ZGBriefs | February 4, 2021

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Featured Article

Chinese New Year good luck fruit is nutrition powerhouse  (February 3, 2021, Inkstone News)
Kumquat trees adorned with red lai see fong (literally, good fortune envelopes) are auspicious decorations at the start of the Lunar New Year. Native to China, the fruit is available around the world, including at supermarkets in major cities in the US. 

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Beijing expands liaison office in Hong Kong as it seeks to tighten supervision, sources say  (January 29, 2021, South China Morning Post)
About 100 additional staff said to have been transferred from mainland in the past year, many of them with skills in areas such as social media. Central government’s liaison office has been given more responsibilities including making sure city is ‘ruled by patriots’

China warns Taiwan independence ‘means war’ as US pledges support  (January 30, 2021, BBC)
China has warned Taiwan that any attempt to seek independence “means war”. The warning comes days after China stepped up its military activities and flew warplanes near the island.  It also comes after new US President Joe Biden reaffirmed his commitment to Taiwan, and set out his stance in Asia.

Britain launches new visa for millions of Hongkongers fleeing China’s crackdown  (January 30, 2021, The Guardian)
A new visa scheme offering millions of Hong Kong residents a pathway to British citizenship went live on Sunday as the UK opened its doors to those wanting to escape China’s crackdown on dissent. From late Sunday afternoon, anyone with a British national overseas (BNO) passport and their dependents can apply online for a visa allowing them to live and work in the UK. After five years they can then apply for citizenship.

Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai to wait for bail verdict in national security case  (February 1, 2021, Reuters)
Hong Kong media tycoon and Beijing critic Jimmy Lai, the most high-profile person charged under the national security law, will remain in custody after the city’s top court said it would announce its verdict on his bail application at a later date.

‘Their goal is to destroy everyone’: Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rape  (February 2, 2021, BBC)
Women in China’s “re-education” camps for Uighurs have been systematically raped, sexually abused, and tortured, according to detailed new accounts obtained by the BBC.

Video: A Conversation with Politburo Member Yang Jiechi  (February 3, 2021, National Committee on U.S.-China Relations)
In his first speech to an American audience since the Biden administration took office, Politburo Member Yang Jiechi, director of the Office of the Central Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Politburo of the 19th CPC Central Committee, joined the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations for a virtual address on February 1, 2021 to discuss the state of U.S.-China relations and prospects for the future.


Looking Back on KL2020: Confidently Waiting, Come What May  (January 29, 2021, China Partnership Blog)
KL2020, a gospel conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was the last major Christian conference to be held before the COVID-19 pandemic. A year later, we look back and reflect with one participant on how God used the conference to prepare him for the events of the last year. 

Make Me a Blessing in the Tension: Being a Blessing in a Hostile Environment  (February 1, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
The story of Daniel has great implications for us as we face our own upcoming social changes. An attitude of blessing and servanthood is a biblical and non-confrontational approach to testify to God’s love in a country unfriendly to Christianity, trusting that God continues to uphold us in his mission.

Showing the Truths of the Gospel, Graphically  (February 2, 2021, Chinese Church Voices)
In the journal Territory, Chinese artist Beibei Nie has brought to life the lies that many in Chinese society hear about themselves, about life, and about the Christian faith. The artist shows the despair that many feel about faith and life, but then counters those lies with truths about the Christian faith.

Society / Life

The Chinese Couples Going Dutch on Literally Everything  (January 29, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Young Chinese are ditching tradition and adopting an egalitarian style of relationship known as the “two-sided marriage.” But is the practice really as progressive as it appears?

Chinese millennials aren’t getting married, and the government is worried  (January 29, 2021, CNN)
The decline is partly due to decades of policies designed to limit China’s population growth, which mean there are fewer young people in China available to be married, according to Chinese officials and sociologists. But it’s also a result of changing attitudes to marriage, especially among young women, some of whom are growing disillusioned with the institution for its role in entrenching gender inequality, experts say.

For Party Centenary, China Wants More ‘Positive Energy’ Online  (February 1, 2021, Sixth Tone)
haring news about politics, economics, and diplomacy is off-limits for online media outlets not approved by the government.

Virus-hit Shijiazhuang starting to resume normal life, work  (February 2, 2021, China Daily)
Shijiazhuang in North China’s Hebei province is resuming life and work in an orderly fashion in recent days as the COVID-19 outbreak that hit the city since earlier this year has been greatly contained.

COVID in Shanghai: January 2021 Update  (February 3, 2021, Sinosplice)
For us luckier residents of Shanghai, face masks are required on public transportation and in government buildings and hospitals just like they were through the end of 2020, but now requirements have stepped up. More buildings are taking temperatures at the entrances and/or requiring face masks for entry. (Pretty much all malls are). My office building is requiring everyone to show their “health code” upon entry (it must be green).

Economics / Trade / Business

China Stockpiles Chips, Chip-Making Machines to Resist U.S.  (February 3, 2021, Bloomberg, via Yahoo! News)
China is taking decisive steps to protect itself from a widening U.S. technology ban, with imports of computer chips and the machines that make them surging last year. […] The U.S. has steadily restricted Chinese firms’ access to American technology, pushing Beijing to redouble efforts to develop a domestic chip industry after years of slow progress. 

China’s big tech companies are now fighting with each other  (February 3, 2021, CNN)
As China sharpens its antitrust crackdown on the country’s massive tech companies, two of the industry’s biggest players are taking the fight to each other. Douyin — the Chinese version of short-form video app TikTok -— sued Tencent (TCEHY) on Tuesday, claiming that the Shenzhen-based social media firm has abused its “market dominance” to edge out rivals.


China just issued a full ban on phones in schools  (February 3, 2021, Inkstone)
Chinese authorities have banned cellphones in classrooms and school grounds effective immediately in an effort to protect students from digital addiction and save their eyesight. The ban will apply to all schoolchildren across the country. Chinese students will only be allowed to bring a mobile device to school only under special circumstances. However, during class, all devices would be surrendered to the teachers, said the ministry on its website on Monday.

Health / Environment

Video: China’s Covid Secrets  (February 2, 2021, PBS)
The untold story of the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and how China responded. Chinese scientists and doctors, international disease experts and health officials reveal missed opportunities to suppress the outbreak and lessons for the world.

WHO team heads to China bat lab at the center of coronavirus conspiracies  (February 3, 2021, CNN)
A team of World Health Organization investigators in Wuhan are visiting a laboratory Wednesday that has been the focus of conspiracies and speculation about the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. The WHO investigators began research in the central Chinese city last week, after a 14-day quarantine and bureaucratic delays. Their work has been subject to intense scrutiny and political pressure from both within China and outside the country.

China’s Vaccine Campaign Hits A Few Bumps  (February 3, 2021, NPR)
China has approved one domestic coronavirus vaccine for commercial use. Four more are in late stage human trials, and a nationwide vaccination campaign is already underway. But the vaccine rollout is happening more slowly than expected. Only about 24 million doses have been administered, but those numbers represent only the first dose of a two-dose vaccine.

China to send 10 million coronavirus vaccine doses abroad  (February 3, 2021, AP)
China on Wednesday announced a plan to provide 10 million coronavirus vaccine doses to developing nations through the global COVAX initiative as part of its ambitious diplomatic and business efforts to distribute Chinese vaccines around the world.

Chinese police break up group selling fake vaccines to other countries  (February 3, 2021, Sky News)
More than 80 suspected members of a criminal group that was manufacturing and selling fake COVID-19 vaccines – including to other countries – have been arrested in China. Police in the capital Beijing, as well as in Jiangsu and Shandong provinces, broke up the group which was producing a simple saline solution that was being sold as fake vaccines.

The Environmental Challenges of China’s Recovery After COVID-19  (February 3, 2021, TIME)
To the extent that the coronavirus lockdown reduced traffic and economic activities, it is no surprise that China saw the rebound of emissions from power plants, industry and transport as the lockdown was lifted and economic activity and industrial production resumed.

Science / Technology

China’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission in photos  (February 2, 2021, Space)
China’s first Mars exploration mission, Tianwen-1, will arrive in orbit at the Red Planet on Feb. 10, 2021. Tianwen-1 consists of an orbiter, a lander and a rover. The Tianwen-1 rover is scheduled to deploy to the Martian surface in May, when it will touch down in Utopia Planitia, a large plain that is part of the biggest impact basin on Mars. 

Number of China’s internet users hits 989m  (February 2, 2021, China Daily)
The number of internet users in China reached 989 million in December, an increase of 85.4 million from March, according to a report published on Wednesday by the China Internet Network Information Center. The internet availability rate reached 70.4 percent of the population, an increase of 5.9 percentage points from March, the report said. 

History / Culture

What’s In a Game? Why You Need to Be Playing Mahjong  (January 27, 2021, Radii China)
Here’s where this iconic game comes from, and why it’s such a mainstay in popular culture.

Video: Life in Dongsi district of old Peking, ca. 1925.  (January 31, 2021, Tong Bingxue, via Twitter)

Travel / Food

Video: China Reacts to MacDonalds’ New Spicy Sundae (January 28, 2021, Inkstone News)
Chinese people online are reacting to a new McDonald’s spicy sundae released in parts of the country, which has chili oil poured over soft-serve ice cream.

China temporarily bars entry of foreigners travelling from Canada  (January 30, 2021, NPR)
China has temporarily banned entry of foreign nationals travelling from Canada, even if they hold valid Chinese residence permits for work, the Chinese consulate in Toronto said. “All foreign nationals who hold valid Chinese residence permits for work, personal matters and reunion are temporarily not allowed to enter China from Canada,” the consulate said in a statement on its website on Saturday.

Emperor Yongle Would Be Proud: For the First Time in 600 Years, Tiantan Has a Coffee Shop  (February 3, 2021, The Beijinger Blog)
That’s why the Tiantan 1420 café just inside the east gate of the Temple of Heaven comes across as such a surprise: It’s a full-on coffee shop serving primo java drawn from an Italian espresso machine, and it’s right smack dab in the middle of one of Beijing’s major tourist attractions.

Spring Festival Travel Is Tricky. For Many, It’s Still Worth It.  (February 3, 2021, Sixth Tone)
rains and planes have fewer passengers, and people hoping to go that extra mile for the holidays will have to fulfill a laundry list of COVID-19 control requirements.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

100 Films to Watch to Help You Understand China  (February 1, 2021, Radii China)
This list is a syllabus of movies across the spectrum of time, space and quality that, taken together, provide a snapshot of today’s China, the forces that shaped it, and the directions in which it’s moving looking forward. We’re focusing primarily on films made in mainland China, since these come from a different cultural context and industrial framework than films made in Hong Kong or Taiwan.

100 Films to Understand China: China Today  (February 1, 2021, Radii China)
While much has changed over the past 10 years in Chinese cinema, much has stayed the same. Here are 10 of our favorite films from the 2010s.

Language / Language Learning

The Hacking Chinese pronunciation course is finally here!  (January 29, 2021, Hacking Chinese)
My pronunciation course is finally open for enrollment! I’ve been working on this course for a long time and I’m excited to finally open the doors for students. The course is open for registration until next Friday, February 5th. Below, you can watch the first lesson where I introduce the course:

Living Cross-culturally

I Wish They Knew  (February 3, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
One of my dearest Chinese friends is an English teacher at the university where we met many years ago. Having both lived outside of our own countries we often swapped experiences. On one of my last visits to Beijing we met for lunch.  Teaching came up and she talked about her students, curriculum, and the new foreign teachers in her department.  “You have helped so many of us,” I said.  “Do you have a list of things you wish foreigners knew when they came to your campus?”  She smiled.  “Maybe a few.” 


The Sisters Who Made Modern China  (January 29, 2021, China Channel)
In Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China, Jung Chang has opened a window onto the lives of the Soong sisters – Soong Ai-ling, Soong Ching-ling, and Soong May-ling – who like Cixi are on the short list of the most famous women in China’s modern history.

‘Land Of Big Numbers,’ Short Story Collection From Te-Ping Chen  (February 1, 2021, NPR)
NPR’s Steve Inskeep talks to Te-Ping Chen about her short story collection: Land of Big Numbers. It features people in China trying to live their lives in the shadow of an overpowering state.

Religion, Family, and Chinese Youth Development: An Empirical View  (Routledge)
Religion is a fundamental cultural factor profoundly influential on human mental health and behavioural choices, and, in addition, family is the most proximal and intimate socialization agent contributive to youth development. Religion, Family, and Chinese Youth Development explores how religious involvement of Chinese parents affects their psychological health and family socialization, which leads to various aspects of the development of Chinese youths.

Maoism and Grassroots Religion : The Communist Revolution and the Reinvention of Religious Life in China (Oxford University Press)
The book spans the Republican, Maoist, and post-Mao eras. It compares the trajectories of all major religious traditions in one locality, previous works have mostly focused on one religious tradition

Links for Researchers

Inside China’s Police State Tactics Against Muslims  (February 3, 2021, Intercept)
A new report from The Intercept provides a raw glimpse into the persecution and sweeping internment of Muslims in northwest China’s Xinjiang region.


Online Event: 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 of throughout her career, will step back to lend insightful perspective regarding the contributions of Hong Kong Christians to the territory’s civic culture. Pray for China

Upcoming Online Trainings (LeaderSource)
LeaderSource hosts trainings the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 8 AM EST 

Pray for China

February 4 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Feb. 4, 781 (Jan. 7 on the Lunar Calendar), a monument was erected in Chang’an (now Xi’an) to record the history of Nestorian Christians in China. The Nestorian Stele records the existence of a thriving church planted after 635 by Persian missionary Alopen (阿罗本) with the active support of Emperor Tang Taizong (唐太宗). The monument was buried during a crackdown instigated by Daoists in 845 and not rediscovered until 1625. Pray for the Infinite-Personal Creator God to be glorified as Chinese believers manifest the joy that comes from being one in Him. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:1-5

Image credit:  Ismet Sahin, via Pixabay
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