ZGBriefs | February 18, 2021

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Featured Article

The Yongzheng Emperor and Christianity in China (February 16, 2021, Sup China)
In 1724, the Yongzheng Emperor proscribed Christianity. But what he really wanted is what rulers always want: people who will serve their state but not threaten its order. Jesuit advisers working in China’s capital at that time, after all, had proved useful to the empire.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

As in Xinjiang, China is tightening its grip in Tibet  (February 13, 2021, The Economist)
But in recent months officials have intensified their efforts to eradicate the Dalai Lama from the religious lives of China’s 6.3m Tibetans, of whom less than half live in Tibet itself, with most of the others in neighbouring areas of the Tibetan plateau. 

The Great Expulsion  (February 14, 2021, The China Wire)
The door is closing on what some have called the golden age of reporting on China — and the whole world will be forced to deal with the consequences.

House Republican resolution urges US to boycott 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing (February 15, 2021, Fox News)
The resolution, first obtained by Fox News, urges the United States Olympic Committee to “propose the transfer of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games to a site other than within the People’s Republic of China,” and if rejected by the International Olympics Committee, that the “United States Olympic Committee and the Olympic Committees of other countries should withdraw from the 2022 Olympic Games.”

Key pro-democracy figures go on trial over Hong Kong protests  (February 16, 2021, The Guardian)
A veteran champion of democracy in Hong Kong has described its legal system as an instrument of political suppression, after he and eight other high-profile figures went on trial in one of the biggest court cases linked to the protest movement that paralysed the city for more than a year.

Hong Kong Media Mogul Jimmy Lai Rearrested on Further Charges  (February 17, 2021, Radio Free Asia)
Police in Hong Kong have rearrested jailed pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai, who is currently awaiting trial for “collusion with foreign powers” under a draconian national security law, this time on suspicion of aiding an activist who tried to flee to democratic Taiwan by speedboat.

U.S. ship sails in South China Sea by China-claimed islands (February 17, 2021, Reuters)
A U.S. Navy warship sailed by islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Wednesday in a freedom of navigation operation, marking the latest move by Washington to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims in the contested waters. The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said destroyer USS Russell “asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law.”


China’s Crackdown on Muslims Extends to a Resort Island  (February 14, 2021, The New York Times)
The Utsuls of Hainan island were once celebrated by the government for their links to the larger Muslim world. Not anymore.

The Changes Brought by Gospel Renewal  (January 15, 2021, China Partnership Blog)
Gospel theology has deeply renewed me. In the past, I used to be condescending to all people by my labor, commitment, devotion, and self-sacrifice. Now, in light of the gospel, I realize that these “good” things are actually driven by bad motives in my heart. They are just whitewashed walls, food for the idols of my heart.

3 Questions: Using WeChat for Gospel Outreach (February 15, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
Many of us have Chinese friends and often wonder how we can (or cannot) communicate about matters of faith on WeChat. As with so many other things about China, it is a complicated issue and there are widely divergent opinions on what is and is not appropriate to discuss on WeChat. I recently heard the story of how a Chinese woman in the US was using WeChat to reach out to her family and friends in China.

Reborn (February 16, 2021, Chinese Church Voices)
This video testimony captures one artist’s transformation from feeling worthless to experiencing the power of God’s mercy and grace. He tells how God and the gospel intervened to show him where his true value lies. 

Society / Life

Gauging the fate of Hong Kong civil society  (February 13, 2021, East Asia Forum)
The latest round of arrests of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong signals the death knell for democracy for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy factions and groups. The national security law — which formed the basis of the arrests — was perceived by Beijing as necessary to restore political stability. Beijing’s next steps are likely to be less radical, coming in the form of pragmatic suasion in the near term, economic integration in the medium term and soft power in the long term.

China’s GDP ‘paradox’: why young Chinese despair about future prospects despite rapid economic growth  (February 13, 2021, South China Morning Post)
Young Chinese are using social media platforms like Bilibili to voice despair over rising house prices, widening inequality and the price of everyday goods. The growing frustration about social mobility highlights a ‘serious divergence’ between China’s fast-growing economy and the life satisfaction of citizens.

The Artist Confronting China’s One-Child Past (February 14, 2021, Sixth Tone)
In 2011, Zhou Wenjing discovered her mother was forcibly sterilized soon after her birth. Ever since, the young artist has been exploring how China’s birth-control policies have affected the country’s women.

Chinese celebrate Spring Festival in new ways as millions stay put (February 14, 2021, China Daily)
This Spring Festival, millions of Chinese chose not to go back to their hometowns for family gatherings, opting instead to stay where they were for the most important holiday of the year. As a part of the preventative measures against COVID-19, China has encouraged people to stay locally for the Chinese New Year, inducing new changes to how people celebrate the holiday, such as the increasing use of online services and local tours.

Report reveals most popular names of Chinese newborns in 2020 (February 14, 2021, China Daily)
Yichen and Yinuo were the most popular names given to newborn Chinese boys and girls in 2020, according to a report on Chinese names. More than 14,000 boys were named Yichen, which means the great times or stars, while over 24,000 girls were given the name Yinuo, or one promise, said the annual report based on household registration information.

A New Generation, an Age-Old Question: ‘Where Are You From?’  (February 16, 2021, Sixth Tone)
More mobile than ever before, young Chinese are increasingly disconnected from their hometowns. So where are they really from?

China steps up online controls with new rule for bloggers (February 17, 2021, Reuters)
Beginning next week, the Cyberspace Administration of China will require bloggers and influencers to have a government-approved credential before they can publish on a wide range of subjects. Some fear that only state media and official propaganda accounts will get permission.

China’s Firework Bans Spark Craze for Dangerous Alternatives  (February 17, 2021, Sixth Tone)
China has seen red-hot demand for “cold fireworks” over the Lunar New Year holiday, but Chinese authorities say the products pose an unacceptable safety risk.

Economics / Trade / Business

China’s political power grows with its capital markets  (February 16, 2021, Axios)
Thanks to a mandate for outside investment and its strong rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, China’s financial markets are drawing record high chunks of global capital — particularly from U.S.-based investors — and are poised to keep growing.

How China is devastating Australia’s billion-dollar wine industry  (February 17, 2021, CNN)
South Australian winemaker Jarrad White spent almost a decade building his business in China. Then, in a matter of months, it all fell apart. It had nothing to do with the quality of White’s wines at his vineyard in McLaren Vale, one of South Australia’s premier winegrowing regions. Instead, it was the result of months of worsening diplomatic frictions between China and Australia.


What the Fear of China Is Doing to American Science (February 16, 2021, The Atlantic)
Even if the China Initiative is being implemented in a nondiscriminatory way and is effective in rooting out a few bad scientists with illicit intentions, the Biden administration should not ignore the downside. How many good scientists are going to be deterred from coming to the U.S.?

China plans to put children off studying abroad as more pupils head overseas at younger ages  (February 17, 2021, South China Morning Post)
The Ministry of Education said it would build ‘a mechanism to discourage minors from studying abroad’ without elaborating on the plan. More than 700,000 Chinese residents moved abroad for study in 2019, a rise of more than 6 per cent from the previous year

Health / Environment

On W.H.O. Trip, China Refused to Hand Over Important Data  (February 12, 2021, The New York Times)
The investigators, who recently returned from a fact-finding trip to the Chinese city of Wuhan, said disagreements over patient records and other issues were so tense that they sometimes erupted into shouts among the typically mild-mannered scientists on both sides.

Hong Kong advisory panel approves China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use  (February 16, 2021, Reuters)
A Hong Kong government advisory panel on COVID-19 vaccines said on Tuesday it would recommend China’s Sinovac vaccine for emergency use, a move that brings it a step closer to being formally greenlighted in the Asian financial hub. Hong Kong’s government said in early February that it was exempting Chinese drug maker Sinovac from publishing results of its third phase clinical trials in medical journals due to the “urgency” for vaccination.

China’s Viral Holiday Face Masks Raise Health Concerns  (February 16, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Novelty face masks are all the rage in China this Lunar New Year holiday, but experts warn the coverings could pose a public health risk.

Virologist: WHO Team Found No ‘Credible Link’ Between Wuhan Labs, COVID-19 (February 16, 2021, NPR)
The team said the pandemic did not start at the city’s Huanan Seafood Market, which was a location of an early coronavirus outbreak, because the virus was already circulating beforehand.

U.S. still hasn’t ruled out lab accident origin for Covid because China hasn’t been transparent (February 16, 2021, NBC News)
A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told NBC News the agency is standing by a public statement it issued in April, which said that American intelligence agencies “will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

China arrests leader of fake vaccine scam (February 16, 2021, BBC)
China has arrested the leader of a multi-million dollar scam that passed off saline solution and mineral water as Covid-19 vaccines. The man, identified as Kong, had researched the packaging designs of real vaccines before making more than 58,000 of his own concoctions. A batch of the vaccines were smuggled overseas, but it is not known where they were sent to.

Science / Technology

Spectacular video released from China’s first Mars mission  (February 15, 2021, Space Flight Now)
The China National Space Administration released the videos on its website and through the Chinese social media platform Weibo. The Tianwen 1 probe is China’s first spacecraft to reach Mars. The ambitious mission consists of three spacecraft, with an orbiter, lander, and rover riding together for the seven-month voyage to the Red Planet.

History / Culture

The Selden Map of China (February 11, 2021, China Channel)
Maps are inherently political. They demarcate space, and ways of imagining it. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) knows this all too well, which is why the most detailed maps of China are still considered state secrets. Old maps, in turn, have a status akin to holy documents in China.

Chinese Superstitions 101: Why Do People Wear Red Underwear in the New Year?  (February 13, 2021, The Beijinger Blog)
If you think the reason people in China wear red underwear is to find love like people in Mexico and other Latin American countries do, you are wrong. There’s nothing romantic about it. Instead, people who need to wear it, believe they are likely to face more challenges or troubles than usual in their zodiac year (本命年 běnmìng nián), and that they need to wear red to ward off bad luck every single day of the New Year. 

Making the Ming Great Again  (February 16, 2021, The World of Chinese)
A doomed leader sits alone, awaiting the inevitable. His time in power is almost over. He feels betrayed by his own people, by the sycophants who downplayed crises by telling him only what he wanted to hear, and by the naysayers whose only answer in an emergency was to blame the leader for failing to lead. It’s a good thing this despondent ruler didn’t have access to Twitter. Or did he?

Travel / Food

The syrupy treat that helped China’s Manchu Army conquer the Ming Dynasty (February 15, 2021, CNN)
Sachima is a sweet Chinese pastry made up of flour batter that’s been (in Pan Ji’s case) egg-tossed and then deep-fried, coated in syrup, sliced and served. They have the same form and the same gooey consistency of Rice Krispie treats, but unlike the latter, sachima has been around for centuries. In fact, the sugary snack originated in northeast China and is said to have served as an energy bar for the horsemen of China’s Manchu Army, providing them with the strength and stamina needed to defeat the Ming Dynasty in the 1600s.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Nian: A Film Review (February 12, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
To kick off the Chinese New Year season, Apple has released their latest short film, Nian, describing it as “a Chinese New Year legend reimagined as a contemporary coming-of-age story”. 

CCTV Spring Festival Gala Features Blackface, Again  (February 12, 2021, China Digital Times)
This year’s CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala, the massively popular annual variety show aired since 1983, included blackfaced dancers in a performance titled “African Song and Dance,” alongside belly dancers, flamenco performers, and women dressed as Cleopatra. The Gala has previously been criticized for similar depictions: a 2018 skit featured a Chinese woman dressed in blackface and accompanied by a monkey, proclaiming, “I love China.” 

Inside the battle between the BBC and China (February 15, 2021, CNN)
It is unclear how much impact China’s ban of BBC World News will have in mainland China because the BBC has never been allowed to broadcast in mainland China or into Chinese homes. BBC World News was only ever been available in international hotels.

Language / Language Learning

Choice Chengyu: Happy ‘Niu’ Year! (February 12, 2021, The World of Chinese)
The Year of the Ox is nearly upon us, and Chinese are wishing each other “Happy 牛 (niú, ox) Year!”—a play on the pronunciation of 牛 (niú) and the English word “new.” In Chinese culture, the ox symbolizes diligence and dedication: those who serve others wholeheartedly are referred to as “old yellow oxen (老黄牛 lǎo huángniú).” Throughout Chinese history, tales related to oxen have been recorded and summarized into chengyu, some of which we introduce below.


A History of Christian Missions – Review and Summary (February 16, 2021, Global China Center)
Stephen Neill, A History of Christian Missions. Volume Six in the Penguin History of the Church. Revised for the Second Edition by Owen Chadwick. London: Penguin Books, 1986.  Paper. 528 pages, including Bibliography and Index. Long considered a standard work, this revised edition was brought up to date by Owen Chadwick according to the “projected intentions” of the author. I confess that I have not read it until now, perhaps because I thought it might be too sketchy or antiquated to be of use. How wrong I was! For several reasons, I now consider Stephen Neill’s book to be essential reading for all teachers, students, and practitioners of Christian missions.

Links for Researchers

Messages from China’s third white paper on foreign aid  (February 16, 2021, The China Story)
In January, the Chinese government released its third white paper on foreign aid, entitled “China’s International Development Cooperation in the New Era”. It is worth taking a closer look at the Chinese-language original, which is more detailed in content than the English-language version, to see what has changed in some aspects of China’s foreign aid program, and what has not.

COVID-19 and the Chinese Christian Community in Britain: Changing Patterns of Belonging and Division (Edinburgh University Press)
This article draws on interview data with Chinese Christian leaders to explore how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the Chinese Christian church in Britain.


Speaker Series: The Vessel Overturned: Current Views on Hong Kong Christian Civic Life (US-China Catholic Association)
Sociologist Lida Nedilsky, who has followed the involvement of Catholics and Protestants in Hong Kong’s civic life throughout her career, will step back to lend insightful perspective regarding the contributions of Hong Kong Christians to the territory’s civic culture and the impact this involvement has had on the churches. This is part of the joint lecture series sponsored by the US-China Catholic Association, ChinaSource, and China Academic Consortium. 

Free Virtual Conference. On Mission. Innovation in Missions: A Global Perspective (Missio Nexus)
On Mission 2021 is a free, virtual conference which will take place on March 10.  Whether you are a church missions leader, a professor, a student, or a missions leader or missionary this content will be applicable and helpful.  This year the focus will be on the topic of Innovation in Missions. 

Conference on English Language Teaching (February 17, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
This year, the CELT Conference is being held March 5-6, and for the first time ever, it will be virtual so everyone can attend. We are looking forward to speakers and participants from all over the globe joining in, and we would love to see you there. The theme for the conference is Imago Dei: Celebrating the Beauty and Benefits of Diversity. 

Pray for China

February 18, 2021 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Feb. 18, 1294, Kublai Khan (忽必烈帝), the founding emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, died in Khanbaliq (now Beijing). Kublai’s mother, Sorghaghtani Beki (唆鲁和帖尼别吉), was an influential Nestorian Christian, and Nestorian Christianity flourished among the Mongols in the 13th & 14th centuries. Pray for the Lord Jesus to be glorified by a new generation of Mongol Christians in China and Mongolia. “…Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” John 12:28

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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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