ZGBriefs

ZGBriefs | July 8, 2021

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.

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Featured Article

My Life as a Christian Under a Communist Regime (July 1, 2021, The Gospel Coalition)
As Christians living under a communist regime—the Chinese Communist Party was founded 100 years ago today—there is a sense in which we are blessed. As Proverbs 30:8–9 says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches . . . lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” This can also be applied to religious liberty: since we don’t have full religious liberty, there’s always a heavy price to pay if one decides to follow Christ. We are not under severe persecution—compared to Christians in North Korea or Iran, we are just experiencing some troubles. 

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Chinese Communist Party Centennial—Struggle and Flexibility (June 30, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
As the CCP celebrates its centennial, we should seek to understand how the party views and defines itself. Party identity has grown strong in the forges of struggle and conflict, yet paradoxically, it is also rooted in remarkable ideological flexibility.

Front row seat at China’s 100th anniversary celebrations (July 1, 2021, PRI The World)
The Economist’s David Rennie had a front row seat to the festivities in Tiananmen Square today. He heard President Xi Jinping give a rousing speech to an overflowing crowd. A special thanks to our partners at Economist Radio for sharing the audio with us.

CCP 100: Xi warns China will not be ‘oppressed’ in anniversary speech (July 1, 2021, BBC)
China’s President Xi Jinping has warned that foreign powers will “get their heads bashed” if they attempt to bully or influence the country. He delivered a defiant speech at an event marking the centenary of the ruling Communist Party on Thursday. Mr Xi also said Beijing would not allow “sanctimonious preaching”, in remarks widely seen as directed at the US.

Satellite Photos Show China Expanding Its Mysterious Desert Airfield (July 1, 2021, NPR)
It inspires comparisons to Area-51: A massive, three-mile-long runway in a remote patch of Chinese desert, hundreds of miles from any cities. Now, it looks like the site is undergoing an expansion. Satellite imagery from the commercial company Maxar supplied exclusively to NPR shows around a dozen large concrete buildings under construction near the landing strip. 

100 years of grievance (July 1, 2021, Trivium China)
For those living under a rock, today is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. To celebrate, Xi Jinping did what he does best – he pontificated on the greatness of the Party for over an hour. From the Gate of Heavenly Peace, Xi addressed over 70,000 people in Tiananmen Square.

Intellectual debates in Xi’s China (July 2, 2021, MERICS)
Current developments seem like a throwback to the authoritarianism that characterized imperial times and the early People’s Republic, says Shi Ming. There is still room for debate, but it is small. 

China is building a sprawling network of missile silos, satellite imagery appears to show (July 2, 2021, CNN)
China is building a sprawling network of what appear to be intercontinental ballistic missile silos in its western desert that analysts say could change the equation for US military planners in Asia. The likely missile field, comprising 120 silos that could potentially house weapons capable of reaching the United States mainland, was documented by researchers at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies using satellite imagery supplied by commercial satellite company Planet Labs Inc.

The Road to Who Knows Where: What one highway project in Cameroon can tell us about the complexities of Chinese lending in Africa (July 6, 2021, China in Africa)
Narratives of China’s lending to Africa are often oversimplified, focusing on the Belt and Road initiative writ large, and leveling accusations of “debt-trap diplomacy.” Yet, a peek beneath the surface reveals an increasingly complex web of Chinese financiers and contractors, African government planning and finance bodies, and numerous other infrastructure agencies. Each project reveals a story that both complicates the reductively simple narrative and helps to paint a clearer portrait of the process by which these projects are realized.

HK leader says ‘ideologies’ pose security risk, teenagers need to be monitored (July 6, 2021, Reuters)
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday “ideologies” posed risks to national security and urged parents, teachers and religious leaders to observe the behaviour of teenagers and report those who break the law to the authorities.

9 Arrested Over Alleged Plot To Plant Bombs Around Hong Kong (July 6, 2021, NPR)
Of the nine arrested, six are secondary school students. The group were attempting to make the explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP) in a homemade laboratory in a hostel, police said. They planned to use the TATP to bomb courts, cross-harbor tunnels, railways and even planned to put some of these explosives in trash bins on the street “to maximize damage caused to the society,” police said.

Historical Revisions – China Media Project (July 6, 2021, China Media Project)
Celebrated with great fanfare last week, the Chinese Communist Party’s centennial and Xi Jinping’s “important speech” left behind a wealth of clues to be picked over in the coming weeks, helping to answer the question: What core values define Xi Jinping’s CCP in the 21st century?

US official warns China against ‘catastrophic’ move on Taiwan (July 7, 2021, The Guardian)
A senior US official has warned China not to seek emboldenment from its Hong Kong crackdown to move against Taiwan, as Japan’s deputy leader said it would defend Taiwan against an attack. Kurt Campbell, coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs on the US national security council, told a forum on Tuesday the US had tried to send a “clear message of deterrence across the Taiwan Strait” and any attempt by China to move on Taiwan would be “catastrophic”.

Another Milestone for Xi Jinping Thought – China Media Project (July 7, 2021, China Media Project)
The People’s Daily reports today that a new center has been established for the study of “Xi Jinping Economic Thought”  (习近平经济思想), a move that can be read as another development in the advancement of Xi Jinping’s legacy slogan — and his consolidation of power ahead of the 20th National Congress of the CCP.

The Man Behind China’s Aggressive New Voice (July 7, 2021, The New York Times) (subscription required)
Despite being almost entirely unknown, even in China, until two years ago, Zhao has managed to rapidly and completely transform how China communicates with its allies and adversaries. His unbridled style of online rhetoric has spread throughout the Chinese diplomatic corps, replacing the turgid mix of evasive diplomatese and abstruse Communist jargon that characterized the nation’s public statements for decades.

Religion

The Chinese Communist Party Is Scared of Christianity (July 1, 2021, Foreign Policy)
Chinese official rhetoric loves to talk about serving the people, self-sacrifice, and communal values. That’s not that far from Christianity, but Christian “ideology” is not tainted, at least in China, by a history of being employed in the service of state control and the calculations of power-hungry politicians.

100 Years of God’s Protection and Guidance (Part 1): Turning Adversities into Blessings (July 2, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
History has convinced me that God cares about China in his missional plan. This anniversary carries spiritual meaning when we see that the Chinese church has witnessed God’s protection and guidance over the past 100 years.

A Different Testimony In Our City (July 5, 2021, China Partnership Blog)
Pastor Zhu Min graciously shares about developing a holistic vision to love and bless his city, and about the difficulties the church faces as she carries out her mission in China’s urban contexts.

Returning Home—The Chinese Church in Transition (July 5, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
Overwhelmed by the compassion of these strangers, Ms Zhang decided to attend a service at the local Catholic church—and she immediately found peace. As she struggled through her grief, her son’s schooling, marriage, and then most recently his divorce, Ms Zhang learned to lean on Jesus and the Catholic community for all that she needs. “Trust Jesus for everything! He will give you peace, even when things are bad!”

Sino-Vatican Provisional Agreement: Unresolved issues (July 7, 2021, The China Story)
Pope Francis’ strong personal identification with the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci and his flexible pastoral approach allowed him to achieve what his predecessors did not. While the agreement ended the presence of illicit bishops, it left many issues unsolved, such as the implementation of the supposedly agreed bishop appointment model and the ambiguous status of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Student Ministry—Too Much for One Issue (July 7, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
“Student Ministry in China,” the 2021 summer issue of ChinaSource Quarterly, comes out next week. It focuses on the history of reaching students on campus in mainland China, current challenges, and the way forward for continuing outreach both on campus and in cross-cultural ministry. 

Society / Life

China’s ‘Three-Child’ Population Drive Has Yet to be Implemented Locally (July 6, 2021, Radio Free Asia)
Officials in China have yet to receive instructions for the implementation of the country’s newly announced “three child” population policy. The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) unveiled new plans at the end of May to boost flagging birth rates and reverse population aging, raising the official limit on the number of children per couple from two to three.

WeChat deletes Chinese university LGBT accounts in fresh crackdown (July 7, 2021, Reuters)
Chinese tech giant Tencent’s WeChat social media platform has deleted dozens of LGBT accounts run by university students, saying some had broken rules on information on the internet, sparking fear of a crackdown on gay content online. Members of several LGBT groups told Reuters that access to their accounts was blocked late on Tuesday and they later discovered that all of their content had been deleted.

China to Halt Construction of Skyscrapers Over 500 Meters (July 7, 2021, Sixth Tone)
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said the country will no longer approve plans to build skyscrapers that exceed 500 meters to “strengthen the management of infrastructure projects.” Meanwhile, it will also “strictly restrict” the construction of new buildings over 250 meters, while tightening safety instructions for projects over 100 meters that have yet to be constructed.

Economics / Trade / Business

These charts show the dramatic increase in China’s debt (June 29, 2021, CNBC)
China’s debt has grown dramatically over the past decade and is one of the biggest economic challenges confronting the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which turns 100 this week.

Education

Foreign students wait for green light to return to China with growing concern (July 4, 2021, South China Morning Post) (subscription required)
Foreign students studying in China have been unable to return to the country since the coronavirus pandemic began, but their growing frustrations have largely been met with silence. The Chinese border has been closed to most foreigners since March 2020, with special exemptions for work or family-related concerns. Medical students, in particular, have struggled with learning online and need to attend classes in person before they can graduate.

Health / Environment

Chinese authorities lock down border town as Myanmar battles outbreak (July 7, 2021, Fox News)
Chinese authorities locked down a city bordering Myanmar on Wednesday, shutting most businesses and requiring residents to stay at home as a fresh outbreak of COVID-19 expanded. Another 15 cases were found in Ruili in the last 24 hours, on top of six in the previous two days, health authorities in southwestern Yunnan province said. In addition, two people without COVID-19 symptoms have also tested positive for the virus.

Science / Technology

I Stopped Using the Veep Years Ago and I Don’t Miss It (July 4, 2021, The Beijinger)
How many of us have heard that when moving to China, you must install a VPN on all of your devices in order to survive? Well, I’m here to tell you that it just ain’t true. From texting and stalking celebrities to watching funny cat videos and binging all your favorite TV shows (yes, even the overseas ones), the following apps developed right here in China have got you covered.

Chinese astronauts carry out country’s first spacewalk outside space station (July 4, 2021, CNN)
Chinese astronauts on Sunday successfully carried out the country’s first spacewalk outside their space station — a significant milestone in its rapidly expanding space program. The spacewalk is only the second by Chinese astronauts since the Shenzhou 7 manned mission of 2008, which was conducted outside a spacecraft, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

Explainer: What is driving China’s clampdown on Didi and data security? (July 7, 2021, Reuters)
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) on July 2 called for Didi to stop accepting new user registrations, citing China’s Cybersecurity Law, a sweeping piece of legislation implemented in 2017. Two days later, the CAC said Didi’s app “has serious violations of laws and regulations pertaining to the collection of personal information.”

China’s Artificial Intelligence Research in Figures (July 7, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Chinese AI researchers aim for practicality and produce the most papers, but their quality lags behind those from other countries.

History / Culture

The Oskar Schindler Of China-John Rabe (June 20, 2020, Medium)
John Rabe, a Nazi Party member, saved hundreds of lives in China from the brutal Imperial Japanese army.

Video: “Celebrating” School Holidays (July 1, 2021, CantoSense)
Why do Chinese parents not let their kids truly take a break during summer holidays? This episode, we look into the cultural Chinese view on rest and how it impacts our life and the lives of our children. 

Video: Radio Beijing in 1983 (Everyday Life in Maoist Beijing)

Unpacking The 100-Year History Of The Chinese Communist Party (July 5, 2021, NPR)
As the Chinese Communist Party turns 100 this month, NPR’s Ailsa Chang talks with historian Andy B. Liu about the mark it’s made on the country.

Travel / Food

Pizza Hut’s Controversial Cilantro, Preserved Egg, and Pork Blood Pizza (July 1, 2021, Radii China)
Pizza Hut in Taiwan recently launched a new flavor combo that’s raising eyebrows and stirring up the internet. Adapting to the local palate is an ever-present feature of this food franchise, with previous menu innovations such as a boba milk tea pizza and stinky tofu pizza.

How a Chongqing Teahouse Fuses Art and Dessert (July 4, 2021, The World of Chinese)
The teahouse is owned by Zhang Yipeng and Li Xia, a husband and wife team who both graduated from Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts. Three years ago, they moved to Chongqing, Li’s hometown, to escape the monotony of work and life in Beijing, and rented and refurbished this old apartment for their business.

How to Make Salty and Delicious Crab Roe Tofu (July 6, 2021, The World of Chinese)
Honored among today’s foodies as “ocean gold” for its oily flavor, grainy texture, and rich nutrients, crab roe inspired many dishes and desserts of Chinese cuisine, including crab roe tofu (蟹黄豆腐). This dish of unknown origin calls for cooking soft bean curd in a stew of crab roe.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Beijing Calling: Suspicion, Hope, and Resistance in the Chinese Rock Underground (June 24, 2021, Rolling Stone)
China has produced some of the most vital indie rock on the planet. But can the scene survive gentrification, government crackdowns, and a hit TV show?

China on course to send record number of athletes to COVID-hit Olympics (July 6, 2021, Reuters)
China is expected to send more than 400 athletes to the Tokyo Olympic Games, Chinese state media reported on Tuesday, on track to renew a record set at Rio 2016 despite a coronavirus pandemic that has already delayed the Games by a year.

Language / Language Learning

On the Character: 休 (July 3, 2021, The World of Chinese)
The Chinese character for rest is 休 (xiū). It takes a form which is both simple and self-explanatory: on the left is 亻, the “person,” and on the right is a tree, “木.” Combined, they create a pictorial character resembling a person leaning against a tree. The character has become simplified by retaining its general form from the Shang dynasty (1600 – 1046 BCE) to the present.

Pray for China

July 13 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On July 13, 2017, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波先生) died in prison of mistreated liver cancer. Among his works was the essay “I have no enemies.” His widow Liu Xia (刘霞女士) was kept under house arrest in very poor health from 2010 to July 2018. Pray for China’s leaders in the public and private sectors to drink at Christ’s well and join Liu Xiaobo in finding life in Him. Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

Image Credit: Joann Pittman
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