ZGBriefs | June 3, 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.


Featured Article

Faced with a demographic crisis, China relaxes birth limits (June 1, 2021, Christian Science Monitor)
On May 31, China’s ruling Communist Party announced it will ease birth limits to allow all couples to have three children instead of two in hopes of maintaining its growth and avoiding the prospect of a declining population.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China rejects Biden’s call to examine Covid origin theories (May 27, 2021, The Guardian)
China has hit out against Joe Biden’s calls for a fuller US investigation into how Covid-19 was first transmitted to humans, questioning Washington’s motives and railing against the “notorious track record” of US intelligence in the lead-up to the 2003 war in Iraq.

Army of Fake Fans Boosts China’s Messaging on Twitter (May 28, 2021, AP)
Liu Xiaoming, who recently stepped down as China’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, is one of the party’s most successful foot soldiers on this evolving online battlefield. He joined Twitter in October 2019, as scores of Chinese diplomats surged onto Twitter and Facebook, which are both banned in China. Since then, Liu has deftly elevated his public profile, gaining a following of more than 119,000 as he transformed himself into an exemplar of China’s new sharp-edged “wolf warrior” diplomacy, a term borrowed from the title of a top-grossing Chinese action movie.

Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Leaders Get Prison Sentences For A 2019 Protest (May 28, 2021, NPR)
Ten veteran Hong Kong pro-democracy activists and politicians have been sentenced to up to three years’ prison time for organizing a demonstration in October 2019. The sentences are the latest in a series of roundups among Hong Kong’s beleaguered political opposition for their part in the broader anti-government demonstrationsagainst Beijing’s rule that rocked the region throughout 2019.

China-India clashes: No change a year after Ladakh stand-off (June 2, 2021, BBC)
A year ago, India and China accused each other of intruding into each other’s territory in Ladakh. In fact, most of the estimated 3,440km-long border has been undefined since a war in 1962, with both countries having different perceptions of their frontier. According to Indian media, the confrontation began after Chinese forces put up tents, dug trenches and moved heavy equipment several kilometres inside what had been regarded by India as its territory.

Powers of Persuasion (June 2, 2021, China Media Project)
Language emerging from a recent collective study session of China’s Politburo has prompted some observers to ask whether China might be softening its diplomatic tone. A more careful look at the context is in order. 

Xi Jinping calls for more ‘loveable’ image for China in bid to make friends (June 2, 2021, BBC)
China’s president has said he wants the country to “expand its circle of friends” by revamping its image. Xi Jinping told senior Communist Party officials it was important to present an image of a “credible, loveable and respectable China”, according to a report by state-run news agency Xinhua. It marks a possible shift in China’s diplomatic approach, which analysts say has become increasingly antagonistic.

Police in China’s Chengdu Hold Outspoken Rights Activist Huang Xiaomin (June 2, 2021, Radio Free Asia)
Authorities in the southwestern province of Sichuan are holding prominent rights activist Huang Xiaomin under criminal detention for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a charge frequently used to target peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Huang was detained on May 29 by police in his hometown, the provincial capital Chengdu, his friends said.

South China Sea dispute: Malaysia accuses China of breaching airspace (June 2, 2021, BBC)
Malaysia says it is to summon China’s ambassador after 16 Chinese military aircraft flew over disputed waters off its eastern state of Sarawak. Fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the transport planes on Monday after detecting “suspicious” activity over the South China Sea. Malaysia’s foreign ministry described the manoeuvre as a “serious threat to national sovereignty”. China, however, said its aircraft had abided by international law.


Webinar: Christian Theology in a Chinese Idiom: A Webinar on Reshaping the Conversation (ChinaSource)
In this webinar, Dr. Jesse Ciccotti will investigate theologizing in Chinese contexts by first discussing theology as an “idiomatic activity,” that is, an activity by which Christian thought is expressed in ways that are natural to a cultural native. He will then highlight key Chinese cultural material in Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism and illustrate these with examples. He will close with a discussion of the relevance of cross-cultural theological creativity, as well as highlight its risks.

China arrests Vatican-approved bishop, priests, seminarians (May 24, 2021, UCA News)
Authorities in northern China have arrested a Vatican-appointed Catholic bishop, his seven priests, and an unspecified number of seminarians in what is seen as part of a renewed crackdown on the underground Catholic Church in the communist country. Police arrested 63-year-old Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang Diocese in Henan province on May 21, a day after they detained the priests and seminarians for allegedly violating the country’s repressive new regulations on religious affairs.

God, Caesar, and the Chinese Legal System (May 26, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
 In the case of China, law exists to serve state interests, which today translates into Xi Jinping’s vision of the China Dream. As Creemers stated in his concluding remarks, “The task of the Chinese government is not to fulfill the law. Rather, it is to use the law as a tool to achieve the stated objective of wealth and power.”

Zooming to New Frontiers (June 2, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
But with the lockdown came a sudden thaw of ecclesiological ice, an opportunity—an exceedingly rare one indeed—to use new forms of doing church. Wise leaders quickly jumped to use Zoom technology. In a matter of weeks Christian leaders went from having almost nothing to do during the lockdown, to being in Zoom meetings every day of the week.

A Christian Congregation Fled Xi Jinping’s China, but Escaping Control Had a Price (June 2, 2021, Wall Street Journal)
Picking cabbages and tangerines to survive, about 60 church members from southern China are seeking asylum in South Korea, citing persecution by the Communist Party. (subscription required)

Society / Life

China’s ‘Three Child Era’ Announcement Is Met with Banter and Backlash on Weibo (May 31, 2021, What’s on Weibo)
A Weibo poll by Chinese state media outlet Xinhua asking “Are You Ready for the Three Child Policy?” was ridiculed by some when nearly 30,000 people replied “I am not considering it [three kids] at all”, with only a few hundred people indicating a more positive stance on the policy. The poll was apparently soon deleted.

Three-Child Policy Spawns Ridicule (June 1, 2021, China Media Project)
China announced changes yesterday to family planning policy that will now allow couples to have three children. But the new policy prompted a wave of criticism, and much laughter, on social media. 

As China’s Communist Party turns 100, its members’ ‘red genes’ matter more than ever to Beijing (June 1, 2021, CNN)
As the Communist Party counts down to its 100th birthday in July, reinforcing the “red genes” of its 91 million members has become a top priority under Xi Jinping, the party’s current head and the country’s most-powerful leader since Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic. In a series of quotes published recently by the party’s official magazine, Xi called on members to “make good use of red resources, inherit red genes and pass on the red country from generation to generation.” And “red sites” are assuming an increasingly pivotal, and lucrative, role in his campaign.

Economics / Trade / Business

China rushes to pull back the yuan from a three-year high (June 2, 2021, CNBC)
China is trying to rein in the yuan as it surges to three-year highs against the U.S. dollar. A stronger yuan makes Chinese goods relatively more expensive to buyers overseas, and has spurred concerns about the competitiveness of Chinese exports — a major contributor to national economic growth.


US-China tech war: China taps 12 top universities to rival MIT and Stanford in science and technology research (May 27, 2021, South China Morning Post)
The prestigious Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing are among the first batch of higher education institutions designated by the Ministry of Education to establish new schools focused on building China’s advantage in frontier technologies, according to a statement by the Ministry on Wednesday. (subscription required)

Video: Higher Education & U.S.-China Relations (May 28, 2021, National Committee on US-China Relations)
On May 21, 2021, the National Commitee hosted a virtual program with Mary Gallagher, Margaret Lewis, and Rory Truex, in conversation with Jacques deLisle, as they discussed what lies ahead in Sino-American academic relations.

Health / Environment

How Yunnan Is Helping Train the Next Generation of Indian Doctors (June 1, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Indian medical students in China face challenges in their studies and getting their degrees recognized back home. For many, it’s still worth it.

Bird flu: China sees first human case of rare H10N3 strain (June 1, 2021, BBC)
A 41-year-old Chinese man has been confirmed as the first human case of infection with a rare bird flu strain. Officials did not give details on how the man got infected but the H10N3 strain is thought to not easily spread from humans to humans. The Jiangsu province resident, who was diagnosed last week, has now recovered and is ready to be discharged.

Guangzhou Halts Vaccination, Ramps Up Testing Amid Virus Outbreak (June 1, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Health authorities attributed the recent uptick in infections to the more transmissible coronavirus strain.

WHO approves China’s Sinovac Covid vaccine (June 1, 2021, The Guardian)
The World Health Organization has approved the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use – the second Chinese vaccine to receive the WHO’s green light. The UN health agency signed off on CoronaVac, a two-dose vaccine developed by the Beijing-based firm which is already being deployed in several countries around the world.

Elephant herd razes 500-kilometer path of destruction after escape from China nature reserve (June 2, 2021, CNN)
A herd of 15 elephants has wreaked havoc in China, trampling crops and causing more than a million dollars’ worth of damage, after the animals escaped from a nature reserve last year. The elephants have made a 500-kilometer (311-mile) journey through the southwestern province of Yunnan from the nature reserve in Xishuangbanna to Yuxi, a city of 2.6 million people, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Science / Technology

China’s Newest Computer Science Student Is a Computer (June 2, 2021, Sixth Tone)
A Tsinghua University professor said his new student may reach the cognitive level of a 12-year-old in a year’s time.

History / Culture

Famous Cheating Scandals from Chinese History (June 1, 2021, The World of Chinese)
Smuggling notes into exam sites, paying to get the exam questions in advance, or even bribing examiners to obtain a higher score; some examinees would do anything to pass. Until the keju’s abolition in 1905, many fraud cases were recorded, with some even influencing history in unexpected ways.

Video: Kowloon Walled City in 1990 (Everyday Life in Maoist China)

Travel / Food

Hong Kong! (May 28, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
By almost any measure, Hong Kong is a fabulous city. Here is a great time-lapse video that captures its beauty and energy. 

Arts / Entertainment / Media

NBA stars urged to end China endorsements over forced labor (June 1, 2021, Reuters)
A U.S. congressional commission on Tuesday called on American basketball stars to end endorsements of Chinese sportswear firms that use cotton grown in China’s Xinjiang region, warning against complicity in forced labor they say takes place there.

Language / Language Learning

On the Character: 亲 (May 30, 2021, The World of Chinese)
The character’s evolution followed a similar path as to how we form social connections in life: We are born with blood ties and, from there, make friends, and build various relationships. First and foremost, 亲 refers to one’s parents, or 双亲 (shuāngqin): 母亲 (mǔqīn, mother) and 父亲 (fùqin, father).

Living Cross-culturally

China author Peter Hessler loses teaching post at Sichuan University (May 31, 2021, South China Morning Post)
American writer Peter Hessler – best known for his books on China – is returning to the US after Sichuan University declined to renew his teaching contract. Hessler said on Monday he had hoped to continue teaching at the Sichuan University-Pittsburgh Institute (SUPI), but would return to Colorado at the end of the semester with his wife and twin daughters, as their visas would expire in the summer. (subscription required)

Links for Researchers

Discipleship from Karma to Atonement (May 31, 2021, ChinaSource ResearchShare)
After serving in the Tibetan Buddhist world and connecting with others serving among these peoples for many years, it became clear that seeing people from a Tibetan Buddhist background make a true and lasting devotion to Jesus was rare. 

Pray for China

June 3 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On June 3, 1905, pioneer English missionary James Hudson Taylor (戴德生) died in Changsha after 50 years of service. Taylor founded the China Inland Mission with the vision of taking the gospel beyond the coastal ports into China’s interior provinces. Historian Kenneth Scott Latourette wrote that, “Hudson Taylor was…one of the greatest missionaries of all time, and…one of the four or five most influential foreigners who came to China in the nineteenth century for any purpose….” Pray for Chinese and foreign missionaries to remember that the Lord will provide for them. “So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” Genesis 22:14

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