ZGBriefs | February 27, 2020

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Featured Article

Religious Groups in China Step Into the Coronavirus Crisis  (February 23, 2020, The New York Times)
In temples, mosques and churches, China’s religious believers have jumped into the national battle against the coronavirus. They have offered prophecies and prayers, ceremonies and services, as well as donations totaling more than $30 million. Their efforts reflect the country’s decades-long religious revival, and the feeling among many Chinese that faith-based groups provide an alternative to the corruption that has plagued the government.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Coronavirus and China's global image  (February 21, 2020, Christian Science Monitor)
Many of the costs of the coronavirus for China are immediately apparent, but some are not. One thing to monitor going forward is any impact on the country’s assertive campaign to extend its influence internationally. 

China postpones National People's Congress  (February 24, 2020, The Guardian)
For the first time in decades, Beijing on Monday postponed the key political event, the National People’s Congress (NPC), where hundreds of delegates gather in Beijing every March. The standing committee for the NPC said a new date for the meeting would be announced separately, according to the state broadcaster CCTV.

Trump Administration Considers Punishing Chinese News Organizations  (February 24, 2020, The New York Times)
U.S. officials said they were looking at ways to retaliate for China’s expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters, including evicting Chinese journalists who file intelligence reports.

Coronavirus reveals China’s leaders’ obsession with information control  (February 25. 2020, Mercater Institute for China Studies)
China’s leaders prize information control over information sharing, even at the risk of delaying actions to curb the spread of a disease. In that sense, the Corona epidemic has laid bare the weakness of centralized, top-down systems of authority, says Nis Grünberg.

Hong Kong Bookseller Gui Minhai Sentenced to 10 Years  (February 25, 2020, China Digital Times)
Swedish citizen Gui Minhai is one of the five booksellers and publishers associated with Hong Kong’s Mighty Current Media and Causeway Bay bookstore who were detained from abroad in 2015 to reappear in custody in China. The episode heightened concerns about Beijing’s willingness to target foreign nationals and conduct cross-border detentions to dissuade criticism. 


Novel Gospel Opportunities  (February 21, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
What happens “When the Church Is the Church”? This was the title of a sermon delivered at Beijing International Christian Fellowship Zhong Guan Cun (BICFZGC) just before the Chinese New Year. Weeks on, we are now in the midst of the novel coronavirus outbreak. It’s been incredibly challenging and encouraging to see the answer to this question lived out by God’s sufficient grace.

How Many Christians in China? Preferred Estimates, Part 1  (February 24, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
In the absence of actually knowing how many Christians there are in China, we are left with estimates. Wanting to know how others in the China space answer the question, I reached out to a number of my friends in the China academic and ministry communities for their response to the following two questions: What is your current best estimate of the number of Christians in China, and how do you arrive at that estimate?

Beijing CC&TSPM: Churches Still Closed  (February 24, 2020, China Christian Daily)
On February 18, 2020, Beijing Christian Council & Three-Self Patriotic Movement said in a notice that all the churches in Beijing would be still closed. Staring from January 24, all the religious premises in China were suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.

US Chinese churches on the front lines of coronavirus vigilance  (February 25, 2020, Religion News Service)
There has been no sustained community transmission of the coronavirus in the United States so far, and many Chinese churches such as the Raleigh Chinese Christian Church are doing their best to keep it that way. Taped to the entrance of the church’s glass doors is a yellow notice with the word “ATTENTION” in capital letters. It warns parents not to bring their children to church if they’ve traveled to Asia in the past 14 days.

5 Important Issues for 2020  (February 25, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
Aside from responding to the coronavirus, what issues should Christians in China monitor this year? From government policies to Christmas celebrations, this article from the Gospel Times gives five topics that are likely to be issues of particular concern for Christians in 2020.

Society / Life

On Empty Streets: Life as a Wuhan Deliveryman  (February 24. 2020, Sixth Tone)
But while we may sound tough, most of us are still reluctant to deliver orders to hospitals. A few days ago, I was passing by the gate of Wuchang Hospital when a woman suddenly collapsed. Medical staff rushed to help her and then carried her into the hospital. Everyone I saw seemed calm, from the medics and passersby, to the security guard and the boss of a nearby shop. But I felt like a mountain was pressing down on me.

Confusion in Wuhan as move to ease coronavirus lockdown is reversed  (February 24. 2020, South China Morning Post)
Just three hours after announcing that visitors trapped in Wuhan – the Chinese city at the heart of the coronavirus epidemic.  – could leave on Monday, authorities reversed the decision, saying it had been made without approval. The local government revoked the notice it said had been issued by a subordinate working group from the city’s disease control command centre without approval from their superiors.

Amid the coronavirus lockdown, Chinese social media is full of laughter and anger  (February 25, 2020, The Guardian)
In many ways, the coronavirus outbreak in China has been one big social experiment, testing the thesis: what happens when an entire country goes into hibernation for weeks?

Wuhan natives in US unite to support their city during crisis  (February 26, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Liu is one of thousands of Chinese in the US with attachments to Wuhan who have been jolted into action by the suffering of their friends and family back home. Like many such Chinese, he is also alarmed by the treatment of his peers in the US who have become targets for xenophobic taunts and other threatening behaviour.

Economics / Trade / Business

China car sales tumble by 92% as coronavirus weighs on industry  (February 21, 2020, The Guardian)
The China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) said “barely anybody” had looked to buy vehicles in the first half of February. Most dealerships have remained closed as a precaution.

Epidemic Accelerates China’s Commercial Livestreaming Boom  (February 24. 2020, Sixth Tone)
With both staff and customers quarantined at home, brick-and-mortar businesses are going online to promote their products to eager viewers.

How Do You Keep China’s Economy Running With 750 Million in Quarantine?  (February 24, 2020, Foreign Policy)
Now Xi and his party apparatus are scrambling to achieve two ambitions—both urgent but conflicting—at once. Xi must reduce (and hopefully eliminate) new coronavirus deaths and infections swiftly while simultaneously reviving China’s shellshocked economy. Problem is, people can’t get back to business if they’re hunkering in a bunker. 

Apple may be forced to disclose censorship requests from China  (February  25, 2020, The Guardian)
Apple could be forced to disclose details of censorship requests from Chinaand other nations after two major shareholder groups backed a proposal that would force the tech firm to make new human rights commitments. The motion, set to be voted on by the company’s investors on Wednesday, was prompted by numerous allegations of Apple kowtowing to Beijing and blocking apps from being used by Chinese customers.

Heading Back to the Office? Not Without Taking These Measures Says Beijing  (February 25, 2020, The Beijinger)
Some of the more notable restrictions include daily monitoring of employee body temperature, ensuring that use of the elevator does not exceed 50 percent capacity, maintenance of at least one-meter distance between staff members at all times, and that each employee has at least 2.5 meters of personal workspace.

China's main manufacturing hubs reboot after virus shutdown  (February 25, 2020, Reuters)
As many parts of China ease coronavirus travel curbs, main manufacturing hubs in the east and south are seeing hundreds of thousands of migrant workers returning to work and more traffic on the roads during rush hours.


'I got no help': U.S. students on study abroad in China left scrambling by coronavirus  (February 25, 2020, NBC News)
The students say their U.S. school programs have been unresponsive to their concerns and appear ill-equipped to handle the fallout from the spread of the virus, which can lead to the COVID-19 disease. For many, their classes in China have been postponed indefinitely or canceled altogether, and they have had to scramble to enroll in courses when they return to the United States.

Health / Environment

How COVID-19 Has Affected Medical Care For Non-Coronavirus Patients  (February 22, 2020, NPR)
The coronavirus outbreak in China has pulled vital medical resources and personnel away from regular procedures. This is causing complications for people who need treatment for other diseases.

Despite Government Assurances, Medical Workers in Hubei Say They Lack Supplies  (February 22, 2020, China File)
And yet despite similar efforts, as well as a major Chinese government push to ramp up production of protective gear, eight doctors and nurses at five hospitals I have been in touch with over the past week describe precarious conditions in which basic supplies are still inadequate.

China Has Built Over 20 Mass Quarantine Centers For Coronavirus Patients In Wuhan  (February 24, 2020, NPR)
For non-critical coronavirus patients, China has built mass quarantine centers. But critics say these may not be a good idea, as they may put healthy and infected people in the same place.

Science / Technology

Has the internet helped China contain the coronavirus?  (February 26, 2020, East Asia Forum)
In the digital era, the internet and social media have penetrated every aspect of the COVID-19 outbreak. Government agencies have set up official websites for releasing disease surveillance data and providing health information and advice. This has improved government transparency and helped circulate vital information and advice.

History / Culture

From one-time Chinese capital to coronavirus epicenter, Wuhan has a long history that the West had forgotten  (February 23, 2020, CNN)
Two generations ago, this city of 11 million people, on the junction of the Yangtze and Han Rivers, 600 miles upstream, in central China, was known through the West as a major industrial city. It was somewhere many European powers had a consulate, a place where major Western and Japanese trading firms, and international textile and engineering companies, had factories and sales offices.

Travel / Food

China hits back at American ‘coronavirus overreaction’ with travel warning for US  (February 25, 2020, South China Morning Post)
China has issued a travel warning for the United States, urging its citizens not to travel to the country amid concerns over the global spread of the coronavirus, a move analysts say will worsen already heightened tensions between the two powers.

Language / Language Learning

Boost Your Chinese Vocabulary With These Revised Coronavirus Idioms  (February 24. 2020, The Beijinger)
Given the huge (and growing) impact that the coronavirus has had on all of us this year, it only natural then that some of these phrases be given a reboot to reflect the times. That's exactly what China's netizens have done, adapting and coopting old idioms (成语 chéngyǔ) to express their emotions and get creative in the face of an otherwise harrowing historical moment.

5 levels of understanding Chinese characters: Superficial forms to deep structure  (February 25, 2020, Hacking Chinese)
In this article, we will look at five levels of understanding Chinese characters and how they relate to memorising characters. The levels range from surface structures to accurate understanding of how characters work. While more understanding is generally beneficial, I will argue that there’s a limit to how deep into the rabbit hole you should go.


The Life of Laowai  (February 24, 2020, China Channel)
Tom Carter’s recent work, An American Bum in China, a true-to-life account of Iowan Matthew Evans’s “bumblingly brilliant escapades” from Guangdong to Shanghai to Yunnan to Hong Kong, tackles these themes head-on, and upon reading, even the most ardent defenders of fiction will be forced to admit: you just can’t make this stuff up.

Links for Researchers

Studies in World Christianity, Issue 26.1  (February 25, 2020, The University of Edinburgh)
Of the five articles in this issue on the topic, the first three are revisions of papers delivered at the Yale—Edinburgh conference held at Yale Divinity School in June 2019, entitled ‘Diversity and Difference in Custom, Belief, and Practice in the History of Missions and World Christianity’. Together they demonstrate the strength found in the diversity and difference throughout World Christianity.

 Image credit: Joann Pittman 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