ZGBriefs | January 6, 2022

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

China’s Reform Generation Adapts to Life in the Middle Class (January 3, 2022, The New Yorker)
My students from the nineteen-nineties grew up in rural poverty. Now they’re in their forties, and their country is unrecognizable.

Thank You

Looking to 2022 With Thanksgiving
Thank you for following ChinaSource in these critical times. By December 28, ChinaSource had received US$110,645 toward the US$100,000 matching challenge! We are very excited about how God worked through our partners and friends to provide this wonderful gift. If you gave during the matching challenge, thank you for your support!

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

A Digital Manhunt: How Chinese Police Track Critics on Twitter and Facebook (December 31, 2021, The New York Times) (subscription required)
Authorities in China have turned to sophisticated investigative software to track and silence obscure critics on overseas social media. Their targets include college students and non-Chinese nationals.

Age Rules: The Arrival of the Post-60s Generation in Chinese Politics (December 31, 2022, Macro Polo)
Not only has the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) largely adhered to the age ceiling for decades, age norms have held up even in the Xi Jinping era where term limits for top government posts, not Party positions, were eliminated. The age ceiling, then, is perhaps one of the greatest stabilizers in China’s national politics…

3 Challenges for Chinese Foreign Policy in 2022 (January 3, 2022, The Diplomat)
Mostly importantly, China must effectively manage deteriorating China-U.S. relations.

In the China-Laos Railway, Beijing reveals its designs for Southeast Asia (January 4, 2022, Sup China)
As the first leg of an envisioned Chinese-built network connecting Kunming, Yangon, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and Singapore, the China-Laos rail moves a Chinese-led Southeast Asian order one step closer to reality.

Watching China in Europe – January 2022 (January, 2022, German Marshall Fund)
Led by former ambassador Shi Mingde, they spent over a week in Berlin, Munich, and Stuttgart meeting with Germany’s political and corporate elite—including people close to Scholz. Their message: let’s work together to ensure that the special relationship between Berlin and Beijing does not go off the rails.


2021’s Top 10 ChinaSource Blog Posts (January 3, 2022, ChinaSource Blog)

Top 10 Chinese Church Voices Posts in 2021 (January 4, 2022, Chinese Church Voices)

Society / Life

The ABCs of Weibo 2021: These Were the Biggest Trends on Chinese Social Media (December 30, 2022, What’s on Weibo)
What were the most discussed topics on Weibo of 2021? Here is an overview of top stories on Chinese social media from A to Z: a look back at the biggest trends on Chinese social media in 2021.

China’s 2021 in Photos (December 31, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Sixth Tone presents 35 photos that reflect the joy and sorrow in 2021. These photos show the year as experienced by front line medical workers, athletes, astronauts, animals, and ordinary people.

Saving China’s Wet Markets (January 3, 2022, Sixth Tone)
The wet market is a Chinese institution, but if they can’t win back young shoppers, they may not be around for long.

Detained, missing, close to death: the toll of reporting on Covid in China (January 4, 2022, The Guardian)
Activists say crackdown is driven by Xi Jinping, who has ‘declared a war on independent journalism.

Video: Winter Olympics: Behind the bubble in Beijing (January 4, 2022, BBC)
The Chinese authorities hope to manage this by keeping the media, athletes and observers in huge separate isolation bubbles which incorporate not only housing and event locations but also transport links. BBC China correspondent Stephen McDonell reports from the mountains outside Beijing where access to the Olympic region has now been sealed off.

Residents of Xi’an, China, react to COVID lockdowns with outrage and humor (January 5, 2022, NPR)
The lockdowns are so strict and so prolonged in Xi’an that residents have taken to social media to complain about a lack of basic supplies. Jokes about cooking cabbage — the only readily available food — have proliferated. 

Xi’an authorities ban ‘negative’ lockdown posts, photos or video on social media (January 5, 2022, Radio Free Asia)
Authorities in the northern Chinese city of Xi’an have banned “negative news” on social media as many residents took to social media to complain about a citywide lockdown that has left many stranded at home without enough food or access to medical treatment. […] “There is background surveillance operating on all WeChat groups, and any negative news will be deleted as soon as it is sent,” the message said. “Please bear this in mind and pass the message on.”

Economics / Trade / Business

China’s bookstores are booming — and their looks can matter more than their books (December 29, 2021, CNBC)
Elaborate interior designs have caught the attention of young Chinese searching for new experiences. Rather than signing deals with big department stores to have them as the main draw for customers, malls have turned to finely designed bookstores as well as coffee and tea shops, among other things, said Jacky Zhu, head of research for west China at JLL.

China’s big challenge for 2022: Getting people to spend money (December 30, 2021, CNBC)
Along with the property market, consumption is one of two areas economists are most concerned about in their China growth outlook. Consumer spending is also the sector that businesses and investors have bet on as they expect China’s middle class spending power to grow in coming years.

Video: The China Paradox: At the Front Line of Economic Transformation (January 4, 2022, National Committee on U.S.-China Relations)
In his recently updated book, The China Paradox: At the Front Line of Economic Transformation, Paul G. Clifford documents the twists and turns of China’s dramatic and surprising rise over the last four decades. […]  In an interview conducted on December 22, 2021, Paul G. Clifford discusses the risks to China’s development and stability posed by the slowing of reform amid increased autocracy.

Activists urge Tesla to close its new Xinjiang showroom (January 4, 2022, NPR)
American activists are appealing to Tesla Inc. to close a new showroom in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, where officials are accused of abuses against mostly Muslim ethnic minorities. Tesla on Friday announced the opening of its showroom in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital, and said on its Chinese social media account, “Let’s start Xinjiang’s all-electric journey!”

China denounces Walmart for ‘stupidity’ after Sam’s Club was accused of pulling Xinjiang products (January 4, 2022, CNN)
The firestorm began late last month when people on Chinese social media began accusing Sam’s Club, the warehouse retailer owned by Walmart, of removing all Xinjiang-sourced products from its app in the country. Criticism exploded, eventually leading a top Chinese anti-graft agency Friday to accuse Sam’s Club of “stupidity” and “shortsightedness.”

China could stay shut for all of 2022: Goldman Sachs (January 5, 2022, Al Jazeera)
With Covid-19 likely to be widespread outside China and with the party congress approaching in the final quarter “we doubt policy-makers would eliminate quarantines before then,” the analysts said. “With transmission typically higher in the winter months, it’s possible that border restrictions could be kept largely intact until spring 2023.”

Health / Environment

Mental Health Used to Be a Taboo in China. That’s Changing Fast. (December 31, 2021, Sixth Tone)
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked unprecedented discussion of mental health issues in China. In 2021, those conversations started driving real changes.

How much longer can China keep up its zero-Covid strategy? (January 1, 2022, The Guardian)
As Beijing pursues its solitary path, observers are asking whether the policy is about protecting public health – or social order.

Meeting Anti-Pollution Targets, Beijing Breathed Clean Air in 2021 (January 5, 2022, Sixth Tone)
Beijing fully met its clean air targets for the first time in 2021, cleansing its image as the most polluted city in the world just years ago.

Science / Technology

China Releases Amazing Photos of Tianwen-1 Probe Above Mars (January 23, 2022, Petapixel)
The full-color photos show the Tianwen-1 orbiter above Mars as well as the ice cover on the planet’s north pole. According to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the photos were taken by a camera that was released by the orbiter so that it could get a full view of the probe. The Tianwen-1 spacecraft is now about 350 million kilometers (about 217 million miles) from Earth.

China says apps that could influence public opinion require a security review (January 5, 2022, CNBC)
The move marks another step by Beijing to control and monitor information on China’s already highly censored internet. It’s unclear what regulators consider as functions or technologies that could influence public opinion.

China livestreams New Year’s view from new space station (January 5, 2022, Space)
China welcomed the New Year with a live stream from cameras outside the new Tianhe space station module. In a new video from the China National Space Administration, livestreamed on New Year’s Day (Jan. 1), you can now see the beauty of the Earth below from the Tianhe module on China’s Tiangong space station.

Alibaba and Tencent rule another Chinese market: video calls (January 6, 2022, Nikkei Asia)
China’s two-plus years of living with the coronavirus have firmly established video-conferencing as part of day-to-day life. But while a number of large technology companies initially jumped into what looked like a potential source of new growth, the internet duopoly of Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding have emerged as the clear winners here as well.

History / Culture

When Exactly was New Year in Ancient China? (January 5, 2022, The World of Chinese)
The date and means of celebrating a new year changed and evolved over centuries in ancient China.

Video: Chengdu and western China in 1940 (Everyday Life in Maoist China)

Travel / Food

The Ubiquitous Street Snack That’s Neither Noodle Nor Roll (January 4, 2022, The World of Chinese)
It’s not cold, grilled, or noodle-like in any way: So what is the street delicacy called kao lengmian (烤冷面, literally “grilled cold noodles”), and why was it the most popular midnight snack among Beijing urbanites according to data from takeout app Ele.me this past summer?

China’s longest underwater highway tunnel opens (January 4, 2022, CNN)
After nearly four years of construction, China’s longest underwater highway tunnel is now open to vehicle traffic. At a length of 10.79 kilometers (6.65 miles), the Taihu tunnel stretches under Lake Taihu in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province, about 50 kilometers east of Shanghai.

Hong Kong bans all flights from US and UK (January 5, 2022, The Points Guy)
Hong Kong has banned all flights from the United States and seven other countries for at least two weeks amid fears they could spark a fifth wave of COVID-19 in the region. The Chinese-ruled city announced a ban on all incoming flights from eight countries, including Britain, the U.S., and Australia, as its politicians enacted the tightest restrictions since COVID-19 was detected two years ago. Canada, France, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines are also on the list of countries that will be banned from Jan. 8 to at least Jan 21., Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, said on Wednesday.

Living Cross-culturally

A New Year for Those Living in China’s New Normal (December 31, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
How did that happen? How is it that they are on the “right” side of the border? Some never left. Others had just returned from their Spring Festival holiday travel when COVID hit. Others, by God’s grace, have managed to get back in, but not without struggling significantly with endless paper work, cancelled and rescheduled flights, and weeks in quarantine—in some cases in multiple cities or places. 

Life with Kids in the Time of COVID (January 6, 2022, Sinosplice)
As China’s COVID-zero policy drags on and on, a certain dichotomy has emerged in the population here: those without kids can still travel within China, as long as they’re aware of the “high-risk regions” and plan for some extra mafan in the form of COVID testing, quarantining, etc. A lot of foreigners I know went to Sanya for their Christmas/New Year holiday. Meanwhile, those with kids (in non-international schools) are very much subject to their schools’ regulations, which essentially means not going anywhere.

Links for Researchers

The Chinese Communist Party’s Hybrid Interference and Germany’s Increasingly Contentious China Debate (2018-21) (December 30, 2021, The Journal of the European Association of China Studies)
Based on a review of the literature on sharp power, hybrid interference, the United Front system and the CCP’s globalising censorship regime the author argues that the CCP’s rule by fear has already induced self-censorship among many western academics.

Understanding the Challenges of Cross-cultural Workers from China (January 5, 2022, ChinaSource Blog)
Tabor Laughlin, a contributor to ChinaSource and someone who has spent many years serving in China, received his PhD in intercultural studies from Trinity Evangelical School. His dissertation, China’s Ambassadors of Christ to the Nations, was published in 2020 by Pickwick Publications. […] Recently Laughlin told us that his dissertation has been translated into Chinese with the title, 影响中国跨文化工人 文化调整和留任工场的因素. It has been read and well received by many within Chinese mission circles.


Pray for China

January 8 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Jan. 8, 1819, Matthew Yates (晏玛太) was born in Wake County, North Carolina. Yates and his wife Eliza Moring were the first missionaries appointed from their state and among the earliest Southern Baptist missionaries to China. They arrived in Shanghai on Sept. 12, 1847 and served there for over 40 years until their deaths, his in 1888 and hers in 1894. Pray for Christian couples in China to model God’s plan for a lifetime marriage between a servant-leader husband and a strong-helper wife. “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” Ephesians 5:24-25. 

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