ZGBriefs | January 16, 2020

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Featured Article

China can't rule out new virus spreading between humans  (January 15, 2020, CBS News)
The possibility that a new virus in central China could spread between humans cannot be ruled out, though the risk of transmission at the moment appears to be low, Chinese officials said Wednesday. Forty-one people in the city of Wuhan have received a preliminary diagnosis of a novel coronavirus, a family of viruses that can cause both the common cold and more serious diseases. 

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Date: February 10, 2020
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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Beijing’s New Man in Hong Kong  (January 9, 2020, The Diplomat)
Luo Huining is the new Liaison Office chief. Does that signal a new approach from Beijing toward the Hong Kong unrest?

How Village Cadres Went From Power Brokers to Pencil Pushers  (January 10, 2020, Sixth Tone)
This gradual professionalization of the village cadre ranks may seem like a net positive for rural governance, as village leaders spend more time working with — and for — their constituents, but the truth is considerably more complex. Underlying it is the broader political transformation of the Chinese village from a relatively autonomous unit to an enfeebled state appendage.

HRW chief 'denied entry to Hong Kong' ahead of critical China report  (January 12, 2020, BBC)
The head of US-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says he has been denied entry to Hong Kong, where he had been planning to launch a report focusing on China's "assault" on human rights. HRW said the move to block Kenneth Roth highlighted "vanishing freedoms" as a result of pressure from Beijing.

Difficult times for China’s political elite (January 13, 2020, East Asia Forum)
He wants a deal done but cannot be seen as weak. He wants to make China more self-sufficient but needs access to foreign technologies to make that happen. The unusual events of the past few years, which saw China become the primary proponent of an international order it didn’t establish, are therefore likely to continue into 2020.

Chinese woman’s song urging son to find Lunar New Year love becomes viral hit  (January 14, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The song quickly gained fans for its earnest lyrics, while an accompanying video of Tao’s parents dancing added to its appeal. The People’s Daily Weibo repost attracted thousands of likes and shares, and by Monday the video had been watched more than 6 million times.

Beijing says Taiwan's unification with China is 'inevitable' despite election result  (January 14, 2020, The Guardian)
Beijing has said that anyone seeking to keep Taiwan separate from China would “leave a stink for 10,000 years” in its strongest remarks since the re-election of Tsai Ing-Wen, who opposes unification with China.

Tsai Ing-wen says China must 'face reality' of Taiwan's independence  (January 15, 2020, The Guardian)
Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen has called on China to “face reality” and “review” its current policy toward the de facto nation that Beijing claims is part of its territory. Tsai, who won re-election in a landslide victory on Saturday, told reporters: “We hope China can thoroughly understand the opinion and will expressed by Taiwanese people in this election and review their current policies.”

Germany raids offices, homes of suspected China spies  (January 15, 2020, Reuters)
Der Spiegel magazine, which first reported the raids, said one of the three suspects was a German national who until 2017 had worked as a senior diplomat for the European Union’s foreign service, including multiple stints as an EU ambassador.

China is waging a global propaganda war to silence critics abroad, report warns  (January 15, 2020, The Washington Post)
Not content with pervasive censorship and state control of almost all media at home, the ruling Communist Party under President Xi Jinping has dramatically stepped up its efforts to disseminate its version of events.

Trump Signs 'Phase 1' China Trade Deal, But Most Tariffs Remain In Place  (January 15, 2020, NPR)
A year and a half after launching his trade war against China, President Trump signed a partial truce on Wednesday. […] The president agreed to relax some of the tariffs he imposed on Chinese imports. In exchange, Beijing has agreed to buy more American products and make other changes.


Changchun Church Holds Relief Event to Target Poverty  (January13, 2020, China Christian Daily)
In recent days, the pastoral staff of Hexin Church in Helong Town, Nong'an County, Changchun, Jilin paid three visits to a local social welfare service center. The church made a decision that the volunteers would show care to the elderly residents of the Helong Town Social Welfare Service Center of Nong'an County through monthly visits. 

An Artist Reflects on “Do You Love Me”  (January 14, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
In this article from the journal Territory, artist Bai Yan brings to life our love for specific idols that can overtake our love for the Lord. Each painting contains an “illumination” or insight as well as a verse from Scripture related to the painting.

3 Ways Christians in China Can Support Blind People  (January 15, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
China has 17 million visually impaired people, of which 6 million are completely blind. The situation for people who are blind or have visual impairments in China has improved significantly over the last few decades. 

Society / Life

Hong Kong: nearly a third of adults report PTSD symptoms – study  (January 10, 2020, The Guardian)
Nearly one in three adults in Hong Kong reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder during months of often violent social unrest in the city, according to a study published in the Lancet medical journal on Friday. 

With nothing to lose, loners build future in China's hollowed-out north  (January 12, 2020, Reuters)
With China’s economic growth at a 30-year nadir and living costs chronically high, cheap homes in hollowed-out cities are pulling a small tribe of frugal and independent-minded millennials to Heilongjiang. 

China’s subways track commuters as security takes on a silent, hi-tech face  (January 13, 2020, South China Morning Post)
With so many people using the subway network, China has made security a priority, resulting in Li’s cold morning inconvenience. Many more commuters are unhappy with the delays. Authorities have suggested they can solve part of the problem by using facial recognition systems on subways,  but that’s getting a mixed response because of privacy worries.

Chinese student Wu Huayan dies after living on pennies a day  (January 14, 2020, BBC)
A severely malnourished student who survived on just 2 yuan ($0.30, £0.20) per day for years to support her brother has died, Chinese media say. Wu Huayan's plight shocked China when pictures of the young woman, who weighed just over 20kg (43lb), emerged last year. She was admitted to hospital with breathing problems in October 2019.

China has a problem with people throwing trash off tall buildings  (January 14, 2020, Inkstone News)
Between mid-2016 and 2018, courts around the mainland heard 31 criminal cases involving objects falling from tall buildings, half of which caused deaths. Over the same period, more than 1,200 civil cases were heard, of which 30% involved personal injury, according to the research office of the Supreme People’s Court.

Nike Woos Chinese Customers With Spring Festival Ad  (January 14, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Many viewers in the country have applauded the American sportswear brand for showcasing the festival’s human side.

Sleepless in China  (January 14, 2020, The World of Chinese)
Ji is one of millions of insomniacs in China. It’s by no means a new issue—a proverb from the Warring States Period described a king as being “unable to sleep soundly in bed” (寝不安席) due to anxiety over matters of state—but nowadays, modern problems such as pressures of work, noise pollution, and the constant use of digital devices are more often blamed for sleeplessness.

CCTV shows huge sinkhole swallowing bus in China killing at least six – video  (January 14, 2020, The Guardian)
The footage, shown on state media, shows the road suddenly collapsing, swallowing the bus when it was picking up passengers at a stop. The incident, outside a hospital in Qinghai province, also triggered an explosion inside the hole.

New Law Requiring 'Ethnic Unity' in Tibet Raises Concerns  (July 15, 2020, Radio Free Asia)
Passed on Saturday by the regional legislature of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and set to take effect on May 1, the law requires equal participation by non-Tibetan ethnic groups at all levels of government and in schools, private business companies, religious centers, and the military, according to state media reports.

Going Home: Why 春运 Means Much More Than the "World's Largest Human Migration"  (January 15, 2020, The Beijinger)
Whether you dub it the largest migration on the Earth or the ultimate test for Chinese public transportation system, the names for this annual family reunion migration are many.

Economics / Trade / Business

China’s truck drivers see dead end ahead amid rising costs and new toll system  (January 12, 2020, South China Morning Post)
“We truck drivers live away from our families and often eat and sleep alone in the small truck cab. The past two years I’ve been living this way, but I’m still not earning enough to support my family and make the truck [loan] repayment,” Wang said at a logistics park on the outskirts of Shenzhen in the southern Guangdong province.

A Maine Paper Mill’s Unexpected Savior: China  (January 15, 2020, The New York Times)
First came the Buddhist monks. Then the feng shui consultant. In the summer, a battered New England mill town greeted the new owner of its factory — one of the richest tycoons in China.

How China Obtains American Trade Secrets  (January 15, 2020, The New York Times)
The American authorities have long accused  Chinese companies and individuals of hacking and other outright theft of American corporate secrets. And some in the Trump administration worry that Chinese companies are simply buying it through corporate deals.


Chinese Students Say Free Speech in US Chilled by China  (January 14, 2020, VOA News)
Chinese students said they were concerned about being watched by fellow Chinese students. One student said he feared it would negatively impact his family back in China, his future, and his visa.

Health / Environment

Wuhan pneumonia outbreak: First case reported outside China  (January 14, 2020, BBC)
A tourist in Thailand has become the first person outside China diagnosed with a new, pneumonia-like virus that has already infected dozens of people. The woman was quarantined after landing in Bangkok from Wuhan, eastern China, where the outbreak began in December. One person has died and 41 cases of the virus have been recorded so far.

Science / Technology

Skype audio graded by workers in China with 'no security measures'  (January 10, 2020, The Guardian)
A Microsoft programme to transcribe and vet audio from Skype and Cortana, its voice assistant, ran for years with “no security measures”, according to a former contractor who says he reviewed thousands of potentially sensitive recordings on his personal laptop from his home in Beijing over the two years he worked for the company.

China's SIM Card Registration Laws Among the World's Strictest  (January 10, 2020, The Beijinger)
China is among the world's worst countries for SIM card registration laws, and among the most invasive when it comes to privacy, according to a recent report by UK-based technology website Comparitech.

WeChat is Watching You: Quick Takeaways From WeChat's 2019 Stats Review  (January 14, 2020, The Beijinger)
The latest report summarizes data up until September of 2019.

History / Culture

Liang Jun: China's first female tractor driver, and national icon, dies  (January 15, 2020, BBC News)
In 1948, Liang Jun became the only female in China to take up the job, when she enrolled in a training class for tractor drivers. More than a decade later, an image of her proudly driving a tractor was featured on China's one-yuan banknote.

Travel / Food

China’s world-famous ice festival is a feast for the eyes  (January 14, 2020, Inkstone News)
Every year, the northern city of Harbin puts on a festival that features structures — sometimes delicate, oftentimes gigantic and always beautiful — built entirely out of snow and ice. This year's festival is no different. It features frozen worlds, ice dragons and even the occasional penguin parade. 

Wannabe Starbucks Killer Luckin is Now “the Biggest Coffee Chain in China”  (January 9, 2020, Radii China)
Luckin Coffee, the much-hyped Chinese Starbucks challenger, have overtaken Starbucks to become for the “number one coffee chain in China,” according to an announcement from the company. At the end of 2019, the domestic chain had 4,500 locations while the American coffee giant had 4,300. 

Arts / Entertainment / Media

WATCH: Chinese Promo Videos for “The Farewell” Will Definitely Make You Cry  (January 10, 2020, Radii China)
In a Chinese promo video for The Farewell, a theater full of standing people is asked, “Whoever visited their grandparents in the last three months, sit down.” A series of similar questions follows. After the final question, “Whoever told their grandparents ‘I miss you’ in the past month, sit down,” half the room is still left standing.

Looking Up: A Film Review  (January 13, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
The story is simple. A father is framed for designing a bridge that collapsed in a small town in China. His young son adores him but during his time in jail, the two become estranged. Several years later, upon the father’s release, he makes every effort to reconnect with his son, make up for lost time, and raise him to be the man that he knows he’s destined to be. 

Language / Language Learning

Rat in a China Shop  (January 15, 2020, The World of Chinese)
January 25 will mark the start of the Year of the Rat, but, though animated stars Mickey and Jerry enjoy great popularity among Chinese audiences, the animal still has a generally negative reputation in Chinese culture. 

Links for Researchers

2020 World Watch List report  (Open Doors)
Each year, the World Watch List provides an unparalleled glimpse into the 50 places around the world where it costs the most to be a Christian. (registration required to download)

2019 Annual Report (Congressional-Executive Commission on China)

Beijing's Global Megaphone: The Expansion of Chinese Communist Party Media Influence since 2017(Freedom House)
New research illustrates the ways in which CCP's media influence is extending far beyond the borders of mainland China to reach audiences around the globe, via three key tactics: global censorship, propaganda, and control over content-delivery systems. 

Video: Forecast of China's Economy and the Trade War for 2020  (January 14, 2020, National Committee of U.S.-China Relations, via YouTube)
As the trade war and political frictions between the United States and China continue to affect both countries and the global economy, leading Chinese and American economists convened in New York on January 9 to provide a forecast for China’s economy in the coming year, including macro-economic trends, reform possibilities, in-depth analysis of key sectors, and expected challenges and opportunities in 2020 and beyond. 

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