ZGBriefs | February 9, 2023

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Featured Article

On a Spring Roll (February 4, 2023, The World of Chinese)
Spring rolls are considered a classic Chinese food, but did you know they actually come in many varieties across the country?

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Optimization: Another Word for Messy (February 2, 2023, China Media Project)
Over the past two months, the CCP leadership has sought to downplay the problems stemming from its sudden decision to dismantle rigid Covid control measures, insisting that all is going according to plan. State media have actively pushed the narrative that this has all been a skillful re-tooling of existing policies.

Straying off Course: A Spy Balloon Q&A with John Delury (February 3, 2023, China File)
On the evening of Friday February 3, about one day after news broke that a large balloon from China was surveilling the skies over Montana, ChinaFile’s Susan Jakes spoke with historian John Delury, whose recently published book, Agents of Subversion: The Fate of John T. Downey and the CIA’s Covert War in China, centers around a U.S. spy plane downed in China during the Korean War. Delury spoke from his home in Seoul and Jakes was in Washington, D.C.

China Tries to Play Down Balloon Dispute With Censorship and Memes (February 7, 2023, The New York Times) (subscription required)
Chinese propaganda also appears to be walking a fine line: looking tough for the crowd at home, without further derailing relations with the United States.

US sources insist Chinese balloon was military (February 8, 2023, BBC)
US intelligence sources have insisted the balloon shot down on Saturday was used by the Chinese military for spying. Unnamed officials told the Washington Post they believed such balloons were used to collect intelligence on strategically relevant territories. They include Japan, India, Taiwan and the Philippines. Chinese officials have already denied using such balloons for surveillance.

China offers emergency aid of $4.4 mln to earthquake-hit Syria (February 8, 2023, Reuters)
China will offer emergency humanitarian aid of 30 million yuan ($4.4 million) to earthquake-hit Syria, its foreign ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, told a regular news briefing on Wednesday. The death toll of the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria has jumped to more than 8,700. Mao said $2 million of the emergency aid would be used for cash and urgently needed relief supplies, adding that China would speed up existing food aid projects.


Church and State in an Atheist Age (February 2, 2023, China Partnership Blog)
In the aftermath of rare Covid protests, Elder Li shared the following thoughts on the role of the church in the modern age and on the interplay between church and state.

Chinese Christians in the New Era—Hope and Overcoming (February 3, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
From Peter Bryant’s overview pieces to the supporting articles by Brent Fulton, Luke Wesley, Xingwu Lin, Caleb Ai, and Swells in the Middle Kingdom (Swells) on China in the world, the church in China, and then Chinese missionary, nonprofit, and expatriate worlds, the messages offer perspectives like a plane dropping from thirty-thousand feet to ground level, as they shift from high-level and mildly optimistic (or at least more analytical) to close up, personal, and much more pessimistic.

The 1843 Conference of Protestant Missionaries in Hongkong China (February 6, 2023, Global China Center)
One of the hallmarks of the evangelical movement was to energize missions at home and abroad. For this purpose, most Protestant denominations created denominational missionary agencies.  However, at the same time, the movement created inter or even non-denominational agencies to carry out this mission.

Why Chinese Immigrant Pastors Avoid Preaching on the News (February 7, 2023, Christianity Today)
They believe that Sunday gatherings should focus on worship, God’s Word, and gospel proclamation, and it’s important to keep that a priority over what’s happening outside the church.

Society / Life

Best of Beijing in Readers’ Photos: CNY Holiday (and Travel) Edition (February 3, 2023, The Beijinger)
This year marks the first time in three years travel outside Beijing was on for Chinese New Year. In light of the occassion, we decided to show photos from readers’ and their travels all around China (and beyond).

China May Signal Changes to Retirement Age in 2023, Says Report (February 3, 2023, Sixth Tone)
A CITIC Securities report that recently surfaced online claimed China is expected to announce plans this year to gradually start delaying the long-mandated retirement ages. The report also mentioned that the average retirement age will be extended to 65 by 2055.

Relics of zero-Covid dot China as life moves on (February 7, 2023, BBC)
China has ditched zero-Covid but remnants of the policy are still everywhere – from sprawling temporary hospitals and empty testing booths, to posters of QR codes that ask for your travel history.

Pandemic saw big drop in charitable giving (February 8, 2023, China Development Brief)
Three years of COVID-19 restrictions have put a strain on philanthropic giving. China Development Brief, along with a few other NGOs, conducted a survey titled “Difficulties and Needs of NGOs during The Late Stage of COVID-19” in 2021. The results showed that the epidemic has had a strong negative impact on small and medium-sized NGOs.

China to offer free fertility treatment in bid to boost record low birth rate (February 8, 2023, CNN)
China is planning to offer free fertility treatment to citizens under its national insurance scheme in a bid to reverse its plummeting birth rate. The National Healthcare Security Administration said on Friday it would extend its coverage to help shoulder the costs for families trying to conceive.

Economics / Trade / Business

China’s real estate crisis isn’t over yet, IMF says (February 3, 2023, CNBC)
China needs to do more in order to fix its real estate problems, the International Monetary Fund said Friday. The property market contributes to about a quarter of China’s GDP and has been a drag on growth, especially since Beijing cracked down on developers’ high reliance on debt in 2020.


Chinese schools and universities finally ready to resume classes after end of country’s zero-Covid policy (February 7, 2023, South China Morning Post) (registration required)
Schools around China are starting their new semesters following the abrupt pivot away from zero-Covid late last year. New rules will be in place to monitor children’s health when classes resume for the first time since pupils were sent home and told to take lessons online in November amid a surge in cases.

Health / Environment

The Collapse of Zero-COVID: A Reading Roundup (February 9, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Everyone was left scratching their heads. What happened? How and why was the zero-COVID policy abandoned so quickly with seemingly little to no planning? These questions will no doubt be the subject of PhD research for decades to come, but there have been a few articles recently that begin to shed light on what seems to have happened.

Science / Technology

TikTok: how the west has turned on gen Z’s favourite app (February 5, 2023, The Guardian)
US and European fears about China exploiting TikTok’s data harvest and promoting Beijing’s worldview look set to inspire an urgent overhaul in data privacy laws.

Here’s why Europe is abandoning plans to fly aboard China’s space station (February 7, 2023, ARS Techinca)
European astronauts did not fly to the Chinese space station in 2022, however, even though China completed its construction before the end of the year. In fact, Europeans are now unlikely ever to do so, even as the Tiangong facility flies for another decade, or longer, in low-Earth orbit.

History / Culture

Beijing’s Rabbit God Gains Popularity in Year of the Rabbit (February 8, 2023, The Beijinger)

As China embraces the Year of the Rabbit, a variety of bunnies have taken shopping malls, craft shops, and social media by storm. And not even 兔儿爷 Tù’eryé, the Rabbit God, is immune. In fact, the Rabbit God has become so popular that one specialty shop situated along Yangmeizhu Byway near Qianmen has sold out of Rabbit God figurines.

Travel / Food

Tea Total: Is China’s New Social Media-Fueled Tea Craze More Than Just a Fad? (February 2, 2023, The World of Chinese)
Once shunned by Chinese youth as old-fashioned and overly formal, tea-drinking is bcoming cool again.

How China Fell In Love With Cheap Wine (February 7, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Once a symbol of luxury, today’s wine market is dominated by so-called little wines — and increasingly the category known as “996-es”: six-bottle cases priced at 99 yuan or less.

After Three Years, Chinese Tourists Ready to Hit the Road Again (February 7, 2023, Sixth Tone)
For the first time in three years, China has resumed outbound group tours to selected countries, sparking a surge in demand for overseas travel. The government had banned domestic tour operators from selling packages to go to other countries in January 2020, after the pandemic first started.

China’s cross-border travel hits 3-year high as Hong Kong and Macau checkpoints open fully (February 8, 2023, South China Morning Post)
Mainland Chinese border crossings hit a three-year high on Monday, as Covid-19 restrictions were fully lifted for travellers from Hong Kong and Macau. As many as 676,000 cross-border trips were made on February 6, official data showed, an uptick of nearly 33 per cent from the previous day’s total.

Living Cross-culturally

Living Out Our Paul Moment (February 8, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
As a result of this extended absence, many have given up hope of returning to China in the short term and made plans to go to other places. This abrupt departure, from a place they considered home, may be disheartening. However, this sudden change should serve as a reminder for all believers that we are not in control of our own lives. God is.


Wang Yi: The Faithfully Disobedient Chinese Pastor (February 2, 2023, Christianity Today)
I explained that I was working on a book about the revival of religion in China. I had been to many rural churches in traditional Christian heartlands of China, such as the province of Henan, but felt that big, urban churches like his were becoming more important. Would he let me sit in on his services and talk to congregants?

Pray for China

February 14 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
Zhu Xinghun (朱醒魂牧师) was one of the first Chinese overseas missionaries. He became a Christian at age 17 after being challenged by Matthew 10:32: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.” After professing his faith, Zhu was kicked out of his home by his father, and a missionary doctor in Guangzhou paid for Zhu to attend seminary. While there he heard Robert A. Jaffray (翟辅民) preach on Daniel 1:8 and dedicated his life to the Lord. In Feb. 1921, he followed Jaffray to Vietnam. When the Chinese Foreign Missionary Union (中华国外布道团) was formed by nationals under Jaffray’s encouragement, Zhu became the first to be sent out. He and his wife, Zhang Yisheng (张一生), served among the Chinese who had settled in Sulawesi, Indonesia, from 1928 until 1960 when Zhu had a stroke. Pray for Christians to resolve not to defile themselves with the things of the world. But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. Daniel 1:8

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