ZGBriefs | February 11, 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

Celebrate Lunar New Year online with a variety of virtual events  (February 8, 2021, Lonely Planet)
Many of the celebrations for the Lunar New Year are taking place virtually this year, inspired by food, performances and art and craft traditions that take place across Asia. The new year begins on 12 February this year, heralded by the new moon that takes place on 11 February.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Chinese state broadcaster loses UK licence after Ofcom ruling  (February 4, 2021, The Guardian)
The Chinese state broadcaster CGTN has lost its broadcast licence in the UK after Ofcom concluded that the news network, formerly known as CCTV, was ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist party. The decision will come as a serious blow for the organisation, which was hoping to use an expanded presence in London as the foothold for a substantial international operation.

Hong Kong: Children to be taught about national security law  (February 5, 2021, BBC)
Children as young as six are to learn about crimes under Hong Kong’s national security law. Schools will be asked to monitor children’s behaviour and report any support for the pro-democracy movement, as part of new education rules. 

UK quietly expelled Chinese spies who posed as journalists  (February 5, 2021, The Guardian)
The intelligence agency MI5 concluded the three worked for China’s powerful Ministry of State Security (MSS) but had been using the cover of working for the country’s press agencies.

Elizabeth Perry on the Secrets to the CCP’s Resilience  (February 7, 2021, The Wire China)
The Harvard professor explains ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ and how the CCP’s revolutionary heritage may inoculate it against the disease that overtook communism in Europe.

Australian journalist formally arrested in China on suspicion of leaking secrets  (February 7, 2021, Reuters)
An Australian journalist who has been detained for nearly six months in China where she worked for a state-television channel has been formally arrested on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas, the two countries said on Monday.

Hong Kong bars its dual nationals from foreign consular help  (February 9, 2021, The Guardian)
On Tuesday the Hong Kong chief executive, Carrie Lam, confirmed that while residents could have multiple passports, dual nationality was not recognised in Hong Kong under China’s nationality law.

Two US Navy aircraft carriers conduct South China Sea drills  (February 9, 2021, CNN)
The carriers USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Nimitz and their accompanying guided-missile cruisers and destroyers are showing the US Navy’s ability to operate in highly trafficked, challenging environments, the US Navy said in statement. The two strike groups have about 120 combat aircraft between them.

China’s Eastern Europe strategy gets the cold shoulder (February 9, 2021, Politico)
China’s divide-and-rule tactics in Eastern Europe are running into trouble. The “17+1” platform created by Beijing in 2012 to build ties with 17 Central and Eastern European countries looked decidedly like the 11+1 on Tuesday, when half of the 12 EU national leaders invited to the club failed to show up to pay homage to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China poses serious strategic threat to Canada, says Canadian spy agency head  (February 9, 2021, Reuters)
The remarks by Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director David Vigneault mark the second time in a few months that Ottawa – mired in a broad diplomatic and trade dispute with Beijing – has identified China as a problem actor. Vigneault told an online forum that hostile activity by state actors seeking among other things to purloin business secrets and sensitive data “represents a significant danger to Canada’s prosperity and sovereignty” and singled out China.


Saved By a Dream  (February 9, 2021, Chinese Church Voices)
Some Christians are converted over years. Some are converted in dramatic events. In this video, one woman shares how she and her family were saved by the Lord following a sudden illness and a dream. 

Society / Life

Photos: Running on Empty: How Beijing Faced the Outbreak  (February 4, 2021, China File)
Perusing the collection of images photographer Lin Dong made in Beijing between January and March 2020, the first thing I noticed was the ubiquitous presence of policing and surveillance: paramilitary People’s Armed Police patrolling public squares, security checks at subways, and security guards in shopping malls and in front of gated apartment complexes.

Dear Dr. Li: Chinese Netizens Confess To The Late Coronavirus Whistleblower  (February 7, 2021, NPR)
Li was a whistleblower in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in China. He started warning colleagues about a mysterious pneumonia-like illness in December 2019 and was reprimanded by police for doing so. 

China’s Elder Care Industry Can’t Run on Moral Obligation Alone  (February 9, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Elder care workers are often underpaid and undervalued, and relying on their sense of moral obligation to their charges isn’t a sustainable fix.

Stories from China’s Spring Migration  (February 10, 2021, The World of Chinese)
As many Chinese are grappling with Covid-19 testing and quarantine rules in order to spend the holidays with their families, and even more are unable to return home due to pandemic control measures, we hope these stories—packed with thrills, romance, and bizarre coincidences—can alleviate the feelings of exhaustion for travelers and homesickness for those staying put.

The Hidden Costs of China’s Canceled New Year Parties  (February 10, 2021, Sixth Tone)
For Chinese businesses, the Spring Festival holiday is often the most important week of the year. But with the country still wary of COVID-19 outbreaks, many are having to tighten their belts.

Chinese births fell 15% during pandemic-hit 2020  (February 10, 2021, Inkstone News)
Just over 10 million babies were registered in China’s birth registration system last year, raising concerns that the country’s demographic crisis is no longer an issue that is on the horizon. “The collapse of the newborn population is really here,” said James Liang, a research professor of applied economics at the Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, in a blog post last week.

Economics / Trade / Business

HNA Was Once China’s Biggest Dealmaker. Now It Faces Bankruptcy.  (February 6, 2021, The New York Times)
China is tightening the reins on its economy and looking out for companies that could pose risks to China’s financial system.

China’s factory prices snap year-long decline as demand recovers  (February 9, 2021, Reuters)
China’s factory gate prices rose in annual terms in January for the first time in a year, as months of strong manufacturing growth in the world’s second-largest economy pushed raw material costs higher.


China’s Primary School Parents Anxious Over No-Homework Rule  (February 4, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Teachers could face more pressure to help kids finish their work before the end of the school day, while parents are worried the new policy could widen the achievement gap between economic haves and have-nots.

Health / Environment

Sinovac’s COVID-19 Vaccine Second to Secure Approval in China  (February 6, 2021, Sixth Tone)
The authorization comes just over a month after the country granted conditional approval for a vaccine developed by state-owned firm Sinopharm.

WHO’s Wuhan team identifies two ‘most likely’ scenarios of Covid-19 transmission to humans  (February 9, 2021, Hindustan Times)
World Health Organisation (WHO) expert Peter Ben Embarek on Tuesday told a press briefing that the team probed four hypotheses around the transmission of coronavirus to human population and narrowed down on two most likely scenarios, including the one involving intermediary host species.

Why China’s Elderly Are Still Waiting to Get Vaccinated  (February 10, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Even with two domestically developed COVID-19 vaccines approved for public use, only adults under 60 are currently eligible for inoculation.

Science / Technology

China becomes latest country to reach Mars with Tianwen-1 probe (February 10, 2021, Verge)
China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft successfully rolled into Mars orbit Wednesday morning, the China National Space Administration confirmed. The probe’s arrival makes China the sixth space-faring power to reach the planet.

History / Culture

Transports of delight: Chinese get a taste of home for Lunar New Year  (February 8, 2021, Reuters)
Chinese unable to re-unite with loved ones this Lunar New Year are sending them a taste of home instead, using food packages to bridge the distance, as coronavirus warnings in some regions put a stop to the usual lengthy journeys home.

Travel / Food

Chinese chili oil is taking the world by storm  (February 5, 2021, Inkstone News)
Lao Gan Ma is a staple in kitchens of Chinese families, but it’s becoming increasingly popular for non-Chinese food lovers. Another brand, named Fly by Jing, is not far behind. 

Last leg of China’s longest east-west high-speed rail route opens  (February 8, 2021, China Daily)
The 3,422-kilometer railway passage starts from the coastal city Lianyungang in East China’s Jiangsu province and ends at Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, passing through the provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan, Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Tourist attractions adopting crowd control measures for holiday  (February 10, 2021, China Daily)
Eighty percent of the country’s A-class tourist attractions will be open as usual during the seven-day Spring Festival holiday, a senior official of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said on Wednesday.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Beijing 2022: 180 human rights groups call for Winter Olympics boycott  (February 4, 2021, The Guardian)
More than 180 human rights organisations have called for a boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games in protest against China’s mass human rights abuses. The coalition of groups – primarily regional associations in support of Tibet, Taiwan, the Uighur community and Hong Kong – said the hopes in 2015 that awarding Beijing the Games would be a catalyst for progress, had faded.

Nearly 80 Million People are Playing a Mobile Game About Watermelons Right Now  (February 5, 2021, Radii China)
A new mobile game has gone viral on Chinese social media. It’s all about watermelons. No, really. Synthetic Watermelon (合成大西瓜), a game that people can play on Chinese messaging app WeChat and is kind of like a mix of 2048 and Tetris, has the whole country talking — and making their own spin-offs.

5 Spring Festival Movies to Get You in the Mood for Chinese New Year  (February 8, 2021, Radii China)
Where are all the Spring Festival films? Here are five Chinese movies that focus on the country’s biggest holiday of the year.

China bans Clubhouse app as thousands share stories about Xinjiang and Tiananmen Square  (February 9, 2021, ABC News (Australia))
It was the first time I’ve witnessed a discussion from China uncensored by Beijing. The app soon attracted tens of thousands of tech-savvy netizens from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China. However, on Monday the inevitable happened. The Chinese censors acted and soon many mainland China users were logged out of the app and couldn’t log back on.

Language / Language Learning

The underappreciation of Classical Chinese idioms: Xi’s climate speech  (February 10, 2021, The China Story)
Classical Chinese quotes are frequently used in speeches by China’s political leaders to give greater depth to the content of their talk as well as to concisely sum up the speaker’s intentions. But the insights they offer rarely see the light of day in international media. In fact, their mistranslation and omission is the norm. 

Reflections on a US-based Chinese Language Journey (1)  (February 8, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
This is not a story about spending years in language classes. In fact, I spent three months in language school before begging my agency language supervisor to allow me to become a dropout. Nor is it a story of spending the last three decades living and working in a Chinese language environment.

Reflections on a US-based Chinese Language Journey (2)  (February 10, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
On my journey I came to realize that my key to a successful strategy was found not in the details of methods, grammar, or vocabulary but in the answer to one simple question: How do I maximize contact time with the language? 


People, Communities, and the Catholic Church in China (Palgrave MacMillan)
This book explores the Chinese Catholic Church as a whole as well as focusing on particular aspects of its activities, including diplomacy, politics, leadership, pilgrimage, youths, and non-Chinese Catholics in China. 

China’s Catholics in an Era of Transformation: Observations of an “Outsider” (Palgrave MacMillan
This book features a collection of essays on China’s modern Catholic Church by a scholar of China-West intellectual and religious exchange.

Pray for China

February 16 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
Johannes Avetaranian (阿维塔兰尼恩) was the first Protestant missionary to reside in Xinjiang. He was born as Muhammad Shukri Efendi in 1861 and became a mullah in Turkey. On Feb. 28, 1885, he was baptized as a Christian, with his new surname meaning “son of the gospel.” He served in Kashgar, Xinjiang as a missionary for the Swedish Mission Covenant Church from 1892-1897 and translated the New Testament into Uighur. The church in Kashgar had grown to 133 members by 1933—mostly Uighur and Kirghiz—but Muslim warlords then decimated the church and eventually expelled the last Swedish missionaries in 1938. Today there are a few hundred Uighur believers in Kazakhstan and China. Missions historian Ralph Covell has written in The Liberating Gospel in China that, “Xinjiang’s Muslim peoples remain among the most resistant unreached peoples of China.” Pray for missionaries in Xinjiang to follow in the footsteps of Johannes Avetaranian and to persevere in speaking of the things they have seen and heard. For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard. Acts. 4:20

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