ZGBriefs | January 14, 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

U.S. bans imports of all cotton, tomato products from China’s Xinjiang region  (January 13, 2021, Reuters)
The Trump administration announced an import ban on all cotton and tomato products from western China’s Xinjiang region on Wednesday over allegations that they are made with forced labor from detained Uighur Muslims.

Sponsored Link

E-book: International Student Ministry in China
It seems that, with consistent growth, high numbers, and such diversity, China is becoming the “hub of hubs” for impacting the world through international students. International student ministry in China inevitably means it is pioneering.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

A Year After Wuhan, China Tells a Tale of Triumph (and No Mistakes)  (January 10, 2021, The New York Times)
A recent propaganda directive explicitly banned coverage of the anniversary of the outbreak, according to journalists at state-run news outlets who were briefed on the order. Instead, propaganda agencies have pushed feel-good videos and adulatory articles that depict Wuhan as a city reborn, while playing down residents’ lingering grief and anger.

Pompeo: US to lift restrictions on contacts with Taiwan  (January 10, 2021, BBC)
The US is lifting long-standing restrictions on contacts between American and Taiwanese officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says. The “self-imposed restrictions” were introduced decades ago to “appease” the mainland Chinese government, which lays claim to the island, the US state department said in a statement. These rules are now “null and void”.

China plans further Hong Kong crackdown after mass arrest – sources  (January 11, 2021, Reuters)
The arrest of more than 50 democrats in Hong Kong last week intensifies a drive by Beijing to stifle any return of a populist challenge to Chinese rule and more measures are likely, according to two individuals with direct knowledge of China’s plans.

US unveils plans to counter China’s rise in Asia  (January 13, 2021, Al Jazeera)
In a new document, the US says it wants to counter China’s ‘predatory economic practices’, ‘accelerate India’s rise’ and help Taiwan ensure its ‘freedom from coercion’.


China Christian Daily’s Top 10 News Stories of 2020  (January 12, 2021, Chinese Church Voices)

Shanxi Churches Suspend In-Person Sunday Services  (January 12, 2021, China Christian Daily)
In China’s northern Shanxi Province, the Yaodu District Church in Linfen City issued an emergency notice, saying that all fellowships, groups, and meeting sites in the city were to suspend all worship activities.

The Chinese American Church as a New Community for Self-Identification  (January 13, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
When we consider the influence of the concept of “self” in Chinese culture, the process for self-identification for Chinese American individuals is predominantly related to parents and other members of the extended family. Through the parents, cultural values are transmitted to a child’s self-image.

Society / Life

After Pre-Holiday Outbreaks, Workers Paid to Celebrate in Place  (January 13, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Worried about the coronavirus, local authorities are resorting to gift vouchers and phone credit to persuade migrant workers to stay put during the Lunar New Year travel rush.

After 30-Hour Reporting Delay, Rescue of 22 Trapped Miners Begins  (January 13, 2021, Sixth Tone)
A Chinese mining company is facing scrutiny for waiting 30 hours to report an accident that trapped 22 of its workers underground with no way of communicating with the outside world.

Economics / Trade / Business

Sales of electric vehicles surge in China  (June 13, 2021, Channel News Asia)
Sales of electric vehicles in China rose 10 per cent last year, data showed Wednesday (Jan 13), amid a post-pandemic economic recovery and a push to establish the world’s largest auto market as a leader for green technology. […] Investors have flooded into the electric vehicle sector as the Chinese government pushes for new energy vehicles to comprise 25 per cent of car sales by 2025.


Chinese Government to Randomly Check Student Theses for Plagiarism  (January 8, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Starting this year, Chinese education authorities will institute random checks on students’ undergraduate theses to crack down on plagiarism, ghostwriting, and other forms of academic misconduct.

Health / Environment

Podcast: Inside the investigation into how Covid-19 began  (January 11, 2021, The Guardian)
This week a team of international experts from the WHO will arrive in China to investigate the origins of Covid-19. A year into the pandemic, Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley looks at what questions still need to be answered.

WHO travels to China to investigate origins of COVID-19  (January 11, 2021, Christian Science Monitor)
Scientists with the World Health Organization plan to visit China this week for its first on-the-ground investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. So far, all research by local scientists must be approved by a Chinese government task force.

Emptied villages. Locked campuses. How China battles a COVID-19 resurgence  (January 12, 2021, The Los Angeles Times)
More than 500 new cases have been found since Jan. 2 in Hebei, the industrial province surrounding Beijing, sparking a “wartime mode” response from Chinese authorities fearful of the virus spreading before the upcoming Spring Festival, when hundreds of millions of Chinese crisscross the country to go home each year.

China’s Sinovac defends COVID-19 vaccine after disappointing Brazil data  (January 13, 2021, Reuters)
The vaccine was just 50.4% effective at preventing symptomatic infections in the Brazilian trial, including data on “very mild” cases, researchers said on Tuesday. Last week, they said the vaccine, called CoronaVac, showed 78% efficacy against “mild-to-severe” cases.

Travel / Food

The world’s largest ice and snow festival is underway in China  (January 11, 2021, Matador Network)
Chances are you’ve seen an ice sculpture before, whether in a town competition or a museum, but this festival in China is unlike anything you’ve seen before. The Harbin Snow and Ice Festival has been held in Harbin, China, since 1985. The festival went ahead this year as planned — minus the events and performances that would have brought large crowds together in one place.

This former Shanghai airport has been turned into a sustainable urban park  (January 12, 2021, Matador Network)
Longhua Airport operated for over 80 years before closing for good in 2011. Since April 2020, the airport’s runway has been known as The Xuhui Runway Park, a 36.16-acre urban park with gardens, a large expanse of lawn, a wetland, fountains, rows of trees, bike lanes, and pedestrian paths.

Wok On With These Legit Authentic English-Language Chinese Recipe Sites  (January 12, 2021, The Beijinger)
Many recipes in Chinese can be a bit vague – How much is a “suitable amount of soy sauce?” – and some recipes in English don’t necessarily give the kind of results that those of us who are used to dining out in China would be looking for. However, there are a few websites that do a great job of covering Chinese cooking in English, offering recipes for everything from basic stir-fries to complex noodles and dim sum.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

How Emperor Qin Shi Huang Got His New Clothes  (January 8, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Since the 1980s, China’s harsh first emperor has become a popular subject for sensitive, revisionist portrayals in TV and film.

Language / Language Learning

‘China-watching’ is a lucrative business. But whose language do the experts speak?  (January 13, 2021, The Guardian)
The question of whether one needs to be able to speak Chinese to understand China has never been so fraught.

Living Cross-culturally

Reflections on Returning “Home”  (January 11, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
We’ve been back in the US for almost a year and a half. It’s hard to believe. The time has gone by fast, and it’s beginning to feel like home again. Some say “home is where the heart is.” I think a better point of view might be “home is where God has us at this point in time.”


Ethnographies of Islam In China  (University of Hawaii Press)
The authors show the multifarious nature of China’s Islam revival, which defies any reductive portrayal that paints it as a unified development motivated by a common ideology, and demonstrate how it was embedded in China’s broader economic transition.

Links for Researchers

Buying Silence: The Price of Internet Censorship in China  (January 12, 2021, China Brief)
This article synthesizes information from more than 85 budget and expense reports and dozens of supplemental documents from Chinese government and Party offices involved in internet censorship.It finds that these offices were authorized to spend more than $6.6 billion on tasks related to monitoring and guiding online public opinion (网络舆情, wangluo yuqing) in 2020, demonstrating that web censorship is one of the CCP’s top priorities

MERICS China Forecast 2021: Survey on European China Policy  (January 13, 2021, MERICS)

Pray for China

January 19 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Jan. 19, 1887, Ernest Yin Renxian (尹任先先生), a distinguished civil servant and Christian educator, was born in Hunan. After graduating from Harvard, in 1924 Yin married Columbia graduate, Faith Ding Suyun (丁素筠女士), the daughter of famous evangelist Ding Limei (丁立美牧师). The death of their first son led them from nominal faith to a true walk with the Lord and an active ministry to families of the government officials with whom Yin worked. In 1943 they founded a Christian school that survived only a few years until the communist takeover. Ding Suyun passed away in 1955 and Yin in 1964. Pray for Christians in government to trust God in all things. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

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