ZGBriefs | December 24, 2020

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Featured Article

Mandarin Christmas Medley  (December 23, 2020, Outside-In)
As a way of saying Merry Christmas, here’s a video titled Jingle Bells in Chinese Christmas Medley. It’s just plain fun (and stinky tofu even makes an appearance). 

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Message Control: How a New For-Profit Industry Helps China’s Leaders ‘Manage Public Opinion’  (December 20, 2020, China File)
The outbreak of COVID-19 presented Warming High Tech’s clients with an especially acute challenge. But the company’s recommendations reflect a widespread set of practices in a new, for-profit industry that has cropped up to help China’s leaders address a more everyday difficulty: the power of the Internet to circulate the thoughts and feelings of China’s citizens.

How China’s state serves the Party  (December 22, 2020, East Asia Forum)
Those in China who need to relate to the state — and that means practically everyone — have to ensure that while they seem to be dealing with a strengthened and more confident state apparatus, they know that behind it is the invisible, but undeniable and irrevocable, hand of the Party.

Hong Kong Democracy Activist Jimmy Lai Released On Bail  (December 23, 2020, NPR)
Media tycoon and democracy advocate Jimmy Lai was released on bail Wednesday in Hong Kong, nearly three weeks after his controversial arrest for allegedly violating the terms of his office lease. He was subsequently charged under China’s new Hong Kong national security law for colluding with a foreign country, which can bring life in prison.


平安夜, Silent Night!  (December 18, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
As Christmas week approaches we’d like to share this video of the Chicago Chinese Christian Chorale singing Silent Night.

Variations on a Theme  (December 21, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Under Xi Jinping, China is going through yet another cycle of social tightening, political violence, and xenophobic rejection of foreign ideas. For those who had gotten used to the progressive relaxation of restrictions on Christian activity, the unsettling events of recent years have been a rude awakening.

Making Plans for 2021—for Your Family  (December 22, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
It is hard to believe, but this year is almost behind us. In China (as in most parts of the world), many people are ready to put 2020 behind them. This article from Roots Education encourages families to begin planning for 2021.

The Men Who Lost Their Wives to ‘Eastern Lightning’  (December 22, 2020, Sixth Tone)
According to experts, Eastern Lightning commonly targets women from rural areas whose husbands are migrant workers and spend most of the year far away from home. 

Society / Life

Ahead of 2021 Divorce Restrictions, Chinese Couples Rush to Untie the Knot  (December 22, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Starting Jan. 1, a new law will require couples to observe a 30-day “cool-off period” before their separation is officially approved.

Over half of Chinese adults overweight, study finds  (December 23, 2020, BBC)
The figures have risen significantly since 2002, when 29% of adults were overweight. The country’s rapid economic growth in recent decades has led to major changes to lifestyle, diet and exercise habits.

Top Ten ZGbriefs Links—Coronavirus Wins!  (December 23, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
At least we can say this about 2020, it was not a slow news year! And as much as we may be feeling fatigued about coronavirus news, it was the major event of the year, not just in China, but globally. […] While at the time, the focus was on how this new disease would affect China, little did we know that it would come to touch all our lives, either directly or indirectly.

Laos gets it first expressway with Chinese help  (December 23, 2020, China Daily)
The opening of the Vientiane-Vangvieng section of the China-Laos expressway on Sunday gives Laos its first expressway. The China-Laos expressway runs from Bohan Port in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan province, to Vientiane, Laos, with a total length of 440 kilometers. Once completed, driving time between the two places will be reduced from 20 hours to 5 hours.

Economics / Trade / Business

How China Lost Patience With Jack Ma, Its Loudest Billionaire  (December 22, 2020, Bloomberg)
While the sudden cancellation of his Ant Group IPO shocked many investors, Ma’s fall from grace had been years in the making.

The China Thrill Is Gone  (December 23, 2020, China Law Blog)
But over time, I became that guy, the one with his suitcase at the back of the meeting room, sneaking out ten minutes before time, rushing to the airport for the flight back to Hong Kong.

Health / Environment

Dalian Limits Large Gatherings Over Rising COVID-19 Concerns  (December 23, 2020, Sixth Tone)
The northeastern Chinese city of Dalian reported nine new local cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with authorities canceling large gatherings and events to prevent further infections. In a statement Wednesday, the city’s disease prevention and control bureau said that only one of the nine has been listed as a confirmed patient. China only includes symptomatic patients as “confirmed cases” toward its national tally.

Science / Technology

US strikes at the heart of China’s bid to become a tech superpower  (December 22, 2020, CNN)
Washington announced Friday that it will require US exporters to apply for a license before they can sell to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC). The US government claims that the chipmaker can use its tech to help China modernize its armed forces. SMIC says it has no relationship with the Chinese military.

History / Culture

Podcast: Rana Mitter on China’s collective memory of WWII  (December 22, 2020 Merics)
In his view today “it is possible to spot aspects of China’s collective sense of WWII in every aspect of public life from movies to social media communities to official museums and plenty of others too.”

The Road to Succession  (December 23, 2020, The World of Chinese)
On December 20, 1722, the Kangxi Emperor, ruler of the Qing Empire for over six decades, died in his villa at the Old Summer Palace outside of Beijing. At his side was Prince Yinzhen (胤禛), his fourth son.

Travel / Food

Chinese ‘Arctic Town’ in festive mode as tourists meet ‘real Santa Claus’  (December 21, 2020, South China Morning Post)
In a two-storey wooden house with about 100 Father Christmas dolls, the white-bearded figure in a red suit writes down seasonal wishes with a quill and poses with tourists at the theme park on the outskirts of Mohe, China’s northernmost city.

Photos: Snowfall brings out frozen beauty  (December 21, 2020, China Daily)
Continuous snowfall in the Longtoushan scenic area, located at the junction between Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces, has turned the attraction into a wonderland fully enveloped in rime.

China to bring in law against food waste with fines for promoting overeating  (December 23, 2020, The Guardian)
Under the campaign “Operation empty plate”, local authorities quickly embarked on programs to reduce waste and encourage food outlets to limit orders to one less dish than the number of diners in a group. The popular phenomenon of mukbang videos – performative eating videos which originated in Korea and often feature excessive binge eating – were also banned.

China’s booming resorts shake off virus slump  (December 24, 2020, China Daily)
Despite a deep winter chill and bitter winds, skiers were queueing up to check in at Thaiwoo Ski Resort in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province on Tuesday morning-a bustling scene one might be more inclined to expect on a weekend or holiday.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

12 Best China Documentaries  (December 18, 2020, China Channel)

After Historic Touchdown, Chinese Tune In to American Football  (December 21, 2020, Sixth Tone)
In a video posted Friday, Tencent Sports said it would broadcast a game between the Arizona State Sun Devils and Oregon State Beavers to give fans in China a chance to see He Peizhang, also known as Jackson He, take the field. The running back — a speedy but sturdy offensive player — has been a sensation on Chinese social media since scoring on a 1-yard drive in Arizona State’s game against its top rival, the Arizona Wildcats, on Dec. 12, becoming the first-ever Chinese-born player to record a touchdown at the highest level of college football.


There’s more to Chinese history than the CCP  (December 23, 2020, The China Story)
Here are seven alternative titles, each more readable (and affordable) than the Cambridge History of China:

Links for Researchers

Four Decades, Four Narratives: Political Disruption and Contemporary Mission Discourse on China (December 27, 2020, Global Missiology)
This article brings China’s current clampdown on foreign Christian activity into perspective by showing how the interplay between shifting political winds and the developing internal capacity of the indigenous church have given rise to four dominant mission narratives. Viewed in broader historical context, these narratives’ inability to account for political disruption calls into question the covenantal meta-narrative that equates the Gospel’s advance with progress and political modernization. Other narratives, including those of political leaders, need to be recognized as having a place in the larger missio Dei meta-narrative.

Pray for China

December 26, 2020 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Dec. 26, 1936, the Xi’an Incident (西安事变) ended with Chiang Kai-shek (蒋介石先生) being freed by his friend and captor, Zhang Xueliang (张学良先生). In his youth, Zhang played a prominent role in China’s political affairs and lived the life of a patriotic playboy; however, for his last 37 years, he was a devoted soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ. After the Xi’an Incident, he was placed under house arrest for 49 years. In this long captivity, Zhang first studied Ming history and collected art, but he found his Buddhist faith left him empty. He began to read the Bible, trusted Christ, and in 1964 was baptized. That same year he married his long-time companion Zhao Yidi (赵一荻女士) in a Christian ceremony, and the couple lived for Christ for the remaining three decades of their lives. At his 90th birthday party, Zhang said, “I live by the love of Jesus Christ and the grace of God. I never thought I would live to be 90. Apart from thanking God, what can I say?” Mrs. Zhang once told visitors from China, “We both are Christians. Every day we pray, read the Bible and worship.” Pray for Christians in Liaoning to forget what lies behind and press on toward the Lord’s better prize. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…Philippians 3:13

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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