ZGBriefs | February 25, 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

China orders clergy to toe Communist Party and socialist line (February 19, 2021, South China Morning Post)
New national rules requiring clergy to embrace the leadership of the Communist Party  and China’s socialist system are expected to compound limits on religious freedom in the country, according to analysts. The new rules – Measures for the Administration of Religious Personnel – were published by the StateAdministration for Religious Affairs early this month and will go into effect in May.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

U.S. Navy Destroyer Challenges Beijing’s South China Sea Claim in Latest Op (February 17, 2021, Newsweek)
Guided-missile destroyer USS Russell conducted the Navy’s second freedom of navigation operation in the area since President Joe Biden took office last month. The warship “asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law,” said a statement by the U.S. 7th Fleet.

Vilified abroad, popular at home: China’s Communist Party at 100 (February 18, 2021, Christian Science Monitor)
While China’s leaders are criticized abroad, economic success and curbing COVID-19 have bolstered the Communist Party’s popularity at home. But challenges loom on the eve of the party’s 100th anniversary.

China Is Preparing for Another Olympics in Beijing, Like It or Not (February 19, 2021, The New York Times)
With the Winter Games less than a year away, a powerful and confident China is promising retaliation if any country boycotts the event over human rights.

Serve the People, Discipline the Party (February 19, 2021, China Channel)
Jonathan Chatwin visits a new museum dedicated to Party Discipline in Wuhan.

Canada’s parliament declares China’s treatment of Uighurs ‘genocide’ (February 22, 2021, BBC)
Canada’s House of Commons has voted overwhelmingly to declare China’s treatment of its Uighur minority population a genocide. The motion – which passed 266 to 0 – was supported by all opposition parties and a handful of lawmakers from the governing Liberal Party. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and most members of his cabinet abstained.

China’s Communist Party revisits the past to regroup for future (February 23, 2021, South China Morning Post)
A new campaign to educate China about Communist Party  history is meant to be a rallying point to consolidate support for its policies and loyalty to the leadership, according to analysts. President Xi Jinping, who will oversee the campaign, launched the project on Saturday in an address to dozens of top party officials in Beijing, urging the officials to learn from the past – a reference to party loyalty.

Two Sessions 2021: what’s on the agenda? (February 23, 2021, South China Morning Post)
China’s political elite will gather in Beijing for the year’s biggest legislative set piece facing a number of major political challenges. This series looks at the key items on the agenda.

Hong Kong plans to make politicians swear oath of loyalty to Beijing (February 23, 2021, The Guardian)
A bill to “ensure patriots govern Hong Kong” has been endorsed by the executive council and will be tabled in March, the secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, Erick Tsang, told a press conference on Tuesday.

China Wants Your Data — And May Already Have It (February 24, 2021, NPR)
U.S. officials add that DNA collection by Chinese companies, even when done openly and legally, should be seen as part of a comprehensive effort to vacuum up millions and millions of records on U.S. citizens. And many Chinese efforts violate U.S. law, the officials say.

China rejects growing Western criticism at U.N. rights forum (February 24, 2021, Reuters)
China hit back on Wednesday at growing criticism by Western powers of its treatment of ethnic minorities in the regions of Xinjiang and Tibet and of citizens in the former British colony of Hong Kong. Hours earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a wide-ranging speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council, said that the Biden administration would denounce atrocities in Xinjiang.

Biden CIA nominee Burns calls China an ‘authoritarian adversary’ (February 24, 2021, Reuters)
U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee to be director of the CIA, William Burns, told a Senate committee on Wednesday that he saw competition with China – and countering its “adversarial, predatory” leadership – as the key to U.S. national security.


Two Weeks in a Chinese Detention Center, Part One: “Ignite The Fuel Of The Gospel” (February 22, 2021, China Partnership Blog)
This pastor recently spent two weeks in a detention center after he was arrested for preaching the gospel. This is his firsthand account of his experience while in prison.

Rebirth in the Barracks (February 23, 2021, Chinese Church Voices)
This video testimony tells the story of a soldier who had given up the will to live. With no status, no money, no power, and compromised health, he longed for death. In that moment, God intervened to give new life.

End of an Era? (February 24, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
But what about the decades when China was closed to all outside involvement? What about today, when many foreign workers have had to leave and new restrictions are making life increasingly difficult for those who stay? Is “God’s hour” limited only to those snippets of history when foreign believers have free and unfettered access to China? 

Society / Life

China’s Single Ladies Reject Call to Marry Rural Men (February 18 2021, Sixth Tone)
An expert’s proposal to help more male villagers get hitched has been ridiculed as reductive and impractical.

Lunar New Year in Photos: Back to New Normal (February 19, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Chinese stick with tradition, while trying something new during this post-pandemic Spring Festival.

Woman awarded $7,700 for five years of housework in China divorce ruling (February 24, 2021, The Guardian)
Under a new civil code that came into effect last month, a person may seek compensation from their partner during a divorce if they were the primary carer for children or elderly parents, or did most of the unpaid household work. The amount should be negotiated, but if that fails then it will be decided by court.

Economics / Trade / Business

How the WTO Changed China (March/April 2021, Foreign Affairs)
But rather than judge China’s WTO entry in the categorical terms of success or failure, a more productive way forward would be to understand the ways in which WTO membership did lead to positive change within China—and when and why that positive change started to slow and then reverse. 

U.S. ban on China’s Xinjiang cotton fractures fashion industry supply chains (February 22, 2021, The Washington Post)
What’s happening now in the fashion industry is rare in the history of global trade: a multibillion-dollar supply chain splintered almost overnight over a human rights issue.


APU’s MA TESOL $6000 Scholarship (February 19, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
Students in the Field-Based Program earn a Master’s Degree while teaching, serving, and living in China. With over 300 million people learning English in China, English teachers are in high demand. Azusa Pacific University’s well-established Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Program equips students to teach with more confidence.

Health / Environment

Will China Be a Global Vaccine Leader?: A ChinaFile Conversation (February 12, 2021, China File)
With billions of dollars on the line and major geopolitical implications, can Beijing change the narrative? What could and should China be doing to improve its global vaccine rollout, and what are the long-term implications for China’s Health Silk Road?

WHO panel to recommend ‘deeper’ study of early Covid-19 clues (February 21, 2021, CNN)
The World Health Organization’s preliminary report into the origins of the novel coronavirus will recommend more extensive contact tracing of the first known patient with Covid-19 in Wuhan, China, as well as the supply chain of nearly a dozen traders in the Huanan seafood market, which is thought to have played a role in the early spread of Covid-19 in late 2019, according to investigators familiar with the draft report.

I was on the WHO’s Covid mission to China, here’s what we found (February 22, 2021, The Guardian)
Our investigations concluded the virus was most likely of animal origin. It probably crossed over to humans from bats, via an as-yet-unknown intermediary animal, at an unknown location. Such “zoonotic” diseases have triggered pandemics before. But we are still working to confirm the exact chain of events that led to the current pandemic. Sampling of bats in Hubei province and wildlife across China has revealed no Sars-CoV-2 to date.

Can China Change the Definition of Human Rights? (February 23, 2012, The Diplomat)
In a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council, China’s foreign minister gave China’s preferred spin to the concept.

Science / Technology

China’s Mars craft enters parking orbit before landing rover (February 24, 2021, ABC News)
The China National Space Administration said the spacecraft executed a maneuver to adjust its orbit early Wednesday morning Beijing time and will remain in the new orbit for about the next three months before attempting to land. During that time, it will be mapping the surface of Mars and using its cameras and other sensors to collect further data, particularly about its prospective landing site.

History / Culture

Li Hongzhang and China’s Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Year (February 21, 2021, Sixth Tone)
As China enters another ‘xinchou’ year, the legacy of a 120-year-old humiliation — and the statesman who acquiesced to it — still looms large.

The Life and Ministry of Eric Martin Ekvall (February 22, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
Though he suffered the deaths of three of his children while serving in China, Eric Martin Ekvall (1866-1939) never wavered in 42 years as a pioneer missionary of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. He held stations in four provinces: Anhui, Hunan, Gansu and Hubei, while working in a number of others.  

An Island in Time: Capturing Dongshan’s Disappearing History (February 24, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Like many parts of rural China, the southern isle’s rich local culture is quickly being erased as the country modernizes. But photographer Zhu Lanqing is determined to rescue what she can.

Video: Sixty Years of China Watching | Jerome Cohen (February 24, 2021, National Committee on US-China Relations, via YouTube)
In a belated celebration of his 90th birthday and his extraordinary contributions to the development of law in China and U.S.-China relations, the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations hosted a virtual discussion with America’s leading expert on Chinese law, Jerome A. Cohen, on February 16, 2021. Professor Cohen conversed with his former student, Steve Orlins, who is now president of the National Committee, about his experiences over the last sixty years of studying Chinese law, government, and society.

Travel / Food

You can fly paragliders to see rapeseed flowers in Tongnan this year (February 23, 2021, China Daily)
Other than the traditional sightseeing means of touring boats, mini trains, and helicopters, Chen Tuan’s Hometown’s scenic area has also added paragliding options for visitors to better appreciate the rapeseed flower fields creating a comprehensive “water, land, and air” all-terrain sightseeing system.

Universal Studios theme park set for May opening (February 24, 2021, China Daily)
Beijing’s Tongzhou district announced recently that Universal Studios Beijing will open in May and that a trial version of the theme park’s app is now available online with details about the shows and themed rides in the park. The park, located in eastern Beijing, will feature seven themed lands, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Minion Land and Hollywood. It is expected to receive more than 10 million tourists per year.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Thoughts on a Dark Year (February 24, 2021, China Media Project)
Late last week, a New Year’s letter appeared online written by Gao Yu (高昱), a deputy editor at Caixin Media and former reporter for Lifeweekly magazine. In the letter, Gao obliquely but palpably expressed his sense of despair at the present state of affairs in China – in which journalists trying to report the facts are criticized not just by the authorities but by patriotic “keyboard warriors” and others who subscribe to China’s self-congratulatory official narrative.

Pray for China

February 26 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Feb. 26, 1928, Victor Plymire (柏立美) arrived at Rutog, Tibet, thus completing a 9-month, 2,000-mile preaching trip through that country. The trip had begun from his long-time base in Huangyuan, Qinghai, and likely took him through Lhasa. Plymire came to China in 1908, and it was 16 years before he saw a Tibetan come to Christ. By the time he left in 1949, there was a thriving church in Huangyuan. Pray for the Spirit, whose sword is the Word of God, to be glorified by missionaries serving among Tibetans.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…Ephesians 6:17 

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