ZGBriefs | January 9, 2020

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Featured Article

The Future of America’s Contest with China  (January 6, 2020, The New Yorker)
To a degree still difficult for outsiders to absorb, China is preparing to shape the twenty-first century, much as the U.S. shaped the twentieth. Its government is deciding which features of the global status quo to preserve and which to reject, not only in business, culture, and politics but also in such basic values as human rights, free speech, and privacy.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China’s Political Discourse in 2019  (January 2, 2020, China Media Project)
In 2019, the most important change we saw in the political discourse of the Chinese Communist Party was the complete abandonment of the phrase “political system reform,” or zhengzhi tizhi gaige (政治体制改革). 

‘The New Normal’ for Foreign NGOs in 2020  (January 3, 2020, The China NGO Project)
Moreover, the figures themselves have their own limitations. They show only successes and stop far short of describing the environment in which those qualified successes occur. Pulling back to take in the full sweep of the last few years, there is little to leave us overly hopeful for the next few.

The seven trends that will define China in the 2020s  (January 4, 2020, South China Morning Post)
What can the world expect from China in this new decade? Besides US-China tension, slower Chinese economic growth, vertical integration and the tilt towards Chinese domestic consumption are all likely to have an effect on the rest of the world.

What Lies Ahead for Hong Kong in 2020  (January 6, 2020, The Interpreter)
This political crisis of Hong Kong must be dealt with a political solution. Will the recent earthquakes be a sign of a major shake-up of not just the liaison office but also the Hong Kong government?

Mass Line Internet Control  (January 6, 2020, China Media Project)
On December 20, 2019, the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top body for internet control and regulation, released new rules governing online information, setting out both generally encouraged content types and content that would be regarded as unacceptable — and making clear that all members of Chinese society have a responsibility to take part in internet governance.

Beijing Appoints Former Shanxi Chief to Head The Hong Kong Liaison Office  (January 6, 2020, China Digital Times)
Beijing last weekend appointed former Shanxi CCP chief Luo Huining to replace Wang Zhimin as the head of the China liaison office in Hong Kong. The abrupt replacement comes as the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement enters its seventh month of protest, and after 400 of the tens of thousands of people who demonstrated on New Year’s Day were arrested, bringing the total arrests in the city to 7,000 since protests began in June.

The “People’s Leader” Rises Again  (January 8, 2020, China Media Project)
The term “people’s leader” is a rare title of praise  in China’s political discourse, reminiscent of the personality cult that prevailed during the Mao Zedong era, and its re-emergence was rightly read by many as a further aggrandizing of Xi Jinping. The appellation was apparently greenlighted by the Chinese Communist Party at a conclave in Beidaihe that same month.

The price of accountability in Hong Kong  (January 8, 2020, East Asia Forum)
It was a year like no other for Hong Kong in 2019. At its core, Hong Kong has been riven by a dispute over government accountability: should Hong Kong’s government be accountable to the people it governs, or only to the central authorities in Beijing? Failing to resolve this question has exacted a high price. Continued failure will only see that price grow.

China: The Year Ahead: A ChinaFile Conversation  (January 8, 2020, China File)
As 2019 drew to a close, ChinaFile asked contributors to write about their expectations for China in 2020.

At ‘Sacred’ Lake, Chinese Declare Love for Xi and Communist Party  (June 8, 2020, The New York Times)
In the strongman era of President Xi Jinping, the lake has gained new prominence as a place for throngs of patriotic tourists — students, hospital workers and technology entrepreneurs among them — to declare their love for the party and Mr. Xi.

Backstory: Inside Hong Kong’s protests as a campus became a ‘battleground’  (January 8, 2020, Reuters)
Not knowing how long the siege would last, Reuters reporters and others converted an empty classroom into a makeshift newsroom. We projected live feeds on a whiteboard to monitor attempts by protesters outside to rescue the students and the encroaching police circling the campus.


100 People Convert at Christmas Services at Hangzhou Chengbei Church  (January 3, 2020, China Christian Daily)
Usually at the end of a sermon, the pastor gives an altar call, inviting those who are willing to accept Jesus as their Savior to stand up or raise their hands. The ushers then give a Bible to each of them and note down their names and phone numbers for follow up. 

Christmas Eve across China  (January 7, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
What did Christmas 2019 look like in China? China Christian Daily collected photos of Christmas Eve services from various churches and seminaries around the country. We’ve included some in the text below; the picure above is of Guangzhou Zion Church, Guangdong. 

Society / Life

Yoga in China  (December 18, 2019, The Asia Dialogue)
Yoga is still a relatively recent import into China, but it seems one that is likely to make significant inroads

Shanghai New Year drone display was pre-recorded (January 3, 2020, BBC)
A spectacular drone display in Shanghai to mark the start of the new year did not actually happen at New Year, it has emerged. […]  The company behind the display has confirmed to the BBC that the footage broadcast around the world was actually from a practice run on 28 December.

The long arm of authoritarian China reached into my seven-year-old’s bedroom  (January 5, 2020, Sydney Morning Herald)
The long arm of authoritarian China reached into my seven-year-old's bedroom in Beijing this month. To be specific, the world globe by his bedside became the latest target in the People's Republic of China's war on words.

Top 10 Buzzwords in Chinese Online Media  (January 5, 2020, What’s on Weibo)
Some of the expressions and idioms that have been buzzing in Chinese media the past year. What’s on Weibo’s Jialing Xie explains. 

China’s new urban dwellers really still live in the countryside, study says  (January 6, 2020, South China Morning Post)
About a third of China’s new urban residents actually lived rural lives, according to a recent study, suggesting Beijing’s claims about the success of its urbanisation programme have been significantly overstated. 

Should Couples Seek Their Child’s Permission To Procreate?  (January 7, 2020, Sixth Tone)
As birth rates in China remain low, a debate show has honed in on the question of whether “little emperors” should have a say in sharing their kingdoms with younger siblings.

Beijing’s New Solution for Millions of Tons of Trash  (January 7, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Following in Shanghai’s footsteps, the Chinese capital will become the second city in the country to implement a compulsory waste-sorting policy.

Chinese woman seeks domestic help for university student daughter ‘who never washed clothes or cooked before’  (January 8, 2020, South China Morning Post)
A businesswoman from central China who said she was too busy to look after her university student daughter and advertised for a domestic helper to do the job has stirred an online debate about how much responsibility parents should take for their children.

Economics / Trade / Business

China is struggling to break reliance on old economy  (December 31, 2019, Inkstone News)
As China battles a trade war-fuelled economic slowdown, one of its main growth engines – the “new economy” – is stalling. The “new economy” has never been officially defined, but it is a concept loosely applied to a wide range of industries, from artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing to fintech and web-based tourism.

What to Expect as China’s Economy Enters 2020?  (January 6, 2020, China Briefing)
After an eventful year, China is heading into 2020 in a cloud of uncertainty. Although the US and China recently agreed to a “phase one” trade deal, bilateral trade tensions are far from being ironed out. Similarly, protests in Hong Kong have calmed but the underlying socioeconomic issues have yet to be resolved.

Tesla will make the Model Y in Shanghai and design an 'original car' in China  (January 7, 2020, CNN)
Tesla started delivering its Shanghai-made Model 3 cars to the public in China on Tuesday, the first step in CEO Elon Musk's much bolder plan for the world's biggest market.

China province of 80 million claims only 17 people in poverty, sparking debate about official data (January 8, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The coastal province of Jiangsu is the first to declare a near elimination of absolute poverty – which is defined in China as per capita net income of 2,300 yuan (US$331) in 2011 prices – as part of President Xi Jinping’s drive  to wipe it out and build China into a comprehensive well-off society by 2020.


China’s students cherish US education dream, despite year of uncertainty  (January 5, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Chinese students in the US have been caught in the crossfire of the growing rivalry between Washington and Beijing  but, so far, many young people in China still regard the United States as a dream destination for a quality education.

China Bans Imported Textbooks for Primary, Middle Schools  (January 7, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Textbook authors and editors are now required to hold political values that fall in line with the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party.

Health / Environment

The Problem With China’s Medical Tourism Boom  (January 2, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Millions of anxious women have traveled to Hong Kong in search of peace of mind, but local clinics and insurance agents aren’t always reliable health partners.

Chinese paddlefish, native to the Yangtze River, declared extinct by scientists  (January 3, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Also known as the Chinese swordfish, the species grows up to 7 metres long and is believed to have vanished between 2005 and 2010. Chinese scientists made the announcement in a research paper published in Science of the Total Environment last week.

Just in Time for Lunar New Year, Another SARS-like Epidemic Is Brewing in China  (January 8, 2020, Foreign Policy)
Scores of people in Wuhan and Hong Kong have been sent to hospitals because of a mystery respiratory ailment—and true to form, China is trying to keep it quiet.

China pneumonia outbreak may be caused by Sars-type virus: WHO  (January 8, 2020, The Guardian)
A cluster of more than 50 pneumonia cases in the central Chinese city of Wuhan may be due to a newly emerging member of the family of viruses that caused the deadly Sars and Mers outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization. While the UN health agency said it needed more comprehensive information to confirm precisely the type of pathogen causing the infections, it said a new coronavirus was a possibility.

Lunar New Year in China raises risks of worsening African swine fever crisis, minister says  (January 8, 2020, South China Morning Post)
China’s race to boost pork supplies by increasing hog breeding has raised the risks of worsening the African swine fever crisis, the government said on Wednesday. The African swine fever  situation “is still severe and complex,” vice-agriculture minister Yu Kangzhen said in Beijing. “The risk of outbreaks will rise with the rapid increase in the number of live hogs.”

Science / Technology

More Chinese scientists in America are going back home  (December 30, 2019, Phys.org)
A growing number of Chinese scientists working in the United States and other parts of the world are returning to their homeland, enhancing China's research productivity. In a new study, researchers found that more than 16,000 researchers have returned to China from other countries since that nation has opened up to international engagement.

In China, A New Call To Protect Data Privacy  (January 5, 2020, NPR)
But increasing public concerns about privacy and surveillance have spurred a nascent movement to secure people's data. Lone advocates are pushing to hold people accountable for selling stolen personal info. Hackers and bloggers have been posting DIY fixes online to teach others how to encrypt communications or evade surveillance.

World's first 350km-per-hour driverless bullet train goes into service in China  (January 8, 2020, CNN)
As the countdown to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics continues, the new 108-mile high-speed railway line connecting the capital with Olympic host city Zhangjiakou has just entered service, cutting the travel time between the two from three hours to 47 minutes. But this isn't just another bullet train.

History / Culture

Britain recognises communist government of China – archive, 1950  (January 7, 2020, The Guardian)
7 January 1950: Unconditional recognition of Mao Zedong’s regime as the legitimate government of all China sees the withdrawal of support from Nationalists.

Travel / Food

Soup’s On!  (January 2, 2020, The World of Chinese)
Chinese people may have been slurping soup for over 2,000 years, if the liquid broth found in an ancient tomb in Shaanxi province in 2017 is any indication. Usually eaten as an appetizer, or a palate cleanser after meal, soup enjoys a central place (often literally) at Chinese banquet and family tables, and is brewed up at a variety of price points, textures, and flavors around the country…

Travel to Taiwan: The Complete Guide  (January 3, 2020, Sapore di Cina)

The Spice Route  (January 5, 2020, Indian Express)
Meet the tiny network of Chinese women, who work the Indian diplomatic circuit in China and learn to puff the perfect chapati.

Photos: Towering ice palaces at China's Harbin Ice Festival  (January 6, 2020, BBC)
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China held its opening ceremony on Sunday 5 January, amid fireworks and celebrations.

Shake Shack Breaks Ground on First Beijing Location, in Sanlitun's Taikoo Li  (January 6, 2020, The Beijinger)
Burger lovers, rejoice: the opening of Shake Shack's first Beijing restaurant is just a few months away, and the global brand has just broken ground on the kit-out of their first location in the heart of Sanlitun. Construction is underway and an art exhibit of sorts went up today under the Hollister shop at Taikoo Li South S9, shopfronts 12a and 12b.

Eating Bitter  (January 7, 2020, The World of Chinese)
Today, tofu, eggplant, and bitter melon are the three most niang-ed dishes in Hakka cuisine, and stuffed bitter melon, or niang kugua (酿苦瓜), is particularly renowned for its medicinal properties and refreshing taste in the summer.

Impossible Dumplings and Beyond Buns: Will China Buy Fake Meat?  (January 7, 2020, The New York Times)
Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat want to expand to the Chinese market but face significant governmental and cultural hurdles.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

American Factory: Clash of Cultures or a Clash of Labour and Capital?  (December 22, 2019, Made in China Journal)
The only feature of the American system that Cao and his team ultimately incorporated into their management philosophy was the American anti-union culture. Unlike in China, which strives for harmonious workplace relations by incorporating and controlling the trade union, the American norm is an adversarial anti-union approach, and Cao was quick to understand and adopt this feature of American management.

China Reacts to Awkwafina’s History-Making Golden Globes Win  (January 6, 2020, Radii China)
Awkwafina became the first Asian-American woman to ever win a Golden Globe for best actress in a film category this weekend, when she picked up the Hollywood Foreign Press Association award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for her star role in Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. And despite that film seeing its mainland China release delayed last year, the Chinese internet nevertheless went into celebration mode at the news.

Language / Language Learning

How to Learn a Language, Part 2: How to Work Hard  (January 6, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Last month, in Part 1, I described four criteria for success in learning a language, namely, aptitude, environment, motivation, and hard work. However, many people fulfill those requirements but still end up in frustration. I suggest that they may be working hard, but not in the right way. So here are suggestions about how to work hard.


Murders of Old China – An Audible Original  (January 6, 2020, China Rhyming)
I spent a goodly portion of last year researching, writing and then recording this special commissioned project for Audible. It’s 12 murder cases in China between the early 1900s and the eve of the 1949 revolution. I’ve gone back and reinvestigated them all with some rather surprising new information…Murders of Old China is an Audible Original – commissioned by them exclusively for Audible.

Bridging the Divide in Asian American Churches: A Book Review  (January 8, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Shin and Takagi Silzer, both professors of Asian American ministry at Talbot School of Theology in California, approach their topic by examining the cultural roots, both Asian and Western, underlying the conflict between what they call “Americanized Asians” and “Asianized Americans.”

An American Bum in China: The bumblingly brilliant escapades of expatriate Matthew Evans by Tom Carter  (January 8, 2020, China Law Blog)
The message for Westerners today is that if they want to try their hand in 21st century China they should come well-prepared, if not with a solid plan then at least with solid credentials. If they don’t, they’ll be chewed up and spat out by a mercenary employment market that no longer suffers from a cultural cringe.

“The Shenzhen Experiment: The Story of China’s Instant City” by Juan Du  (January 8, 2020, Asian Review of Books)
Juan Du’s new book The Shenzhen Experiment: The Story of China’s Instant City, is welcome, then, in providing some historical context on this city’s development. 

Links for Researchers

Legal Documents Related to the Social Credit System  (December 31, 2019, China Law Translate)
Below is our incomplete, but ever growing list of documents related to China’s social credit system, categorized by type.

Violence in Ming-Qing China : An Overview  (Crime, History, and Societies)
Let us begin with a basic fact : the level of violence in late imperial China was probably as high as that in any historical society in the world.1 Obvious as this may sound, it is easy to miss it. 

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
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