ZGBriefs | January 2, 2020

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Featured Article

Outspoken Chinese Pastor Wang Yi Sentenced to 9 Years in Prison  (December 30, 2019, Christianity Today)
China on Monday sentenced a prominent pastor who operated outside the Communist Party–recognized Protestant organization to nine years in prison. The People’s Intermediate Court in the southwestern city of Chengdu said pastor Wang Yi was also convicted of illegal business operations, was fined, and had his personal assets seized.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China's leaders seeking to 'draw strength from weakness' in 2020  (December 28, 2019, The Guardian)
China under the leadership of Xi Jinping will enter 2020 on the back foot, after a year of converging crises. More than seven months of protests on its doorstep in Hong Kong have captured global attention and mobilised citizens to push back against Beijing’s influence over the city.

In China’s Crackdown on Muslims, Children Have Not Been Spared  (December 28, 2019, The New York Times)
In Xinjiang the authorities have separated nearly half a million children from their families, aiming to instill loyalty to China and the Communist Party.

China and Twitter: The year China got louder on social media  (December 29, 2019, BBC)
But in 2019 something new started to happen – as Chinese ministries and senior diplomats started signing on to Twitter in an official capacity and tweeting in a somewhat undiplomatic tone. The BBC has identified 55 Twitter accounts run by Chinese diplomats, embassies and consulates, 32 of which were established in 2019.

Hong Kong’s crisis drags on  (December 30, 2019, East Asia Forum)
It’s been over six months since peaceful protests started in Hong Kong in response to a proposed extradition treaty with China. The situation continues to deteriorate as episodes of violence spiral out of control.

Rare Chinese Bureaucratic Shakeup Reveals Future Leaders  (December 30, 2019, Bloomberg)
China’s sprawling bureaucracy is undergoing a regionalreshuffle of a rare scale, with new appointments and job swaps offering hints of potential future leaders being groomed by Beijing.

What’s Next for Taiwan?: A ChinaFile Conversation  (December 30, 2019, China File)
In early December, Taipei’s populist mayor Ko Wen-je said Beijing was too distracted by the situations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and by China’s slowing economy, to focus on Taiwan. But many fear Beijing will meddle in the election. What’s at stake in the 2020 Taiwanese election? And what role will Beijing play?

Inside China’s Push to Turn Muslim Minorities Into an Army of Workers  (December 30, 2019, The New York Times)
The Communist Party wants to remold Xinjiang’s minorities into loyal blue-collar workers to supply Chinese factories with cheap labor.

China Tries to Put Sweden on Ice  (December 30, 2019, The Diplomat)
Relations between China and Sweden have taken a nosedive with threats, trade restrictions, and the indictment of an ambassador.

Is China coming full circle by repeating the Qing court’s self-defeating mistakes?  (December 31, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Xi’s China is implementing an ambitious vision through projects like the Belt and Road Initiative. Yet, when it comes to Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Beijing’s decision-making processes seem as obstinate as those in Qing China.

China has a grand, strategic plan. We don’t’: how Djibouti became a microcosm of Beijing’s growing foothold in Africa  (December 31, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Above ground in the tiny but strategically located country of Djibouti, signs of China’s presence are everywhere. Chinese entities have financed and built Africa’s  biggest port, a railway to Ethiopia and the country’s first overseas naval base here. 

Five Chinese human rights lawyers, activists detained after secret gathering  (January 1, 2020, South China Morning Post)
At least five Chinese human rights  lawyers and activists have been rounded up over the past week as part of a government crackdown that is set to continue into the new year, according to a Hong Kong-based organisation that works to protect human rights defenders in China.

China’s Monumental Year  (January 1, 2020, Foreign Policy)
On the first day of 2020, here is China Brief’s year in review: Five stories from Foreign Policyand five pieces from other outlets that deepened our knowledge of China in 2019.


A Brief Look at Leadership Structure in Urban Registered Churches  (December 20, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
With this topic we enter a labyrinth. After 12 years of working with churches, some of this still remains a mystery to me. But Chinese registered church organization is not completely opaque. One fact stands out: there is no doubt that the senior pastor occupies a prominent place.

China’s New Civil Religion  (December 21, 2019, The New York Times)
Perched atop a hillock overlooking the sprawling capital, the temple is a microcosm of a new civil religion taking shape in China — an effort by the Chinese Communist Party to satisfy Chinese people’s search for moral guidelines by supplementing the largely irrelevant ideology of communism with a curated version of the past.

The Lianghui and Registered Churches: Friends or Foes?  (December 23, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
The Lianghui is one of those things that falls into the category of “church with Chinese characteristics.” If one considers the registered church to be a denomination in the Western sense, then one could conceive of the Lianghui as the local, regional, and national organization of the church. But the registered church is not a denomination and the Lianghui is not exactly a church organization.

Facial Recognition and the Church  (December 24, 2019, Chinese Church Voices)
That technology now extends into some areas of church life as well. China Christian Daily recently reported that facial and biometric recognition technology is already being implemented in the church in Hubei. While many fear the potential abuse of such technology, one local pastor defends its use. Let’s listen in to their report.

Silent Night  (December 25, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
“Silent Night” is probably the most loved of all Christmas carols in China, at least among those who know Christmas carols. In this society, “sweet” music tends to be favored by the masses and “Silent Night” is definitely in the “sweet” music category. In Chinese, it is called “平安夜” (“Ping An Ye,” “Peaceful and Calm Night”)Somehow, in the past few years, Christmas Eve has come to be known as the Silent Night—Ping An Ye.

American Missionaries in Dengzhou Series: The Crawfords and Monument Street Church  (December 27, 2019, China Christian Daily)
Today's Penglai Huahe Church, known as the "Monument Street Church", was built by Crawford out of his personal investment in 1871. Tarleton Perry Crawford, from Kentucky, US, came to China with his wife in 1852 as a missionary of the Southern Baptist Church (SBC). 

A Song for the Year  (December 30, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
Often I find new songs and decide I like them. Sometimes a song finds me and I cannot get it out of my mind. This is the story of one such song that has become popular among Chinese Christians.

Will Chinese House Churches Survive the Latest Government Crackdown?  (December 31, 2019, Christianity Today)
Nevertheless, tens of thousands of jiating churches of various sizes persist throughout China, and most have been firm in rejecting the Three-Self committee. While large congregations have had to break into smaller groups for worship and prayer meetings, many jiating churches continue to baptize new members and plan for overseas missions.

US calls on China to release jailed Early Rain church founder Wang Yi  (January 2, 2020, South China Morning Post)
“We are alarmed that Pastor Wang Yi … was tried in secret and sentenced to nine years in prison in connection to this peaceful advocacy for religious freedom. We call for his immediate and unconditional release,” department spokesman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

Society / Life

A Small, But Growing Number Of People In China Say They Care About Data Privacy  (December 27, 2019, NPR)
China surveils its citizens but doesn't do a good job of protecting the information it collects. Now a small number of privacy advocates are saying the country should do more.

How Li Ziqi Repackages Rural China For Urban Fantasies  (December 27, 2019, Sixth Tone)
Conversations about the social media star tend to focus on her international popularity, but what do her Chinese fans see in her?

Inside the Chinese jail behind the Christmas card scandal  (December 28, 2019, The Guardian)
Now the Observer has gathered testimony from six former inmates of Qingpu prison who describe in unprecedented detail the conditions they claim they were forced to endure during their incarceration in China. These include being forced to work for a pittance and in some cases tortured for disobeying prison authorities.

The Woman with Bound Feet: Stories from Humans of China, Yunnan  (December 30, 2019, Wild China Blog)
From the Song Dynasty to as recently as the late-1940s, the practice endured. Today, most of the remaining women with bound feet can be found tucked away in the remote corners of rural China. 

One-Third of Chinese Millennials and Gen Z Indifferent to Marriage, Study Finds  (December 30, 2020, Radii China)
A telling report from dating site Zhenai and the data-driven 36r is making the rounds, exposing the younger generation’s increasingly detached love lives. Drawing on data from Gen Z and millennial subjects 30 years old, which, according to the idiom “而立之年,” is the age when most young people stand up, it provides a detailed analysis of the dating scene, Chinese singles’ romantic and professional preferences, and even their preferred breakup methods. 

Economics / Trade / Business

The Year in Social Credit: Where is Corporate Social Credit Going in 2020 and Beyond?  (December 27, 2019, China Business Review)
There is a widespread misconception that 2020 is the year in which some kind of master switch will be flipped, and the SCS will suddenly come to life—in reality, the the system is already very much alive, and these regulations have legs. 

Tesla delivers first China-made Model 3s to its own workers  (December 30, 2019, CNN)
Tesla broke ground on its Shanghai factory just under a year ago. Now, it's producing cars for customers. Fifteen employees of the electric carmaker become the first customers to receive Model 3s produced in China during a ceremony at the factory on Monday, according to Tesla. 

China’s New Foreign Investment Law and Intellectual Property Protections, Part 2  (December 31, 2019, China Law Blog)
Depriving a foreign investor of their IPR in a way that violates TRIPs could give that investor an ISDS claim under a Chinese BIT.

Trump sets date for signing US-China 'deal'  (December 31, 2019, BBC)
Donald Trump has announced he will sign a long-awaited trade agreement with China on 15 January. The pact, a "phase one" deal, is expected to reduce tensions between the two economic giants. The US president said the treaty would be signed in Washington in the presence of "high level representatives" from China.

Money pumped into China's economy in attempt to fight slowdown  (January 1, 2020, The Guardian)
The People’s Bank of China is allowing commercial banks to hold less capital in reserve, freeing up about 800bn yuan (£87bn) in new funds for loans. It will cut China’s banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR) by 50 basis points, to 12.5%, from 6 January. The move means lenders can lend more of their savers’ funds to borrowers to support the economy, rather than keeping it on hand.

13 China Predictions for 2020  (January 1, 2020, China Law Blog)
Not gonna beat around the bush here. 2019 was a tough year for foreign companies that do business in or with China and we see 2020 only getting tougher.

Health / Environment

2019: The Year China Went to War on Garbage  (December 27, 2019, Sixth Tone)
In China’s major cities, people started talking trash with the introduction of strict — at times baffling — new waste-sorting schemes.

Beijing Doctor Brutally Killed by Patient’s Son  (December 28, 2019, Sixth Tone)
In the weeks before the attack, medical staff had reported numerous conflicts with the patient’s relatives to the hospital’s management.

China jails 'gene-edited babies' scientist for three years  (December 30, 2019, BBC)
He Jiankui was convicted of violating a government ban by carrying out his own experiments on human embryos, to try to give them protection against HIV. He was globally condemned when he announced his experiments, and the birth of twin babies, last November. Xinhua news agency said a third baby was also born at the same time, which had not previously been confirmed.

China probes mystery pneumonia outbreak amid SARS fears  (December 31, 2019, AFP)
Authorities are investigating an outbreak of viral pneumonia in central China amid online speculation that it might be linked to SARS, the flu-like virus that killed hundreds of people a decade ago. There were 27 cases of "viral pneumonia of unknown origin" reported in Wuhan, in central Hubei province, the city's health commission said in a statement.

How China’s opioid addicts get their drugs from an online black market  (December 31, 2019, South China Morning Post)
China has some of the world’s strictest opioid regulations, but OxyContin and other pain pills are sold illegally online by vendors who take advantage of the country’s major e-commerce and social media sites, including platforms run by Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba.

Science / Technology

How the Smart Phone Completely transformed China in a decade  (December 30, 2019, Inkstone)
Most of the apps that permeate the daily life of Li, and hundreds of millions of other Chinese, began at the start of the decade.

China’s Top Tech Trends of 2019  (December 31, 2019, Sixth Tone)
From the trade war and 5G race to labor and facial-recognition disputes, China’s 2019 in tech has been filled with challenges, changes, and even charges.

China Will Complete Its Own Version of GPS in 2020  (January 1, 2020, Radii China)
When future generations look back at the development of China’s ambitious space program, 2020 will likely be remembered as the year China completed its own satellite navigation network, freeing it from dependence on the US-run Global Positioning System (GPS).

History / Culture

Christmas in Peking’s foreign colony: ice skating and overindulgence but no turkey  (December 14, 2019, South China Morning Post)
In the first half of the 20th century, Peking paid little attention to Christmas. By then, the resident Chinese were already busy preparing for Lunar New Year. But in the strictly demarcated Legation Quarter, at the heart of the city’s foreign community, yuletide memories were invariably fond.

Travel / Food

Travel to Hainan Island – The Complete Guide (December 27, 2019, Sapore di Cina)
Hainan is considered a Chinese province, in the southernmost part of China; it was the final province conquered by the army of the Communist Party not too long ago in 1950. In the past, Hainan was an area isolated from the rest of the Chinese empire, mainly used for sending into exile characters like Su Dongpo and Hai Rui.

The Unexpected history of Chinese-Canadian food (Hint: it’s not ‘fake Chinese’)  (December 27, 2019, Inkstone news)
A writer traveled across Canada, visiting as many Chinese-Canadian restaurants as she could, to learn the culturally distinct cuisine.

Food Trends in 2020: What Will China Be Eating?  (January 2, 2020, Radii China)
Since China’s opening up in the late 1970s, the modern meal in the country has changed drastically. With increased wealth and modernization, China’s food landscape began to change, and diets along with it. As a nation of 1.43 billion people, and more spending power than ever, what China puts on its dinner plate affects trade, agriculture, and food trends globally. From takeout to tracking calories, here are some things we can expect for Chinese eaters in 2020.

Language / Language Learning

Study Chinese in Singapore: Best Schools and Universities  (January 2, 2020, Sapore di Cina)
Having said that, Singapore has some notable pros and cons if you plan to study Chinese there. In this article, we review what the main benefits and drawbacks are. I will also list universities and private schools that offer programs and courses in Chinese and how much it costs.

Links for Researchers

Review of Religion and Chinese Society (December 2019, Brill)


Reflecting on 2019; Preparing for 2020 (Global Trellis)
An un-reflected on year is like a blob of vines. Wisdom comes when you ask searching questions, untangling and providing direction for the different parts of your life. This challenge is specifically for people on the field and will help you and the Lord reflect on 2019 and plan and dream for 2020. 

Image credit: by Mussi Katz, via Flickr
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