have been “lured” into its recruitment programs and they are paid to do research in or for China, while others are easy targets for their anti-American messaging due to their own anti-American bias. While one might expect that scholars and administrators would be “up in arms” about Chinese interference, Pompeo said, the opposite is true and colleges engage in self-censorship.

The Party That Failed: An Insider Breaks With Beijing  (January/February 2021, Foreign Affairs)
When Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, I was full of hope for China. As a professor at the prestigious school that educates top leaders in the Chinese Communist Party, I knew enough about history to conclude that it was past time for China to open up its political system. After a decade of stagnation, the CCP needed reform more than ever, and Xi, who had hinted at his proclivity for change, seemed like the man to lead it.


Religious Activities by Foreigners: Draft Regulations  (December 4, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Broadly speaking, the 31-article document spells out the manner in which foreign religious organizations can (and cannot) interact with Chinese religious organizations (hint: it’s possible, but there is a lot of red tape), how foreigners may obtain permission to conduct religious activities (hint: must work through the local religious authorities and venues), and the limitations on individual foreigners (hint: don’t do anything illegal).

Exploring the Chinese Christian Diaspora in America  (December 7, 2020, ChinaSource Quarterly)
In this installment, we focus on diaspora missions among the Chinese in the United States including a look at Chicago, the third largest city in America. Although “overseas” has been primarily used as a lens to view the Chinese living abroad in the past, the term “diaspora” has gained popularity among and about the Chinese living outside of China.

The Christian World They Made Together: 1850–1911: History of Chinese Christianity in North America (1) (December 7, 2020, ChinaSource Quarterly)
The story of Chinese Christianity in North America is a significant part of the lesser known history of the Chinese diaspora. That story was impacted most by the immigration and naturalization policies of the United States and Canada, developments in China, and the rise of indigenous Christianity in the Chinese diaspora. All three factors shaped how Chinese Christians understood their faith and identity as well as how they engaged or reacted to their surroundings.

Saving China, Saving Ourselves: 1911–1965: History of Chinese Christianity in North America (2)  (December 7, 2020, ChinaSource Quarterly)
At the turn of the twentieth century, the Chinese diaspora was a lively cacophony of political debate about the future of a weakened China. The military humiliation of the Qing by Japan in 1894 gave rise to an urgent call to modernize and empower China. Saving China, it was believed, would also improve how Chinese were treated by their host countries. As debates between reformist and revolutionary advocates intensified, Chinese Christians were deeply engaged. 

Transpacific Transposition: 1965 to Present: History of Chinese Christianity in North America (3)  (December 7, 2020, ChinaSource Quarterly)
Since 1965, the story of Chinese Christianity in North America has been about the awakening and dominance of independent-minded and indigenous evangelicalism. Over the last sixty years, Chinese Christians have built several parachurch organizations and have planted hundreds of churches. Between 1953 and 1984, the number of Chinese congregations in the United States increased almost tenfold to 523. By 2001, there were over 1,200 Chinese Christian churches and organizations in the United States and Canada (819 in the United States alone). 

Hong Kong church says HSBC account frozen ‘in retaliation’ for helping protesters last year  (December 8, 2020, Hong Kong Free Press)
A Hong Kong church whose volunteers have provided humanitarian support to pro-democracy protesters says its bank account has been frozen in the second such incident in days, The Good Neighbour North District Church said in a Facebook post that its account with HSBC, as well as the accounts of its pastor Roy Chan and his wife, were frozen on Monday “without any prior notification nor justification.”

Ministering to Those Considering Abortion  (December 8, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
While untold numbers of women get abortions every year in China, there are Chinese Christians who attempt to minister to women considering an abortion. This article is from the WeChat account “Don’t Get an Abortion of Children’s Day” which is operated by one such Christian ministry that works with women considering abortion. The writer describes some of the success stories behind this ministry and encourages other believers to support such a cause.

Training Cross-Cultural Workers to Cross Honor-Shame Cultures  (December 9, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
How might Christians from one honor-shame culture effectively serve cross-culturally in another honor-shame culture? By answering this question, churches and sending organizations can better train cross-cultural workers whose cultural backgrounds offer advantages not enjoyed by many Western workers. Due to the sheer scope of the topic, this essay sketches only a preliminary proposal.

Society / Life

The Young Chinese People Cultivating a Love for India on Social Media  (December 6, 2020, Radii China)
Though relations in 2020 have been hostile, a small but growing community of Chinese are becoming fascinated by their neighbor.

How nine Chinese female leaders beat 2020’s challenges  (December 8, 2020, Inkstone News)
In spite of the Covid crisis, political uncertainty and sensitive social issues, these nine women in China took on 2020 and won.

A year on, markets bustling in Chinese city where COVID-19 emerged  (December 8, 2020, Reuters)
Almost a year since the city reported the world’s first cases of COVID-19 in one of its handful of vast wet markets, and even as several other countries remain firmly in the grip of the subsequent pandemic, life in Wuhan has largely returned to normal. “I’m not afraid, what is there to be afraid of?” said Nie Guangzhen, a fish and vegetable vendor.

Chengdu enters ‘wartime mode’ after 7 domestic COVID-19 cases in two days  (December 8, 2020, Global Times)
Chengdu, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, has entered “wartime mode”  after seven domestic COVID-19 cases were found in two days, with authorities racing against time to track the patients’ close contacts scattered across the city. Experts say there is a high possibility that the Chengdu outbreak can be traced back to imported cases or goods.

How the CCP Took over the Most Sacred of Uighur Rituals  (December 9, 2020, China File)
Important lifecycle rituals—baby-namings, circumcision, funerals, and weddings—provide opportunities for devout and casually religious families alike to strengthen connections. These ceremonies recommit the community to a religious path while forging and reinforcing kinship bonds between relatives (oruq-tughan), neighbors (qoshna), and friends. Currently, however, these rites—known generically in official Chinese sources as the “four activities” (si xiang huodong, 四项活动)—demand the overbearing presence of the state in a formalized process referred to as the four applications, four delegations, and four receipts. 

Economics / Trade / Business

China trade surplus hits record $75B as Nov exports soar  (December 6, 2020, AP)
China’s politically sensitive trade surplus soared to a record $75.4 billion in November as exports surged 21.1% over a year earlier, propelled by American consumer demand. Exports to the United States rose 46% despite lingering tariff hikes in a trade war with Washington, customs data showed Monday.

China Set to Bail Out Iraq With Multibillion-Dollar Oil Deal  (December 8, 2020, Bloomberg)
The deal is the latest example of China, via state-controlled trading companies and banks, lending to struggling oil producers such as Angola, Venezuela and Ecuador, with repayment in the form of oil barrels rather than cash. This year’s crash in oil prices has hammered Iraq’s budget and the government has failed to pay teachers and civil servants on time.

How to Protect Your IP When Selling on Chinese E-Commerce Platforms  (December 9, 2020, China Law Blog)
The purpose of this post is to elaborate on a couple of points made during the webinar, which if not placed in context could lead foreign businesses to make potentially costly mistakes.

Health / Environment

Sinovac: What do we know about China’s Covid-19 vaccine?  (December 9, 2020, BBC)
Shipments of Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine CoronaVac have arrived in Indonesia in preparation for a mass vaccination campaign, with another 1.8m doses due to arrive by January. But the vaccine is yet to finish its late-stage trials, which begs the question: what exactly do we know about this Chinese vaccine?

Chinese Vaccine 86% Effective, UAE Health Ministry Says  (December 9, 2020, NPR)
Health officials in the United Arab Emirates announced Wednesday that a Chinese vaccine provides 86% efficacy against COVID-19 infection. Subsequently, the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention officially pushed for a registration of the Sinopharm vaccine following several health agencies’ analysis of late-stage trials in the country, officials said in a release on the state-run WAM news agency.

Science / Technology

Inside China’s response to COVID  (December 2, 2020, Nature)
Conversations with Chinese immunologists, policymakers and funders — including some who asked not to be named so they could speak more freely — reveal a complex picture of science mixed with international politics. Scientists, drug developers and research institutions are racing to tackle the virus. But some are concerned about the cost of rapid progress, and the incentives that have been created for companies and researchers to rush their work.

China removes TripAdvisor, 104 other apps from stores under cleansing campaign  (December 7, 2020, Reuters)
China has removed 105 apps including that of U.S. travel firm TripAdvisor Inc from app stores in the country, under a new campaign to cleanse stores of apps it deems spread content related to pornography, prostitution, gambling and violence. The Cyberspace Administration of China said in a statement on its website on Tuesday that the apps violated one or more of three cyber laws, without providing details for each app.

The Three young women behind China’s Chang’e 5 lunar mission  (December 7, 2020, Inkstone News)
Chinese state media celebrated three women working in the Chang’e 5 lunar exploration mission. The coverage is welcomed by many Chinese women in the science field, as they try to break through the glass ceiling in a country where patriarchy runs deep.

China and Nepal finally agree on Mount Everest’s height after years of dispute  (December 9, 2020, CNN)
After more than a decade of dispute and controversy, China and Nepal have finally agreed on how tall Mount Everest is. The world’s highest peak, which sits at Nepal’s border with Tibet in the Himalayas, stands at 8848.86 meters (about 29,032 feet), officials from both countries announced on December 8, 2020. This is less than a meter higher than the previously recognized height.

History / Culture

Jung Chang: ‘Most Chinese people in my generation experienced starvation. You could feel it around you’ (December 6, 2020, The Guardian)
It’s an odd sensation, sitting just off the Portobello Road, sharing little bowls of dumplings, hearing that story and trying to reconcile it with the precise and stylish woman who tells it. Can she still recognise that teenager in herself or does that past seem like it happened to someone else?

Travel / Food

China’s virus-free ‘Hawaii’ sees tourism boom  (December 7, 2020, Al Jazeera)
Millions of domestic tourists are descending on China’s southernmost island province of Hainan, presenting a surreal contrast to grim hospital scenes, shuttered restaurants and stifling home quarantine elsewhere in a virus-ravaged world. Known at home as the “Hawaii of China”, the island, about the size of Taiwan, has been free of coronavirus for six months, drawing eager shoppers to duty-free malls, couples seeking a sub-tropical backdrop for wedding pictures and surfers just looking to “breathe freely”.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

76 Days: A Film Review  (December 7, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
It seems strange to be reviewing a documentary about an international disaster that, in one sense, is not past history, but present reality. As 2020 comes to an end, the recent upsurge in cases all around the world—the nearly maxed-out ICUs and special Covid-19 units in hospitals—reminds us that we are continuing to write this history. We need not wonder to ourselves what it was like, because many of us are still experiencing some level of impact from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hao Wu on the “Loser Generation” in China  (Macro Polo)
Filmmaker Hao Wu returned to China looking for young nouveau riche to cast in his new documentary, but he crossed paths with the country’s “loser generation” instead. He shares the lessons learned from this invisible population and their dystopian digital world of live-streaming.

Language / Language Learning

Are simplified characters really simpler to learn?  (December 7, 2020, Hacking Chinese)
Simplified characters have fewer strokes, which makes them simpler, right? A character with fewer strokes is faster to write, of course, but does that also make it easier to learn? This is a question I think most people who have learnt at least some characters from both sets have asked themselves, but which isn’t easy to answer.

Links for Researchers

China at the UN Human Rights Council: Conjuring a “Community of Shared Future for Humankind”?  (August 2020, National Bureau of Asian Research)
This essay examines China’s engagement with the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and the methods and tactics the party-state is using to undermine the current international human rights system and implement its vision of a new world order.


Perspectives—in Mandarin and Virtual  (December 7, 2020, ChinaSource Quarterly)
Perspectives, a fifteen-week course designed around four vantage points or “perspectives,” is being offered virtually in Mandarin for the first time in the US. The four perspectives, biblical, historical, cultural, and strategic, highlight different aspects of God’s global purpose. […]  This class, hosted by the Chinese Bible Church of Maryland, begins January 7, 2021; goes from 6:45–9:15 pm EST; is open to Mandarin-speaking believers with internet access

Pray for China: Illustrated Prayer Calendar (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
“Pray for China: A Walk Through History” is a beautiful 46-page illustrated calendar with 366 prayer items, most tied to a specific event in the history of China or the Chinese Church. There is also a Bible verse for each day so that God’s Word is the foundation of our prayers.  And the best part is that it can be used every year over and over as you pray for China, Chinese servants of the Lord, and China ministries!

Pray for China

December 16, 2020  (Pray for China: A Walk through History)
On Dec. 16, 1832, Zhu Qing (朱清老师) was baptized by Robert Morrison (马礼逊). Zhu was one of the first Chinese scholars to come to Christ, and he was the last of the four persons baptized by Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China. Zhu Qing was around 42 at the time and had been working for over a decade as a Chinese teacher to missionary colleagues of Morrison in Malaysia. Though he had been reading the Bible and hearing the gospel during that time, he had not become a Christian. However, during a severe storm on the voyage back to China, he gave his life to Christ. When the boat landed in China, all the passengers except Zhu Qing offered sacrifices at the local temple. He instead sought baptism from Morrison. After Morrison’s death in 1834, Zhu Qing worked at various times for other missionaries as a Chinese teacher and cultural mentor, providing invaluable help for them in understanding Chinese culture and customs. Pray for those now far from God to be brought near by the blood of Christ. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13

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