ZGBriefs | January 23, 2020

ZGBriefs is a compilation of links to news items from published online sources. Clicking a link will direct you to a website other than ChinaSource. ChinaSource is not responsible for the content or other features on that site. An article’s inclusion in ZGBriefs does not equal endorsement by ChinaSource. Please go here to support ZGBriefs.

Featured Article

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2020  (January 6, 2020, BBC)
Here are some of the best bits from this year's festival, in China's Heilongjiang north-east province. The annual event features ice slides, ice sculptures and even a snow-themed mass wedding.

Sponsored Link

Webinar: Contemporary Narratives about the Church in China
What we fundamentally believe about China’s church goes a long way toward determining how we will choose to engage, how we view what is desirable and what is possible. This webinar will explore four narratives about the church in China that have dominated Western Christian perceptions over the past four decades. How has our understanding of China’s past and present shaped our expectations for the future? What have been the consequences? In what ways have we become victims of our own narratives? Our stories may say as much about ourselves as they do about the church in China.

Date: February 10, 2020
Time: 7:00-8:00pm, US Central Time
Presenter: Dr. Brent Fulton
Cost: $10.00

If you or your company/organization would like to sponsor a link in ZGBriefs, please contact info@chinasource.org for more information.

Special Section: Wuhan Coronovirus

Wuhan virus: a visual explainer  (January 21, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission says that as of January 21 the virus has claimed six lives and infected at least 291 people in China. The National Health Commission of China confirmed 900 people are still under medical observation. The first cases of what was then a mystery illness were reported in December in Wuhan, the capital city of China’s Hubei province. 

Masks sold out in central Beijing due to epidemic  (January 21, 2020, China Daily)
Masks have been sold out in most drugstores in the central areas of Beijing because of soaring needs from the public due to the recent coronavirus epidemic. "All the masks sold out this morning," said the clerk at a Hedantang drugstore in Chaoyang district on Tuesday.

New China virus: US announces first case  (November 21, 2020, BBC)
The Centers for Disease Control said the virus, which originated in China, had been diagnosed in a US resident who arrived in Seattle from China. […]  The patient diagnosed in the US – reported to be a man in his 30s – returned from Wuhan on 15 January, the CDC said. "The patient sought care at a medical facility in the state of Washington, where the patient was treated for the illness," it added in a statement.

China Silences Critics Over Deadly Virus Outbreak  (January 22, 2020, The New York Times)
Today, China faces the spread of another mysterious disease, a coronavirus, which so far has killed 17 people and infected more than 540. And while Beijing’s response has improved in some ways, it has regressed in others. It is censoring criticism. It is detaining people for spreading what it calls “rumors.” It is suppressing information it deems alarming.

Outbreak wreaks havoc on China’s Lunar New Year travel plans, hitting family reunions  (January 22, 2020, South China Morning Post)
People from Wuhan and its landlocked province of Hubei were officially asked to cancel plans to travel back to the region, amid fears that the virus would  be spread further. On Wednesday morning, it was confirmed to have killed nine people and infected 440 others.

Meet the doctors working round the clock to battle China’s coronavirus outbreak  (January 22, 2020, South China Morning Post)
A doctor in Shanghai who specialises in infectious diseases says the new coronavirus  could be the most contagious disease she has ever faced in her 10 years working at a major hospital.

Wuhan: Virus-hit Chinese city to shut public transport  (January 22, 2020, BBC)
Wuhan, a Chinese city of nearly nine million people, is to temporarily shut public transport amid a virus outbreak. Those living in the city have been advised not to leave, in a week when millions of Chinese are travelling for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday. The airport and train stations will be closed to outgoing passengers.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China Announces New Changes on “Original Sin” of Residency Controls  (January 17, 2020, China Digital Times)
Bloomberg’s Sharon Chen and Dandan Li provide an overview of recent changes to China’s hukou residency permit system, which for decades has tightly controlled citizens’ rights to settle and receive public services away from their registered home areas.

Former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei jailed for bribery  (January 21, 2020, The Guardian)
The former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei, who was detained on a visit to China in 2018, has been sentenced to more than 13 years in prison for bribery in a case that has shaken the international police organisation.

The strange tale of the paid protesters supporting Meng Wanzhou at her extradition hearing  (January 21, 2020, CBC)
Two people who demonstrated in support of Meng Wanzhou outside B.C. Supreme Court during her extradition hearing say they were unwittingly recruited under false pretences and paid to be there. Meng, the CFO of Chinese tech giant Huawei, was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 at the request of the U.S., which seeks to extradite her to face charges of fraud. A number of people showed up on the first day of her hearing Monday and held signs supporting her.

Hong Kong's Lam in Davos charm drive as protests persist  (January 21, 2020, Reuters)
For Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam the World Economic Forum in Davos is a chance to convince global business and political leaders that the Asian financial hub is back on track.

U.S. State Department Appoints Envoy to Counter Chinese Influence at the U.N.  (January 22, 2020, Foreign Policy)
The Trump administration’s retreat from multilateralism left a political void that China is seeking to fill. Now, the United States wants to turn back the clock.

Party Media Focus Away From Outbreak  (January 22, 2020, China Media Project)
At the People’s Daily Online today, the epidemic appears but is pushed down below six other stories of quite questionable news relevance – unless one understands the way CCP leaders define priority and relevance.


Persecution: A Dangerous Opportunity for the Church in China?  (January 20, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
While many Chinese churches are actively or passively resisting the governmental pressure, many of them are beginning to recover from the initial shock and dismay to realize that this harsher pressure and control could be a new normal for the foreseeable future, and to ponder how the church can survive, and even flourish, in this new, harsher environment. In so doing, they are starting to reflect on what churches did in the past and to explore new ways of thinking, new approaches, and new strategies.

Untangling the Complexity of Chinese Bible Translations  (January 21, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
How many Chinese translations of the Bible are there? Which Chinese Bible translation is used most in China? In this excerpt from the Chinese version of 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible posted on “I Love Baojiayin,” Dr. Chen Ekron breaks down the history and use of Chinese Bible translation. 

Society / Life

Lacking Support, China’s Autistic Adults Search for Love  (January 16, 2020, Sixth Tone)
For millions of Chinese living with autism, finding a partner can be a challenge — and the country’s socioeconomic realities often don’t help.

The Chinese Couple Who Dared to Have a Third Child  (January 16, 2020, Sixth Tone)
After China ordered local authorities to relax their birth-control policies, a couple thought it was safe to have a third child. They were wrong.

In China, Birthrate Falls To Lowest Level In 70 Years  (January 17, 2020, NPR)
New birthrate figures show that China has so far failed to reverse the effects of its longtime one-child policy — a change that policymakers say is necessary to forestall the long-term economic consequences of an aging and shrinking population. The National Bureau of Statistics of China released the new data on Friday, the same day it announced that the country's GDP growth has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 30 years.

Battered but Resilient After China’s Crackdown  (January 18, 2020, The New York Times)
An ancient Muslim town, Yarkand is a cultural cradle for the Uighurs, who have experienced mass detentions. A rare visit revealed how people there have endured the upheavals.

Chinese city sorry for shaming people for publicly wearing pajamas  (January 21, 2020, Inkstone News)
A Chinese city has apologized for naming and shaming people for wearing pajamas in public. In a crackdown on “uncivilized behavior,” the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou on Monday publicly disclosed the information of seven citizens who fell afoul of the supposed dress code.

Passenger trips total 758m since start of Spring Festival travel rush  (January 22, 2020, China Daily)
From Jan 10 to 19, 117 million railway trips were made, up 20.3 percent from one year earlier, according to the Ministry of Transport (MOT). The country reported 612 million road trips as well as 8.84 million trips through waterway transportation, which increased by 4.8 percent year on year.

Ghosts from the Shells  (January 22, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Abandoned Japanese chemical weapons have poisoned thousands since the end of WWII. For those that survive, the battle is far from over.

Economics / Trade / Business

China’s middle class frets the ‘good times’ are over amid sliding house prices, stagnant wages  (January 16, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The urban middle class have been among the biggest winners of China’s economic boom over the past five decades, but their confidence has been shaken. China’s economic growth has slowed and their incomes and assets are taking a hit, with non-essential spending on cars, home appliances and private education cut.

China's economic growth hits 30-year low  (January 17, 2020, BBC)
China's economy grew last year at the slowest pace in almost three decades. Official figures show that the world's second largest economy expanded by 6.1% in 2019 from the year before – the worst figure in 29 years. The country has faced weak domestic demand and the impact of the bitter trade war with the US.

China Employment Laws: Be Careful with WeChat   (January 19, 2020, China Law Blog)
Despite all its brilliant features (mobile payment etc.), WeChat is not a good employer or labor management tool in China.

US-China trade rapprochement round one  (January 19, 2020, East Asia Forum)
According to the now publicised text, the deal is a more or less one-sided agreement targeting China. Over the next two years, China will need to increase imports from the United States by US$200 billion. China also needs to take steps to further open its markets, strengthen intellectual property rights protection, get rid of forced technological transfers and increase the transparency of its exchange rate policy.

China’s financial credit database of 1 billion people, 28 million companies gets an upgrade  (January 19, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The state-run database, which was introduced in 2006, is regarded as a key “national financial infrastructure project” and central to Beijing’s ambitions to create a “credit society” by this year.

Yellow or Blue? In Hong Kong, Businesses Choose Political Sides  (January 19, 2020, The New York Times)
Shops and restaurants are now being labeled either yellow, to note support for the city’s protest movement, or blue, in support of the police. The move is having a big economic impact.

China’s high-speed railway network advances full steam ahead, despite ‘grey rhino’ financial risk  (January 21, 2020, South China Morning Post)
China has expanded its high-speed railway system at a rapid pace over the past decade and at 35,000km it is now the world’s longest. Despite being a source of national pride for many Chinese, there are lingering questions about its environmental footprint, safety record and financial viability.


Chinese Universities Are Enshrining Communist Party Control In Their Charters  (January 20, 2020, NPR)
Fudan is one of at least three universities that have revised their charters since 2018, emphasizing unswerving loyalty to the Communist Party, an NPR analysis found. They have downgraded or erased language about academic freedom from their charters, while adding a new clause: "The university Communist Party committee is the core leadership of the school."

Health / Environment

Single-use plastic: China to ban bags and other items  (January 20, 2020, BBC)
China, one of the world's biggest users of plastic, has unveiled a major plan to reduce single-use plastics across the country. Non-degradable bags will be banned in major cities by the end of 2020 and in all cities and towns by 2022. The restaurant industry will also be banned from using single-use straws by the end of 2020.

China's struggle to move away from coal  (January 20, 2020, BBC)
According to the International Energy Agency, between 2019 and 2024 China will account for 40% of the global expansion in renewable energy. However, as its economy slows down it is now re-opening some coal mines and the country’s Premier Li Keqiang has urged energy officials to promote coal-fired power. 

Ancient viruses never observed by humans discovered in Tibetan glacier  (January 22 20202, NBC News)
For the past 15,000 years, a glacier on the northwestern Tibetan Plateau of China has hosted a party for some unusual guests: an ensemble of frozen viruses, many of them unknown to modern science. Scientists recently broke up this party after taking a look at two ice cores from this Tibetan glacier, revealing the existence of 28 never-before-seen virus groups.

Science / Technology

China releases huge batch of amazing Chang'e-4 images from moon's far side  (January 22, 2020, Space)
China's long-lived lunar robots Chang'e-4 and Yutu-2 are once again at work on the far side of the moon, where they woke up for their 14th day on Jan. 18 and 19 respectively. And those of us here on Earth can take a new look through the lander's and rover's lunar eyes, as China released a huge batch of data on Monday (Jan. 20). 

History / Culture

Video: Deng Xiaoping White House Visit in 1979  (Everyday Life in Maoist China)

Harry Caldwell (Asian Religions at UTK)
Caldwell was one of many Western missionaries working in China during the first half of the 20th century, but what distinguishes his work from other missionaries (in addition to the tiger hunting) are the films he made during the 1930s. These hours of footage not only show agricultural, military, and daily scenes from Republican-era (1911-1949) Fujian, they also show several religious practices that incorporate elements of Buddhism, Daoism, local religion, and Christianity.

Travel / Food

Five recipes for a Chinese new year feast  (January 20, 2020, The Guardian)
Celebrate China’s lunar new year with classic and updated dishes, including dongpo pork, stir-fried okra and braised fish with chillies.

The best places in Beijing to marvel at traditional Chinese art  (January 20, 2020, Matador Network)
Whether you’re moved by the elegant minimalism of calligraphy or awed by the painstaking details of cloisonné, these are the best places in Beijing to marvel at traditional Chinese art.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

China’s Traditional Spring Festival TV Gala Chases Younger Viewers with “Rap of China” Crossover (January 16, 2020, Radii China)
A viral TikTok hit from rapper Gem is set to be performed with Lay Zhang on one of Chinese TV's biggest nights of the year.

Present.Perfect. review – China's livestreamers looking for love  (January 22, 2020, The Guardian)
This eerie documentary dives deep into the hundreds of millions of online attention-seekers desperate to make contact via tales of the bizarre and mundane.

Language / Language Learning

On the Character: 摇  (January 21, 2020, The World of Chinese)
According to the Eastern Han dictionary Explaining and Analyzing Characters, the pictophonetic character 摇(yáo) means “to move” or “to sway.” The “hand” (手, shǒu) radical gives clue to this meaning, while the 䍃 (yáo) radical indicates pronunciation.

How to get past the intermediate Chinese learning plateau  (January 22, 2020, Hacking Chinese)
Something I hear learners ask about often is the so-called learning plateau. There is no standard definition of this, but it usually involves intermediate students who say that they are no longer making progress and are worried that they are doing something wrong. The lack of apparent progress is also demotivating and discouraging.

What really happened in Yancheng?  (January 23, 2020, London Review of Books)
No one knew which of us might be the future director of a large bureau in the ministry, or become a city mayor, and who would remain sitting at a desk in a standard-sized office year after year, or not even get that far. We all had a single goal: to become a civil servant. The proctors passed out the test and started the clock.

Living Cross-culturally

Returning “Home”: Thinking through What Matters For Families  (January 22, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Fast forward to 2015. I am now a husband of 20 years with three teenagers and one younger child. My 22 years of service in Asia were coming to a close. God had gently, graciously, and clearly shown our family that the “going” part of our mission’s involvement was finished. Our family began building our R.A.F.T., the now well-known acronym for Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewells and Think Destination.


The Varieties of Confucian Experience: Documenting a Grassroots Revival of Tradition (Brill)
Although the development of a “popular” brand of Confucianism in China is today a massive phenomenon, research on the topic remains scarce. Based on fieldwork carried out by a team of scholars in different parts of the country, the ambition of The Varieties of Confucian Experience is to contribute to the limited body of ethnographic accounts that aim to document and understand the diversity of phenomena encapsulated under the label “Confucian revival” in the first two decades of the 21st century.

5 Sermons from China  (January 17, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
The book, Grace to the City: Studies in the Gospel From China, edited by S. E. Wang and Hannah Nation is a translated collection of five of the plenary talks given at the conference by five different Chinese pastors, including Pastor Wang Yi, who was recently sentenced to prison for “inciting to subvert state power.”  

Links for Researchers

China in the 2020s: a more difficult decade?  (London School of Economics and Political Science)
The conventional narrative is that China is, or will, by 2030, be the largest economy in the world. Based on commonly held expectations historically about prewar Germany, the USSR and Japan, greater humility would not go amiss. It is not preordained that past economic trends will continue, especially in view of a much compromised outlook for both China and the rest of the world in the 2020s.


Online Spiritual Atlas of China (Center for Religion and Chinese Society)
OSAC allows users to visualize the spatial distribution of individual religious sites in China, as well as see how provinces, prefectures, and counties compare with each other in terms of the number of religious sites. Currently, the data comes from China’s 2004 Economic Census, which listed 72,887 religious sites from all of China’s 31 provinces or provincial-level regions and municipalities. For more information on this dataset, see the section below on the 2004 Economic Census.

Image credit: Abigail Smith
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