ZGBriefs | February 13, 2020

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Featured Article

A Brief History of Face Masks in China  (February 12, 2020, Sixth Tone)
The evidence is mixed as to whether masks — even high-tech variants like the N95 — provide protection against COVID-19. But over the past century, Chinese have relied on face masks to shield them from disease, chemical warfare, and pollution. In the absence of better options, we may have to do so again.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Viral Alarm: When Fury Overcomes Fear  (February 5, 2020, ChinaFile)
Although he was demoted by Tsinghua University in March 2019 and banned from teaching, writing and publishing, Xu has remained defiant. His latest polemical work—“When Fury Overcomes Fear”—translated below, appeared online on February 4, 2020 as the coronavirus epidemic swept China and infections overseas sparked concern around the world.

Public Anger Over Coronavirus Is Mounting. Will It Matter? – A ChinaFile Conversation  (February 9, 2020, ChinaFile)
At a time when the Chinese Communist Party and the leadership claim supremacy over every aspect of Chinese life, when President Xi Jinping has been styled as the “chairman of everything,” can they avoid blame for the regime’s failure to contain the virus? And how much will it matter to Xi’s future? 

Coronavirus: China's Xi visits hospital in rare appearance amid health crisis  (February 10, 2020, BBC)
China's President Xi Jinping has visited health staff in Beijing treating patients infected with the new coronavirus, in a rare public appearance amid the outbreak. Wearing a face mask, Mr. Xi also visited a community health centre, where he had his temperature checked.

Beijing Takes Direct Control Over Coronavirus Response In Hubei Province  (February 11, 2020, NPR)
Zhang Jin, the Communist Party secretary in charge of the Hubei Health Commission, and Liu Yingzi, head of the provincial Health Commission, have been dismissed, according to state broadcaster CCTV. It said that Wang Hesheng, the deputy director of the central government's National Health Commission, would assume both roles.

Equifax: US charges four Chinese military officers over huge hack  (February 11, 2020, BBC)
The US has charged four Chinese military officers over the huge cyber-attack on credit rating giant Equifax. More than 147 million Americans were affected in 2017 when hackers stole sensitive personal data including names and addresses. Some UK and Canadian customers were also affected. China has denied the allegations and insisted it does not engage in cyber-theft.

What China’s empty new coronavirus hospitals say about its secretive system  (February 12, 2020, The Guardian)
The gulf between the vision of vast new hospitals created and thrown into action within days and the more complicated reality on the ground is a reminder of one of the main challenges for Beijing as it struggles to contain the coronavirus: its own secretive, authoritarian system of government and its vast censorship and propaganda apparatus.

Beijing pins hopes on ‘guy with the emperor’s sword’ to restore order in coronavirus-hit Hubei  (February 12, 2020, South China Morning Post)
As the coronavirus crisis  unfolds in central Hubei province, Beijing is pinning its hopes on Chen Yixin, a protégé of President Xi Jinping, to take that role. Chen, a 60-year-old Zhejiang native, has been appointed deputy head of the national team overseeing the handling of the outbreak in Hubei, headed by Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, 70.

Coronavirus “Rumor” Crackdown Continues With Censorship, Detentions  (February 12, 2020, China Digital Times)
His death from the virus last week sparked public fury and widespread calls for free speech, but the official campaign against supposed "rumormongers" has continued throughout, and even escalated since Li’s death with the detentions of two prominent citizen journalists.


Seeking peace in sickness  (February 6, 2020, World Magazine)
Members of Xue’s Enfu Church prayed for Zhang and the family, bringing them food as they remained under quarantine. Pastor Paul Peng called Zhang on Jan. 24 and shared the gospel with her, explaining man’s sin and Jesus’ saving death on the cross. He asked if she wanted to accept Jesus. After a slight hesitation, she agreed.

Praying for Wuhan  (February 7, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Last week a group of pastors in Wuhan issued an appeal for Chinese Christians to fast and pray for the coronavirus epidemic.

Online Worship at Beijing Churches under Coronavirus Outbreak  (February 10, 2020, China Christian Daily)
Since the coronavirus outbreak, in accordance with the spirit of Beijing Christian Council &Three-Self Patriotic Movement (CC&TSPM), churches in Beijing have suspended all gatherings from since January 24. Although they cannot meet at the usual venues, church services still go on by live webcasts or recorded audio and videos.

Hundreds of Christian Singers Chant Together: “Wuhan, You’re Not Alone”  (February 10, 2020, China Christian Daily)
Since the outbreak in Wuhan, people from all walks of life around the world have helped and cared a lot. CCM (Contemporary Christian Music), a union of Christian musicians, recorded the song "Stay with You", involving hundreds of singers in different regions, to bless Wuhan and China.

Paratroopers and Motorboats: A sermon  (February 11, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
his sermon attracted attention on Chinese social media, but was quickly censored. Below is a translation of the sermon.

Reflection on Different Reactions to Death of Dr. Li Wenliang – Was He A "Christian"?  (February 12, 2020, China Christian Daily)
Many Christian WeChat groups are retweeting a message that Dr. Li Wenliang was a "Christian", like Luke in the Bible. 

Society / Life

Video: 'Ghost city': Commute through China's deserted capital amid coronavirus  (February 6, 2020, Reuters)
Reuters Greater China Chief video producer Mark Chisholm has spent the last 10 days commuting through a “ghost city” to work amid an extension of the Lunar New Year holidays due to the coronavirus outbreak. “You see empty walkways, empty streets with very little cars, bicycles or motorbikes,” Chisholm said.

Where did they go? Millions left Wuhan before the city was put under quarantine  (February 9, 2020, The Globe and Mail)
For weeks after the first reports of a mysterious new virus in Wuhan, millions of people poured out of the central Chinese city, cramming onto buses, trains and planes as the first wave of China’s great Lunar New Year migration broke across the nation. Some carried with them the new virus that has since claimed over 800 lives and sickened more than 37,000 people.

Housebound Chinese Cope With Being Cooped Up  (February 10, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Parts of over 30 cities have limited residents’ ability to leave their homes as China battles the novel coronavirus, but the effectiveness of such policies remains in question.

‘Hardcore’ Quarantine Measures Risk Fracturing Social Cohesion  (February 10, 2020, Sixth Tone)
As China battles the novel coronavirus outbreak, regions across the country are sealing themselves off. But we should be wary of the consequences of local protectionism.

Xinjiang’s Hui Muslims Were Swept Into Camps Alongside Uighurs  (February 10, 2020, Foreign Policy)
Testimonies and eyewitness accounts suggest the mass incarceration of ethnic Hui in China’s northwest.

Some People Haven't Left Their Homes In Weeks, American In Wuhan Says   (February 10, 2020, NPR)
And all of this is affecting people around the globe. That includes the Blouin family. Ilona and Claude Blouin are among the hundreds of Americans in U.S. quarantine after they traveled to China. They were visiting their son in Wuhan, which is the center of the epidemic, when the entire city was locked down.

Collage: Shanghai’s First Day Back to Work  (February 11, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Sixth Tone takes a trip through the city as the extended holiday ends and people gear up for work while epidemic prevention continues.

Preventative Propaganda  (February 11, 2020, The World of Chinese)
Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (over 40,000 cases of the virus, which originated from Wuhan, had been confirmed at the time of writing), banner producers and slogan writers have worked overtime in an attempt to inform the public of the risks. Some banners, like those below, are forthright to the point of bluntness about the importance of preventative measures:

In Virus-Stricken Hubei, Locals Keep Hospitals Supplied  (February 12, 2020, Sixth Tone)
After citywide lockdowns brought much of Hubei province to a standstill, local volunteers provided overstretched hospitals with vital support. But the government is now starting to seize back control.

Economics / Trade / Business

Lifeblood of Amazon merchants threatened as coronavirus infects Chinese workers  (February 7, 2020, Reuters)
Amazon.com Inc sellers are bracing for product shortages as Chinese workers – worried about the fast-spreading coronavirus – may be unable or unwilling to return to idled factories.

The Coronavirus Is Wreaking Havoc on Supply Chains: What You Can Do About It  (February 11, 2020, China Law Blog)
We are hearing of tensions in China between local governments that do not want factories to open for fear of spreading the virus and the CCP that is choosing to priotize profits by ordering these local governments to stand down. Not clear who will prevail.

Coronavirus outbreak will speed up US-China ‘decoupling’ more than the trade war, Milken Institute analyst says  (February 11, 2020, CNBC)
“It can’t all be in China, we’ve seen some of the consequences of over reliance on just one key market,” he told CNBC at the Milken Institute’s Middle East and Africa Summit in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

China is struggling to get back to work after the coronavirus lockdown  (February 11, 20202, CNN)
China is struggling to return to work after the coronavirus outbreakshut down large swaths of the world's second biggest economy for more than two weeks. Worker shortages, transport disruption, a lack of medical supplies and heavy-handed local officials are all making life difficult for businesses, the Chinese government said Tuesday.

Video: The coronavirus outbreak is keeping China’s online retailers busy  (February 12, 2020, Inkstone News)
Demand for delivery services has surged across China as the coronavirus outbreak has forced millions to stay home, creating temporary jobs that are being filled by those put out of work by closures.

Mastercard can finally set up shop in China  (February 12, 2020, Inkstone News)
China’s central bank has given Mastercard’s joint venture a green light to establish bank card clearing services in the country. The US government has long pressured Beijing to give American companies greater access to the Chinese market.


Coronavirus Forces Foreign Students in China to Choose: Stay or Go  (February 12, 2020, The New York Times)
For many foreign students studying in China, the outbreak has frozen or even ended their opportunities to study a vast and complicated country. The severing comes at a fraught time for China’s relations with the world, as it seeks to build itself up as a counterweight to American global influence.

Health / Environment

Chinese 'hero' doctor dies, unleashing public fury at Beijing  (February 7, 2020, Christian Science Monitor)
Li Wenliang was detained by police in December after warning people about the new coronavirus on social media. His death has reignited outrage over the Communist Party's lack of transparency and accountability.

How novel coronavirus spread across the world – visual explainer  (February 11, 2020, The Guardian)
Confirmed cases of flu-like virus span 29 countries, with about 1,000 deaths mostly in mainland China.

At least 500 Wuhan medical staff infected with coronavirus  (February 11, 2020, South China Morning Post)
While the government has reported individual cases of health care workers becoming infected, it has not provided the full picture, and the sources said doctors and nurses had been told not to make the total public.

‘It’s the pneumonia everybody in China knows about’ – but many deaths will never appear in official coronavirus figures  (February 12, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Some patients, like Wei, have passed away without it ever being confirmed what had taken their lives. China’s health authorities have admitted that the real number of Covid-19 cases is likely to be higher than officials statistics show.

Infection numbers fall in China but coronavirus experts remain cautious  (February 12, 2020, The Guardian)
Health authorities in Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak, reported 1,638 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, down from a peak of more than 3,000 new cases on 4 February and the lowest daily number of new infections since 31 January. National infection rates were also down. Zhong Nanshan, an epidemiologist who is leading a government-appointed group working to control the outbreak, said on Tuesday that the numbers of new cases were falling in some provinces. He forecast that the epidemic could peak this month.

Coronavirus still stumps experts on when human carrier turns infectious  (February 12, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Global health experts are divided on whether the coronavirus outbreak has peaked or worse is to come, but a more fundamental problem for front-line hospitals and laboratories is identifying when a person carrying the virus becomes infectious to others. Scientists say this could be a key to defeating the disease it causes, now officially known as Covid-19. In other words, knowing how it behaves allows for the development of counter strategies.

Science / Technology

Coronavirus outbreak tests China’s surveillance technology  (February 12, 2020, Inkstone News)
The humble face mask is hindering China’s effort to track down suspected carriers of the coronavirus. The authorities have turned to other tools to monitor and curb the spread of the virus in communities.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Bitter Money: A Film Review  (February 10, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
In this particular film, Wang Bing introduces us to the city of Huzhou, in Zhejiang province. Through a number of story lines and characters, he gives us snapshots of the kinds of lives that are lived and issues that exist in a city with supposedly over 18,000 clothing factories.

Matter & Spirit: A Chinese/American Art Exhibition  (February 12, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
“What is the place of the spiritual in contemporary life, particularly in highly materialistic—and increasingly secular—cultures, like the US and China?” This is how the brochure that accompanies the exhibition Matter & Spirit: A Chinese/American Art Exhibition begins. This is, of course, too big of a question for such an exhibit to provide a definitive answer, but it does give us some provocative insights.

“Contagion” and “The Flu” Are Among the Most-Watched Movies in China Right Now  (February 12, 2020, Radii China)
The discovery of a deadly new virus triggers a worldwide panic as authorities scramble to understand and contain it. This doesn’t just describe our current state of affairs — it’s also the plot to Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 thriller Contagion. And while you might think it’d be the last movie anyone in China would want to see right now, it’s actually featuring consistently in the most-watched charts on the country’s main streaming platforms.

Amidst Coronavirus Lockdown, Musicians in China Livestream the Party  (February 12, 2020, Radii China)
Artists, venues, labels and festivals around the country are creating virtual performance spaces to counteract boredom and anxiety.

Language / Language Learning

The PRC censors its own national anthem  (February 9, 2020, Language Log)
In terms of open opposition to the Chinese Communist Party, what is happening now is absolutely unprecedented in the history of the PRC. It has gotten so bad that, when netizens invoked the first line of the national anthem that says "Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves!"….

Living Cross-culturally

Winning ‘the lottery’: American recounts airlift out of Wuhan  (February 10, 2020, Inkstone News)
Though leaving her parents in Wuhan, where she was born and raised, was a difficult decision, Xu says they were “relieved” that she is now back in the US, some 7,000 miles from the contagion’s epicenter.


The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage  (February 5, 2020, China File)
A riveting true story of industrial espionage in which a Chinese-born scientist is pursued by the U.S. government for trying to steal trade secrets, by a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction.

Image credit: by David Woo, via Flickr
Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource 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 of Northwestern-St. Paul …View Full Bio