ZGBriefs | December 9, 2021

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Featured Article

China’s Cultural Crackdowns: A guide (December 2, 2021, Sup China)
From classrooms to phone screens to celebrity idols, the Chinese government is tightening its control over Chinese society. As culture reaches a new level of strategic importance, SupChina takes stock of the disparate changes to society in the past few years.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Laos-China railway opens. Who is going to benefit? (December 2, 2021, Christian Science Monitor)
A railway built by China that connects Laos to China’s markets will open this week. The project, part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, comes with promises to revamp the isolated Laotian economy – and a $5.9 billion price tag, primarily financed by loans from China.

Beijing Silenced Peng Shuai in 20 Minutes, Then Spent Weeks on Damage Control (December 8, 2021, The New York Times)
Inside the country, officials used internet controls to scrub almost all references to the accusation and restrict digital spaces where people might discuss it. At the same time, they activated a widely followed network of state-media commentators, backed by a chorus of fake Twitter accounts, to try to punch back at critics abroad, the analyses show.

UK and Canada join diplomatic boycott of China Winter Olympics (December 8, 2021, BBC)
The UK and Canada have become the latest nations to announce a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, due to be held in February 2022. On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said no ministers will attend due to alleged human rights abuses in China, which Beijing strongly denies. Canada followed suit later in the day, also citing human rights concerns. It comes after similar announcements by the US and Australia earlier this week.

What Is China’s Future in Africa? (December 8, 2021, Foreign Policy)
Beijing is scaling back its investments across the continent, but it still has greater economic influence than the United States.


Reckoning with the “Ecclesial Diversity” of Chinese Christianity (December 3, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
Global trends are disrupting stereotyped notions of the Chinese church, both in the PRC and around the world. It is no longer tenable to speak of Chinese Christianity as something centered in the People’s Republic of China. Gone are the days when the Chinese church could be easily classified in two or three categories (Three-Self and house churches, for example).

Xi Stresses Sinicization and Regulation of Religious Activities (December 4, 2021, Bloomberg)
Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to pursue the sinicization and to improve regulation of religious affairs in a way that will respect and protect people’s beliefs, state media CCTV reported. Religious affairs in China should be regulated in accordance with the country’s socialist society, Xi said at the latest National Religious Affairs Meeting held in Beijing. Xi urged more nationalism, collectivism, socialism, and an improved understanding of history in the religious sector.

New Bishop Ordained in Hong Kong (December 6, 2021, US China Catholic Association)
Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan was ordained a bishop in Hong Kong’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday, December 4, 2021. Cardinal John Tong Hon, the apostolic administrator of Hong Kong, presided over the Mass. Cardinal Joseph Zen and auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha co-presided.

A Jilin Church Gives Thanks (December 7, 2021, Chinese Church Voices)
In November a church in Jilin province set aside two Sundays to give thanks to God through a variety of activities. China Christian Daily reports on how the believers celebrated and expressed their gratitude to God in the article below.

Society / Life

China’s Elderly Have a New Obsession: Video Games (December 3, 2021, Sixth Tone)
The former engineer, whose full name is Yang Binglin, spent his career working on hydrocarbon exploration for Chinese oil companies. But since retiring, he has found an unexpected second vocation as a gaming influencer. 

Hidden in Plain Sight: China’s Visually Impaired Still Struggle to be Seen (December 5, 2021, The World of Chinese)
Physical barriers, employment discrimination, and lack of education opportunities are struggles already familiar for the estimated 17 million people in China living with visual impairments. Yet the infrastructure meant to improve their mobility and access to public facilities, such as tactile writing (braille) and tactile pavements, can actually hinder rather than help the vulnerable due to poor implementation and designs that ignore their needs.

What My Chinese Grandparents Taught Me About Sustainability (December 8, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Some of the answers to our current problems may be found in traditional lifestyles still common in many parts of the world.

Economics / Trade / Business

Podcast: An economy reforged: Jude Blanchette and Lizzi Lee on China’s new era (December 3, 2021, Sinica Podcast)
What do we make of China’s wide-ranging set of regulatory moves in the past year, touching on many disparate realms of Chinese life — from real estate to renewable energy, entertainment to education?

China pumps $188 billion into the economy to counter real estate slump (December 7, 2021, CNN)
China has decided it’s time to loosen its purse strings and pump money into the economy in a bid to stave off threats to the recovery. The People’s Bank of China on Monday said it would cut the reserve requirement ratio for most banks by half a percentage point, starting December 15. That move, which reduces the amount of money that banks have to keep in reserve, will unleash some 1.2 trillion yuan ($188 billion) for business and household loans.

China’s ‘zero Covid strategy’ chokes U.S.-China ties (December 8, 2021, Politico)
China’s “zero Covid strategy,” geared to prevent and contain transmission of Covid-19 domestically and from abroad, has effectively halted tourism and educational travel to China. It also limits business travel with a double-whammy of an opaque and unpredictable entry permit system and a minimum two-week quarantines upon arrival. […] And unless Beijing significantly eases its entry and quarantine restrictions, the damage to bilateral business, diplomatic and cultural ties will worsen, warn U.S. businesses and organizations geared to U.S.-China engagement.


Turned Into Nonprofits, Tutoring Schools Drastically Cut Fees (December 2, 2021, Sixth Tone)
With less than a month for the country’s tutoring companies to convert into nonprofits, cities and school districts are gradually unveiling the fees they can now charge for their academic services, with amounts significantly reduced compared to before.

International university students wait as China remains closed to them (December 4, 2021, South China Morning Post) (subscription required)
Nearly half a million international students have been locked out of China since March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many have to work part-time jobs to support themselves and their families while struggling with classes several time zones away

Health / Environment

‘Living with Covid-19’ not an option for China, government adviser says (December 6, 2021, South China Morning Post (subscription required)
China cannot “live with Covid-19”, because it would cause large numbers of severe illnesses and deaths as well as a major “political problem”, according to a senior adviser to the government. Professor Liang Wannian, a former National Health Commission official and head of a panel of experts advising the government on its coronavirus response, said that even though only a low proportion of infected people had become severely ill or died, China’s 1.4 billion population meant the absolute number would be significant.

China wants to return to ‘zero-Covid.’ But cases have been above zero for seven weeks (December 6, 2021, CNN)
As the world grapples with the new Omicron coronavirus variant, China is determined as ever to eliminate Covid-19 within its borders — but it hasn’t been able to achieve that ambitious goal for the past seven weeks. Since October 17, China has reported at least one locally transmitted case everyday, as local outbreaks continue to flare up one after another with increasingly short intermissions.

China Is Using Rockets to Control the Weather (December 8, 2021, Gizmodo)
What do you do when you urgently need to improve a city’s air quality ahead of a major event? If you’re the Chinese government, the answer is launching a military-style strike on the sky. […] So, hours before the event, scientists reportedly shot rockets filled with silver iodide at the sky.

Science / Technology

China’s lunar rover spots mysterious “hut” on far side of moon (December 8, 2021, CBS News)
China’s Yutu 2 rover has spotted a mysterious object described as a “hut” or “house” on the far side of the moon, according to a recent log of the lunar rover’s activities. Yutu 2 encountered the cube-shaped object while driving across the Von Kármán crater last month during the mission’s 36th lunar day, according to a post published on “Our Space” — a Chinese media channel affiliated with the China National Space Administration — Space.com reported.

History / Culture

Wei Jingsheng’s ‘fifth modernization’: Democracy (December 8, 2021, Sup China)
For Deng, the Democracy Wall was helpful when he was working to take power; once he was in power, it became something different. 

Travel / Food

When the Biggest Spenders Aren’t Coming Back Any Time Soon (December 5, 2021, The New York Times) (subscription required)
Even before Omicron’s arrival, China was discouraging its citizens from traveling abroad. That has had a huge impact on global tourism.

Snack Attack: A Handful of Haw(thorn Treats) (December 6, 2021, The Beijinger)
Winter in Beijing means dry and frigid weather, conjuring images of drab skies and grey buildings sometimes covered in muddy snow. Thankfully, though, there’s always a bit of color to be found, especially when it comes to street food. And nothing is more colorful than 糖葫芦 tánghúlu, bright hawthorn covered in a glossy sugar coating for the perfect amalgamation of sour and sweet.


Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes – Book Review (December 2, 2021, Global China Center)
His discussion of how cultural backgrounds affect readers of the Bible, and of the major differences between “Eastern” and “Western” cultures, is helpful. His chart showing how honor and shame-related words appear in the Bible is extremely valuable, as is his overall thesis that honor and shame are major categories in the New Testament.

Cross-Cultural Encounters: China and the Reformed Church in America: A Book Review (December 8, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
In her new book, Cross-Cultural Encounters: China and the Reformed Church in America, Gloria Shuhui Tseng has compiled six accounts of past RCA mission work that demonstrate similar stories of interactions between missionaries and their Chinese partners.


OSCAR: Missions Resources
OSCAR is an acronym of ‘One Stop Centre for Advice and Resources’. If you’re involved or interested in Christian or mission work, in the UK or overseas, OSCAR is your gateway to useful, related opportunities, information, advice and resources.

Pray for China

December 9 
On Dec. 9, 2015, Pastor Yang Hua (仰华牧师) of the Living Stone Church in Guiyang, Guizhou, was seized by authorities. He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison in Jan. 2017. Living Stone Church was the largest unregistered church in Guiyang, and while Pastor Yang was in prison, authorities confiscated the church’s three meeting sites and other property valued at RMB 5.36 million. Pastor Yang was released on June 19, 2018, with significant health problems that arose during his imprisonment. Pray for Living Rock Church, and for Pastor Yang, his wife Wang Hongwu (王洪雾姊妹), and their two sons to know the power of Christ’s resurrection as they participate in His sufferings. That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…Philippians 3:10

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