ZGBriefs | January 21, 2021

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Featured Article

Why 1.2 billion people share the same 100 surnames in China  (January 16, 2021, CNN)
With 1.37 billion citizens, China has the world’s largest population, but has one of the smallest surname pools. Only about 6,000 surnames are in use, according to the Ministry of Public Security. And the vast majority of the population — almost 86% — share just 100 of those surnames.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China seeks to shore up friendships in Africa  (January 14, 2021, MERICS)
Anticipating competition from a more internationally engaged Biden administration, Beijing is seeking a head start by shoring up ties with developing country partners.

Hong Kong: 11 more national security arrests over attempted boat escape to Taiwan  (January 14, 2021, The Guardian)
Hong Kong police have arrested 11 people under the national security law for allegedly helping 12 pro-democracy activists accused of attempting to flee the city by boat for Taiwan last year, local media and activists have reported. Police arrested eight men and three women aged 18 to 72 for “assisting offenders”, according to the South China Morning Post, which cited unnamed sources.

US: China ‘committed genocide against Uighurs’  (January 20, 2021, BBC)
China has committed genocide in its repression of the Uighurs and other mainly Muslim peoples, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday.  President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has said he agrees with the finding.

Xi Jinping, Headline Columnist  (January 20, 2021, China Media Beat)
Seeking Truth, the Chinese Communist Party’s bi-monthly theoretical journal, rang in the New Year on January 1 with a headline piece from the most prominent political contributor possible – none other than General Secretary Xi Jinping. The article, “Working Together to Build a Community of Shared Destiny for Mankind” (共同构建人类命运共同体), was addressed to an audience of international diplomats. “Ladies, gentlemen and friends,” it began.

The Decades-Old Move That Got the CCP Through the COVID-19 Crisis  (January 20, 2021, Sixth Tone)
he CCP has always claimed to represent the entire nation, but it was the decision some 20 years ago to ease entrance barriers that helped make promise a reality.

China Slaps Sanctions On 28 Trump Administration Officials, Including Mike Pompeo  (January 20, 2021, NPR)
In a statement released just minutes after President Biden took office, China’s foreign ministry said it had decided to sanction those “who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues.” 


Children’s Day and Other Sparks of a Prolife Movement in China  (January 18, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
In 2013, I first learned of a campaign linking China’s June 1st national holiday— “Children’s Day,” to a call to treasure human life in the womb and to reject abortion. The modest call to conscience was “Don’t abort on Children’s Day.”

Praying for Shijiazhuang  (January 19, 2021. Chinese Church Voices)
In the past several weeks, China has seen outbreaks of COVID-19. Worst hit is Heibei province, which borders the capital Beijing. Once thought to be all but rid of the virus, the country has been on alert after the sudden rise in cases. This outbreak comes on the cusp of Chinese New Year, the largest annual human migration in the world. 

Youth Hymns and Chinese Christian Hymnody in the Mid-Twentieth Century  (January 20, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
Youth Hymns represents the early years of my Christian experience. During my high school days in Hong Kong in the early 2000s, the tunes from this hymnalwere part of nearly all morning assemblies at my Protestant school. For most of the teachers who led the assembly, they symbolized the standard for Christian hymns. Perhaps not many of them knew that those tunes were considered “too modern” in the 1970s. 

Society / Life

China rescuers prepare escape route for trapped gold miners  (January 19, 2021, Reuters)
Rescue teams on Wednesday drilled new holes down a gold mine in China’s Shandong province, searching for more survivors after an explosion 10 days ago and preparing an escape passage for a group known to still be alive, state media reported.

Economics / Trade / Business

PayPal becomes first foreign firm in China with full ownership of payments business  (January 13, 2020, Reuters)
In taking full control of one of the smaller players in the world’s largest payment market, PayPal will compete with domestic payments giants Alipay, owned by Alibaba-affiliated Ant Group, and WeChat Pay, owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd, as China fully opens up its financial sector.

China’s economy grows 2.3% in 2020 as recovery quickens  (January 18, 2021, CNN)
The world’s second largest economy expanded 2.3% in 2020 compared to a year earlier, according to government statistics released Monday. It’s China’s slowest annual growth rate in decades — not since 1976 has the country had a worse year, when GDP shrunk 1.6% during a time of social and economic tumult.

China’s Richest Man Makes First Public Appearance Since October  (January 20, 2021, VOA News)
Ma appeared in a 50-second video Wednesday published on Chinese financial news outlets congratulating rural teachers who have been supported by his charitable foundation, vowing that he and his colleagues would devote themselves to educational philanthropy.   

Audi to make electric cars with China’s oldest carmaker FAW  (January 20, 2021, BBC)
Audi is teaming up with China’s oldest carmaker FAW to produce luxury electric vehicles. FAW is China’s third largest carmaker, and counts Hongqi – or Red Flag – limousines for China’s communist party leaders among its products. […]  The $4.6bn facility is set to open in 2024 in Chungchun in China’s Northeast, according to Audi.


China’s College Graduates Can’t Find Jobs. The Solution: Grad School.  (January 18, 2021, The New York Times)
The government is expanding university capacity, but some young people worry that the option will only postpone a crisis stemming from a shortage of well-paying work.

Health / Environment

New map shows where China’s latest virus cases are clustered  (January 19, 2021, CNBC)
The persistent spread of the virus, particularly in the province of Hebei that surrounds Beijing, has prompted authorities to lock down several regions and urge people nationwide not to travel during the upcoming Lunar New Year festival.

Shanghai Kicks Off Mass COVID-19 Vaccination Drive  (January 20, 2021, Sixth Tone)
More than 800,000 people have received the first shot in a two-dose course as the city ramps up its inoculation campaign ahead of the Spring Festival holiday season.

COVID-19 Test Required for Spring Festival Travel, China Says  (January 20, 2021, Sixth Tone)
At a press conference Wednesday, China’s National Health Commission announced that people traveling over the holiday period will need to show a negative test issued up to seven days before their departure, though it’s unclear how the new rule will be enforced. The Ministry of Transport estimates that some 1.7 billion trips will be made around this year’s Spring Festival — around 40% fewer than in 2019, when there wasn’t a pandemic hanging over people’s holiday travel plans.

China builds massive Covid-19 quarantine camp for 4,000 people as outbreak continues  (January 20, 2021, CNN)
China is rushing to build a massive quarantine camp that can house more than 4,000 people, after an outbreak of Covid-19 this month that has left tens of millions of people under strict lockdown. The quarantine camp is located on the outskirts of Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital of Hebei province, which surrounds the country’s capital, Beijing.

History / Culture

The Great Educator  (January 14, 2021, The World of Chinese)
It was May 1919, and from a small desk in his simple office at Peking University, Cai Yuanpei (蔡元培) could see the campus buzzing with activity. For days now, his students–and several of his faculty–had been busy giving speeches, preparing pamphlets, and painting signs denouncing imperialism and the fecklessness of the Chinese government. Cai’s students viewed themselves as saviors of the nation. 

On the Character: 帽  (January 15, 2021, The World of Chinese)
Clothes might make the man, but historically in China, headgear gave a person their pomp and rank. Since at least the Spring and Autumn period (770 – 476 BCE), 冠冕制度 (guānmiǎn zhìdù), literally the “law of headdresses,” governed what each class of ancient Chinese society could wear. It was named after the two types of head-coverings reserved for nobles and emperors—what today would be generically called 帽 (mào, hat).

The Story of Laba  (January 20, 2021, The World of Chinese)
Today, Chinese people all over the world will enjoy a steaming bowl of 腊八粥 (làbā zhōu), rice porridge cooked with beans, nuts, and dried fruit. That’s because it is the Laba Festival (腊八节), a traditional holiday celebrated on the eighth day of Layue (腊月), the 12th lunar month. The ancient celebration continues as people today follow various customs like ancestor worship, visiting Buddhist temples, eating laba porridge, and making laba garlic.

Travel / Food

Video: Hohhot!  (January 15, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
Originally developed as a garrison town by the Qing rulers to establish and maintain their control over the region, it is now a thriving city of close to three million.

KFC is Now Serving Wuhan’s Famous Hot and Dry Noodles  (January 18, 2021, Radii China)
Another week, another fast food localization going viral. Chinese social media isn’t entirely over McDonald’s controversial introduction of roujiamo just yet, and already it’s having to contend with KFC rolling out Chinese regional breakfast item reganmian (hot and dry noodles) in the dish’s home city of Wuhan.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Could this Covid-19 Documentary from Wuhan Win an Oscar?  (January 14, 2021, Radii China)
76 Days has qualified to compete for the Best Documentary category at this year’s Oscars, sparking considerable discussion on Chinese social media. The cut and paste documentary focuses on the human stories at the core of Wuhan’s 76-day lockdown after the first documented outbreak of the Covid-19 virus.

Wuhan calling: how the city’s punk rock scene changed China’s youth  (January 20, 2021, South China Morning Post)
Punk is still not a common sight in China, but if you do find a scene, chances are you’re in Wuhan. Although the city was in the news this year for different reasons, before Covid-19, it was known as the spiritual home of Chinese punk.

Language / Language Learning

The most serious mistake students make when learning Mandarin pronunciation  (January 19, 2021, Hacking Chinese)
As we sort the world of sound into categories, we gradually lose the ability distinguish sounds that either don’t exist in our native language(s) or that are treated as one and the same sound in our native language(s). After all, it’s rather pointless to maintain the ability to distinguish sounds that are not used to distinguish words in the language(s) you speak.


Riding a Flying Pigeon (January 18, 2021, Outside-In)
I just finished reading a book called Last Flight of the Pigeon: A Journey Across China by Bicycle, by Simon Clode, a Beijing-based British civil servant who decided — somewhat on a whim — to try to find and ride a Flying Pigeon bicycle across China from Beijing to Kashgar, a distance of 5000km (3100 miles)

Links for Researchers

Analysis of the revised Regulations on the Rights of Party Members: New-Era Obligations in the Name of Rights?  (January 20, 2021, Sinocism)
The Party recently released a revised version of the 2004 CCP Regulations on Safeguarding Party Member Rights 中共中央印发《中国共产党党员权利保障条例》. 

Congressional-Executive Commission on China 2020 Annual Report – Executive Summary (December 2020)


The World Watch List 2021: The top 50 countries where its most difficult to follow Jesus (Open Doors)

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