ZGBriefs | December 2, 2021

ZGBriefs is for those who want and need to keep up on what is happening in China, but don’t have the time to monitor and track it all. We monitor more than 50 different news sources and curate the most relevant and interesting stories out of China each week. Topics include government, religion, society, economics, education, travel, and language, and books.


Featured Article

Video: A Glimpse Into Yosemite’s Chinese History (October 20, 2020, Yosemite National Park)
Ranger Yenyen Chan explores the role Chinese immigrants played in the early years of Yosemite National Park.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

What Future for International NGOs in China? – A ChinaFile Conversation (November 24, 2021, ChinaFile)
Are the increased administrative burdens the Foreign NGO law imposes worth the benefits of remaining in China? How much should organizations compromise their missions to keep operations in China alive?

U.S. lawmakers meet with Taiwan’s president in a surprise visit (November 26, 2021, NPR)
The bi-partisan group of lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives arrived in Taiwan on Thursday night and were planning to meet with senior leaders including Tsai, said the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy. No further details were provided about their itinerary.

Chinese province targets journalists, foreign students with planned new surveillance system (November 29, 2021, Reuters)
Security officials in one of China’s largest provinces have commissioned a surveillance system they say they want to use to track journalists and international students among other “suspicious people”, documents reviewed by Reuters showed.

China surveillance of journalists to use ‘traffic-light’ system (November 29, 2021, BBC)
The Chinese province of Henan is building a surveillance system with face-scanning technology that can detect journalists and other “people of concern”. Documents seen by BBC News describe a system that classifies journalists into a “traffic-light” system – green, amber and red. Journalists in the “red” category would be “dealt with accordingly”, they say.

Leaked papers link top Chinese leaders to Uyghur crackdown (November 30, 2021, BBC)
A newly published cache of documents directly links top Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping to the state’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims. The documents include speeches which analysts say prove senior government leaders called for measures that led to mass internment and forced labour. China has consistently denied that it is committing genocide against Uyghurs.

Half a Dozen Plenums (December 1, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
China recently finished a four-day, closed-door Party plenum meeting. For most readers “plenum” is not a word they encounter very often. What does a plenum meeting and a 30,000-plus Chinese character resolution have to do with the church in China?

The Histrionics of Cultural Promotion (December 1, 2021, China Media Project)
The danger with promoting a whole-society, whole-politics approach to culture, Wang warns, is that this does not give rise to cultural treasures that enrich all, but rather results in a “cultural bubble,” as corporate and political interests rush to capitalize on national priorities.

What Awaits Peng Shuai (December 1, 2021, China Change)
The international community has demanded “verifiable” evidence of Peng Shuai’s whereabouts and wellbeing, and a “transparent” investigation into the allegations she made. The UK, UN, US, and EU all made similar statements. Chinese media personalities on Twitter are furious that the rest of the world is not convinced that Peng Shuai is free, happy, just fine, as she appeared to be in that flurry of appearances.


Video Blog: Reading Scripture as Cultural Chinese (October 28, 2021, CantoSense, via YouTube)
Should being a cultural Chinese influence the way we read scripture? In this episode, we discuss the importance of noting the cultural lens through which we read scripture. Perhaps it will help us experience God’s revelation in more and different ways. 

Video Blog: The Endless Pursuit of (Double) Happiness (November 12, 2021, CantoSense, via YouTube)
Why does the Chinese culture care that you’re married or have children? This episode, we look into two big values within Chinese culture – happiness and prosperity. How are these defined and as followers of Jesus, what does this mean for us?

Video Blog: Marrying into a (Chinese) Family (November 19, 2021, CantoSense, via YouTube)
Why are Chinese wedding traditions such a big deal? This episode, we are joined by a returning guest, Dr. Eliza Lian, to discuss why a wedding is about more than just the two people getting married. 

Giving Thanks in a Difficult Season (November 24, 2021, Chinese Church Voices)
In January 2020, I had my last lunch with my ministry co-workers at our favorite hotpot restaurant near our office. We said goodbye and wished each other a happy Spring Festival. We thought that we would come back to the office and see each other in a few weeks. However, that day never came. Instead, the pandemic happened.

From the Middle East to the Middle Kingdom (Part 10): The Present (November 29, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
They have mixed ancestry. Their population of millions has spread across a country of over one billion, mixing, fighting, and mixing again with the non-Hui majority. They only became a minzu (officially recognized ethnicity or people group) a century ago. They have been lifted up and beaten down, pushed and pulled by a plethora of local and global ideologies.

Practical Tips for Pastoral Enrichment (2) (November 30, 2021, Chinese Church Voices)
Once a pastor is involved in full-time pastoral ministry it can be challenging to continue learning and growing in God’s word and effective ministry methods. This article from ChurchChina shares the insights of several pastors who participated in a forum on how to continue learning. 

Society / Life

China Plans for People to Live Near Their Parents (November 26, 2021, Sixth Tone)
China plans to develop policies to encourage adults to live with or near their parents in order to take care of them in old age, according to a central government document released Wednesday. The Opinions on Strengthening Work to Care for the Elderly call for the government to research and roll out supporting policies to achieve better support of the nation’s older residents.

China’s birthrate just hit another record low. But the worst is yet to come (December 1, 2021, CNN)
There were only 8.5 births per 1,000 people in China last year, according to the latest yearbook released by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics in late November. That’s the lowest not only since yearbook records began in 1978 — but also since the founding of Communist China in 1949, according to official data.

‘Psychologist’ Brings Mental Health Treatment to China’s Small Screen (December 1, 2021, Sixth Tone)
A new TV show is prompting conversation about mental health in China, putting a clinical psychologist in the spotlight as people become more comfortable with talking about the once-taboo topic.

Economics / Trade / Business

US restricts trade with a dozen more Chinese technology firms (November 25, 2021, BBC)
The US government has added a dozen more Chinese companies to its restricted trade list, citing national security and foreign policy concerns. Washington says that some of the firms are helping develop the Chinese military’s quantum computing programme.


China’s Xi pledges another 1 bln COVID-19 vaccine doses for Africa (November 30, 2021, Reuters)
China will deliver another 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa and encourage Chinese companies to invest no less than $10 billion in the continent over the next three years, President Xi Jinping said on Monday.

China wants higher vaccination rate among seniors, but hesitant people say Beijing is too pushy (November 30, 2021, Sup China)
They are not exactly anti-vaxxers because many of them seem to have had COVID shots themselves, but a large group of Chinese people took to social media to complain about a government campaign announced today to vaccinate China’s senior citizens, and warn (with no evidence) of side effects. 

Even on U.S. Campuses, China Cracks Down on Students Who Speak Out (November 30, 2021, ProPublica)
Chinese intelligence officers are monitoring campuses across the United States with online surveillance and an array of informants motivated by money, ambition, fear or authentic patriotism.

Science / Technology

Terrawatch: what the world can learn from China’s sinking city (December 1, 2021, The Guardian)
Fissures and sinkholes are the norm in China’s Shanxi province. Intensive agriculture combined with major coal production has put huge pressure on water resources and sucked the earth dry, leaving the city of Taiyuan, with a population of 5 million, and the surrounding area suffering some of the highest subsidence rates in the world. 

History / Culture

Video: A Different Peiping (Beijing), 1930s (Tong Bingxue, via Twitter)

Travel / Food

Lanzhou! (November 22, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
Lanzhou, which has always been on the edges of empire, became a part of Qin China in the 6th century, BC. During successive dynasties it alternated between being under imperial and tribal rule and served as the first major stop along the Silk Road that went west from Xi’an to Central Asia. In 1666 Gansu became a province of Qing China, and Lanzhou was made the capital. It retains that status today.

What I learned eating at 8,000 Chinese restaurants (November 25, 2021, BBC)
Many people in America love Chinese food, but David R Chan is perhaps in a league of his own. Mr Chan, a 72-year-old former tax lawyer based in Los Angeles, claims to have dined at nearly 8,000 Chinese restaurants across the US and counting. Each is archived in a spreadsheet that he has maintained for four decades, along with thousands of restaurant business cards and menus.

Airbnb allegedly hosts Xinjiang rentals on land owned by sanctioned group (December 1, 2021, The Guardian)
Airbnb includes hundreds of listings for accommodation in Xinjiang, including some close to sites known to house mass detention facilities. Axios said it had identified 14 properties owned by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), one of several parties sanctioned by the US government in 2020 over its alleged connection to serious rights abuses against ethnic minorities.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Winter Olympics 2022: Testing times in the Chongli mountains (November 28, 2021, BBC)
When you leave a wintery Beijing city and head north by high-speed train you’re soon tearing through an arid landscape. It doesn’t rain in winter it only snows and, despite the cold, it doesn’t snow very much. This is where the Winter Olympics will be held in two months.

WTA suspends tournament play in China over concern for Peng Shuai’s safety (December 1, 2021, ESPN)
The head of the women’s professional tennis tour announced Wednesday that all WTA tournaments would be suspended in China because of concerns about the safety of Peng Shuai, a Grand Slam doubles champion who accused a former high-ranking government official in that country of sexual assault.

Language / Language Learning

China says 85% of citizens will use Mandarin by 2025 (December 1, 2021, ABC News)
The move appears to put threatened Chinese regional dialects such as Cantonese and Hokkien under even greater pressure, along with minority languages such as Tibetan, Mongolian and Uyghur. The order issued Tuesday by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, said use of Mandarin, known in Chinese as “putonghua” or the “common tongue,” remains “unbalanced and inadequate” and needs to be improved to meet the demands of the modern economy.

Living Cross-culturally

China and Me (November 23, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
Growing up as I did in China, I had the privilege of listening and learning from many people who passed through our home and life. Around the dinner table and at conferences, all sorts of stories were shared and heard: the successes and the challenges, the joys and the tears of serving in China. From an early age, I was aware of the work being done across the country from many perspectives.

Remembering My First Thanksgiving in China (November 26, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
I don’t know what will be used this year to remind you that you are still you, you are connected and matter, and that you have much to be grateful for. But I do know that God is still present, active, and full of love for you, love for holidays that remind us of life beyond ourselves, and love for the Middle Kingdom.


Colin Thubron’s The Amur River (November 30, 2021, China Rhyming)
In his eightieth year, Colin Thubron takes a dramatic 3,000-mile long journey from the Amur’s secret source to its giant mouth. Harassed by injury and by arrest from the local police, he makes his way along both the Russian and Chinese shores on horseback, on foot, by boat and via the Trans-Siberian Railway, talking to everyone he meets. 

Pray for China

December 3 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Dec. 3, 1896, Christian educator Henry Liu Zhan’en (刘湛恩校长) was born into a poor family in Hubei. His father died when he was four, leaving a wife and two small children. Liu’s mother was befriended by missionaries who trained her to be a nurse. Liu attended missionary schools and became a Christian at age 13. He graduated from Suzhou University and earned a doctorate in the U.S. His fiancée, Wang Liming (王立明女士) earned a degree in the U.S. at the same time, and they married upon returning to China. In 1928, he became the first Chinese president of Shanghai University (沪江大学-formerly Shanghai Baptist College), and she headed the Women’s Christian Temperance Union for over 30 years. Liu was active in many educational, civic, and church endeavors both in China and overseas. After Japan attacked China in 1937, Liu moved the university campus into the International Settlement and led resistance efforts. He was assassinated, probably by Japanese agents, in Shanghai on Apr. 7, 1938, leaving behind his wife and three children. Pray for Christians born into poor families in Hubei and Shanghai to trust in the Lord’s perfect plan, drawing their strength and hope from their gracious Savior. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. Psalm 6:2

Image credit: Charles Chu, via Unsplash

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