ZGBriefs | December 3, 2020

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Featured Article

China to tap elderly population in bid to tackle looming demographic crisis, boost economy  (November 29, 2020, South China Morning Post)
China wants to see more seniors contributing to its US$13 trillion dollar economy, as the world’s most populous country braces for the effects of a rapidly ageing population and shrinking workforce after more than three decades of the one-child policy. The Chinese government said this month it will launch specific policies to boost consumption and develop “human resources” among its senior citizens, including providing training to help pensioners integrate with the buzzing digital economy.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

A Border Town’s Second Gamble  (November 24, 2020, China File)
n 2016, as part of its massive Belt and Road Initiative, the Chinese government officially startedconstructing an extensive high-speed rail system that will stretch from southern China to Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and even Singapore. In landlocked Laos, it will be the first railway system in the country—a piece of infrastructure that could open one of the poorest countries in Asia to unprecedented trade and investment.

Xi presents China as a force for good on the global stage  (November 26, 2020, MERICS)
China has emerged more confident from the Covid-19 crisis, eager to present itself as a champion of globalization and a responsible provider of global public goods, from vaccines to debt referrals for developing countries. 

Is China buying the Middle East’s silence over the treatment of Uyghurs?  (November 27, 2020, The China Story)
As China’s influence in the Middle East rises, few countries in the region, including majority Muslim ones, have spoken out against Beijing’s repressive policies against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects in the region may be an important part of the reason.

China Hostage Situations: What You Need to Know  (November 28, 2020, China Law Blog)
China actually allows foreigners to be blocked from leaving China if there is a pending lawsuit or a court judgment or arbitration award against the foreigner or the foreigner’s company.

Carrie Lam: Hong Kong’s leader says she has to keep piles of cash at home  (November 29, 2020, BBC)
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, has said in a TV interview that she has to keep “piles of cash” at home as she has no bank account. This is because of sanctions imposed on her by the US Treasury, she said. The sanctions on Ms Lam and other officials were in response to China’s new security law for Hong Kong.

China bars four US NGO workers from entry in Hong Kong tit-for-tat  (November 30, 2020, South China Morning Post)
China will bar four people working for American NGOs from entering the country as Washington and Beijing continue their tit-for-tat over Hong Kong. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday that the four people would be banned from entering China, including Hong Kong and Macau, for having “performed badly” over Hong Kong affairs.

‘Repugnant’: Scott Morrison demands apology from China over Australian soldier tweet – video  (November 30, 2020, The Guardian)
Scott Morrison has said a tweet by a Chinese official showing a fabricated image of an Australian soldier slitting a child’s throat is ‘truly repugnant’ and ‘utterly outrageous’. The Australian prime minister said on Monday he was seeking an apology from the Chinese government over the image, which was an apparent reference to a recent report from a four-year-long official investigation into the conduct of Australian special forces soldiers in Afghanistan.

China’s Monster Fishing Fleet  (November 30, 2020, Foreign Policy)
Though not alone in its destructive practices, Beijing’s rapacious fleet causes humanitarian disasters and has a unique military mission.

China and Pakistan sign military deal amid tensions with India  (December 1, 2020, The Hindu)
China and Pakistan have signed a new military memorandum of understanding to boost their already close defence relationship, as China’s Defence Minister and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Wei Fenghe met Pakistan’s leadership in Islamabad and visited the headquarters of the army at Rawalpindi.

U.S. bans cotton imports from China producer XPCC citing Xinjiang ‘slave labor’  (December 2, 2020, Reuters)
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said the “Withhold Release Order” would ban cotton and cotton products from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), one of China’s largest producers. The move is among several the Trump administration has been working on in its final weeks to harden the U.S. position against China, making it more difficult for President-elect Joe Biden to ease U.S.-China tensions.

Bill forcing Chinese firms to meet U.S. accounting standards passes Congress  (December 2, 2020, Reuters)
The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday that could prevent Chinese companies from listing their shares on U.S. exchanges unless they adhere to U.S. auditing standards. The measure passed by unanimous voice vote, after passing the Senate earlier this year, sending it to the White House which said President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law.


The China-Vatican agreement has been extended. Now, Rome is looking for more from Beijing.  (November 17, 2020, America Magazine)
Sources close to the pope told America that Francis is aware of the criticisms of the Holy See’s approach to China and remains informed of the deeply troubling situation there as periodic crackdowns on religion and repression of human rights continue, but he is convinced that the path to change is through dialogue and the building of trust with the Chinese leadership, not through confrontation.

An Unchanged Endeavor in Changing Times  (November 23, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Such a loss of talent in society will also impact the leadership and resources available to the churches in Hong Kong who are already suffering from a decline in church attendance. The Hong Kong Church Renewal Movement recently released an unpleasant statistic concerning the number of those attending gatherings in Protestant congregations.

As Churches Reopen in China (2)  (November 24, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
In this article from Gospel Times, Wu Zhonyi gives an in-depth look into the reopening of the Three-Self Church he attends. Wu highlights five areas in which church staff and believers have demonstrated their enthusiasm for reopening churches.

Celebrating a Different Thanksgiving  (November 25, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Thanksgiving faded from our family calendar. Until one year, a local friend invited us out for dinner on the fourth Thursday in November. She said she wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with us—at a Thai restaurant. 

China mulls new rules on foreigners to ‘prohibit religious extremism’  (November 25, 2020, CNN)
Foreign religious groups and worshipers could be the latest targets of a growing crackdown on organized religion in China under President Xi Jinping. Draft rules published this week by the Ministry of Justice call for new restrictions on how foreign worshipers operate in order to prevent the spreading of “religious extremism,” or use of religion “to undermine China’s national or ethnic unity.”

Seeing Things Differently  (November 27, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
As I wrote in my article, each of the common China church narratives is rooted in reality. I am in no way suggesting that persecution is not important, much less that it doesn’t exist. Nor am I attempting to “rewrite” history. We need to respect the experience of believers in China and to learn from their perspective on suffering. My concern is that politicizing the church’s identity prevents us from doing so. 

Giving Thanks in a Shaanxi Church  (December 1, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
As people in America were celebrating Thanksgiving last week, a church in Shaanxi province held its 14th annual Thanksgiving service. This article from China Christian Daily tells how they celebrated.

A Chinese Church in Maryland Serving around the World  (December 2, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Who would have thought that during the pandemic God would open doors for us to be “in” ten countries and seven time zones every week! God is amazing, and I am thrilled beyond words to see many in our church mobilized and many lives impacted.

Society / Life

The Scramble to Rescue China’s Stranded Babies  (November 20, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Many Chinese parents pay foreign surrogates to have their children. But with global travel networks severed, hundreds — and potentially thousands — of those infants are now trapped overseas.

How to ‘disappear’ on Happiness Avenue in Beijing  (November 24, 2020, BBC)
On a busy Monday afternoon in late October, a line of people in reflective vests stood on Happiness Avenue, in downtown Beijing. Moving slowly and carefully along the pavement, some crouched, others tilted their heads towards the ground, as curious onlookers snapped photos. It was a performance staged by the artist Deng Yufeng, who was trying to demonstrate how difficult it was to dodge CCTV cameras in the Chinese capital.

Life on Water  (November 25, 2020, The World of Chinese)
The famed coastline of Hainan has been shaped by millennia of salty surf, and so has the lifestyle of its inhabitants. For thousands of years, coastal dwellers boiled sea water to make salt, and farmed aquatic animals in the island’s peaceful harbors. Today, the fishing lifestyle persists, enthralling visitors with its display of Hainan’s rich maritime heritage.

17-Year-Old High School Student in Guangdong ‘Marries’ a 14-Year-Old Girl  (November 30, 2020, What’s on Weibo)
The Guangdong wedding of a 17-year-old high school student and a 14-year-old junior high school student went trending on Chinese social media on Monday. On Weibo alone, the topic received over 470 million views on November 30. […] According to official sources cited in the media, the parents of the children have a “weak understanding of the legal system.”

It’s as if you don’t exist’: facing anti-blackness in Hong Kong and China  (December 1, 2020, Inkstone News)
A new podcast in Hong Kong has spotlighted anti-Black racism in Hong Kong, a problem that is equally prevalent on the mainland. 

For China’s Overburdened Delivery Workers, The Customer — And App — Is Always Right  (December 1, 2020, NPR)
Delivery workers are a critical link in China’s on-demand courier services, which ship more than 60 billion packages a year and generate nearly 1% of the country’s annual economic activity. Yet even as booming e-commerce platforms result in higher numbers of packages delivered each day, courier services are cutting the fees they pay delivery workers per package delivered. 

China #MeToo: Court to hear landmark case of intern versus TV star  (December 2, 2020, BBC)
Zhou Xiaoxuan – also known online by her nickname Xianzi – has taken one of the country’s most prominent TV hosts to court, accusing him of sexually harassing her in 2014. He denies all wrongdoing and has in turn sued her and her supporter for damaging his reputation as well as mental wellbeing. It is rare in China for such cases to even get to this stage and the stakes are high, analysts say.

What is China thinking?  (December 2, 2020, Sup China)
How can we understand China if we don’t know what its most prominent intellectuals are saying? A translation project by David Ownby aims to make up for the absence of Chinese voices in Western discussions about the country that nobody can afford to ignore.

Economics / Trade / Business

China slaps up to 200% tariffs on Australian wine  (November 28, 2020, BBC)
China will impose taxes on Australian wine of up to 212%, starting on Saturday. Its commerce ministry said these were temporary anti-dumping measures to stop subsidised imports of Australian wine. The duties will range from 107% to 212%, intensifying trade tensions between the two countries.

The winners and losers of the Belt and Road Initiative: from their own perspectives  (November 30, 2020, Panda Paw Dragon Claw)
The residents of these villages have had their lives changed forever, some for the better, and others, for the worse,” writes Wade Dessart in the epilogue to Belt and Road Through My Village, recently published by a coalition of Asian NGOs. Through interviews of people living in the immediate vicinity of seven projects in five key Belt and Road countries, the book shows that infrastructure projects have multifaceted impacts at the local level, representing development for some but not for others.

Cutting Through the Hype on Asia’s New Trade Deal  (December 2, 2020, Foreign Policy)
But the RCEP is a straight tariff-reduction agreement at a time when base tariffs are already low, and countries don’t hesitate to impose punitive tariffs whenever it suits their foreign-policy objectives.

Health / Environment

A year after Wuhan alarm, China seeks to change Covid origin story  (November 29, 2020, The Guardian)
State media has been reporting intensively on coronavirus discovered on packaging of frozen food imports, not considered a significant vector of infection elsewhere, and research into possible cases of the disease found outside China’s borders before December 2019. The official People’s Daily newspaper claimed in a Facebook post last week that “all available evidence suggests that the coronavirus did not start in central China’s Wuhan”.

China hopes ‘vaccine diplomacy’ will restore its image and boost its influence  (November 29, 2020, The Guardian)
The shipments to Brazil are part of a campaign of vaccine diplomacy that Beijing has mounted around the world. The fallout from the spread of Covid-19 has fuelled mistrust of China internationally, and damaged the global appetite for the exports which helped drive its growth. A successful vaccine, provided at an affordable price, offers a potential route to address resentment and criticism of China’s early handling of the virus, as well as a financial boost for the country’s biotech firms.

China to Make Foreign Garbage Ban Total  (November 30, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Regulations allowing imported recycled materials have turned Southeast Asia into a waste trade way station.

China is Getting Serious About Plastic Waste  (December 1, 2020, Radii China)
In a bid to encourage recycling and sustainability, restaurants, e-commerce platforms and delivery companies in China must now report their usage of disposable plastics to the government. Brands will also be required to submit formal recycling plans to authorities.

The Wuhan files  (December 1, 2020, CNN)
The previously undisclosed figure is among a string of revelations contained within 117 pages of leaked documents from the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, shared with and verified by CNN. Taken together, the documents amount to the most significant leak from inside China since the beginning of the pandemic and provide the first clear window into what local authorities knew internally and when.

Science / Technology

KFC Rolls Out Self-Driving 5G ‘Chicken Trucks’ in China  (November 25, 2020, Interesting Engineering)
The COVID-19 pandemic has made contactless payment and delivery systems a must, and with the public still encouraged to practice social distancing, brands are chiming in with their innovative approaches to the issue. Most recently, KFC started deploying 5G autonomous vehicles in Shanghai, China. Those looking for their fix of finger-licking meals will be able to do so without interacting with a human.

Chang’e-5: why has China sent a probe to the moon?  (December 2, 2020, The Guardian)
Beijing wants to become a space superpower alongside the US and Russia, the only two countries to have so far collected lunar samples. President Xi Jinping hopes to operate a permanent space station called Tiangong (heavenly palace) – planned for as early as 2022 – and send astronauts to the moon, as part of what he calls the country’s “space dream”. 

Travel / Food

Covid-19: China pushes for QR code based global travel system  (November 23, 2020, BBC)
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a “global mechanism” that would use QR codes to open up international travel. “We need to further harmonise policies and standards and establish ‘fast tracks’ to facilitate the orderly flow of people,” he said. The codes will be used to help establish a traveller’s health status. But Human Rights advocates warn that the codes could be used for “broader political monitoring and exclusion”.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Zhang Yimou: The Famed Director’s Complicated Relationship with Censors and Cinema  (November 25, 2020, Radii China)
The famed director of award-winning films like Raise the Red LanternJu DouHero, and Red Sorghum (to name just a few), Zhang is one of China’s most critically acclaimed filmmakers. We’ve seen a multitude of styles from him throughout the years, as he’s honed his unique cinematic voice, helped to revive the popularity of wuxia (martial arts) film-making, and been involved in some of China’s biggest blockbusters. At the same time, he’s courted controversy and supported Party initiatives. 

Language / Language Learning

Choice Chengyu: Gimme Idioms  (December 2, 2020, The World of Chinese)
As the end of the year approaches, the season of gift-giving has begun. Whether it’s a Christmas surprise, a company bonus, or a red envelope stuffed with cash, everyone likes getting a special reward for nothing. In ancient China, the giving and receiving of presents was fraught with rules of etiquette. The exchange of objects could solidify political alliances, seal betrothals and marriages, and signal respect or goodwill for one’s friends, allies, and hosts. 


Long Peace Street: A Book Review  (November 20, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
I consider myself a Beijinger. I left eight years ago this month and miss it. A lot. If there was ever a book to grip me with homesickness for Beijing so visceral it almost hurts, Jonathan Chatwin’s Long Peace Street is it.

China’s Greatest Evangelist Was Expelled from a Liberal Seminary in America  (November 23, 2020, Christianity Today)
But there is another side to the story, one fleshed out in a new biography from Boston University global Christianity scholar Daryl R. Ireland. John Song: Modern Chinese Christianity and the Making of a New Man presents a brilliant student living with schizophrenia—one who saw visions, spoke as a prophet of a new age, and decoded divine messages in New York Times crossword puzzles and through “radio schematics” in the four Gospels.

The Never Ending March: A Book Review  (November 30, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Shortly after the provisional accord on the nomination of bishops in China was announced by the Vatican and Beijing, Chorabooks released The Never Ending March.  Now, two years later, with the Sino-Vatican accord renewed, once again provisionally, once again in secret, and once again against a backdrop of slow progress and frequent setback, the title of Sergio Ticozzi’s book strikes the weary observer as all too accurate.

Pray for China

December 6, 2020 (Pray For China: A Walk Through History)
As part of the movement to develop an independent indigenous Chinese church, the first National Evangelism Conference chaired by Cheng Jingyi (诚静怡博士) met in Hankou in Dec. 1910. Dora Yu Cidu (余慈度姊妹) was one of the delegates and gave a plenary talk on women’s ministry. Yu, a Zhejiang native, was a central figure in the first phase of the phenomenal growth of the Chinese church in the 20th century. That phase began with the 1900 Boxer Uprising, when the blood of 32,000 martyrs ended the perception that Chinese only became Christians for material advantage. During the next two decades, Christian women like Yu, Cai Sujuan (蔡苏娟姊妹-Christiana Tsai), and Dr. Shi Meiyu (史美玉医生-Mary Stone) were used by God in mighty ways, as China’s 80,000 Protestants increased to 345,000. Yu’s training ministry strengthened the churches and her revival meetings were used by God to raise up leaders for the next phase of church growth in China. In 1931, as these leaders grew in the power of the Spirit, Yu met her Lord, finally freed from the wracking pain of old ailments and advanced cancer. Her words continue to speak to the church today: “Oh, how we need such revivals all over the Chinese Church…a vision of our Lord Jesus Christ and His wonderful love, and a vision of the mighty power of the Cross!” Pray for Christian women in Zhejiang and Hubei to walk in the power of the Savior’s Cross. For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 1 Corinthians 1:17-18

Image Credit: Joann Pittman
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