ZGBriefs | March 12, 2020

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Featured Article

Inside the Race for a COVID-19 Cure  (March 6, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Scientists are racing to find vaccines, drugs, and antibody treatments capable of combatting the virus, which currently has no known cure. Developing, testing, and bringing a new drug to the market can take as long as a decade during normal periods. But researchers like Zhang have moved swiftly since the initial outbreak, sharing data to an unprecedented degree and drawing on technologies unavailable during previous health crises.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Coronavirus crisis will ultimately strengthen Xi Jinping and Chinese Communist Party despite economic turmoil, US analysts say  (March 6, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The likely outcome of the coronavirus epidemic is not only that Chinese President Xi Jinping remains in power, but also that the Communist Party emerges bigger and stronger despite the current economic challenges, long-time China watchers said on Thursday.

Civil Society’s Shifting Role in the Response to Coronavirus  (March 6, 2020, China NGO Project)
In our Analysis section, contributor Holly Snape explains how local and central policies at first hobbled domestic civil society organizations’ ability to respond to the coronavirus, limiting who could receive donations, and, critically, who could disburse them. 

'It's all fake!': Chinese official heckled by residents on visit to Wuhan – video  (March 6. 2020, The Guardian)
Vice-premier Sun Chunlan toured a residential community in the Qingshan district of Wuhan on Thursday while residents appeared to shout 'fake, fake' as well as 'it's all fake' and 'we protest' from their apartment windows. Since 12 February, all residential compounds in Wuhan have been put under lockdown, barring most residents from leaving their homes.

'Gratitude education': Wuhan boss faces backlash over calls to thank leaders  (March 9, 2020, The Guardian)
Wuhan’s top party official has come under fire after saying the government would implement “gratitude education” so citizens can properly thank the Chinese Communist party for its efforts fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

China's effort to regain trust: A 'people's war' against a virus  (March 9, 2020, Christian Science Monitor)
For the Chinese Communist Party, COVID-19 is both a risk and an opportunity. Chinese state media are used to project positive images in tackling the novel virus but growing numbers of social media users are questioning the party's line.

China Launches Coronavirus Propaganda Drive To Boost International Image  (March 9, 2020, Radio Free Asia)
A diplomatic and media campaign launched a week ago has two main aims:to play down the cover-up of the emerging coronavirus outbreak by party chiefs in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, and to push forward the narrative that the virus may not have originated in China at all, according to an expose published by the Catholic French language newspaper La Croix.

The Peace Corps Breaks Ties with China  (March 9, 2020, The New Yorker)
The Peace Corps has sent more than thirteen hundred volunteers to China, and the agency, which is now active in sixty countries, has always been viewed as removed from political spats. The U.S. had never ended a Peace Corps program because of a diplomatic conflict, but the timing of the decision about China seemed suspicious.

Xi Jinping visits Wuhan for first time since coronavirus outbreak began  (March 10, 2020, The Guardian)
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has visited Wuhan for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began, a signal that the nation’s leadership believes its fight against the epidemic has been largely won. According to the official state news agency Xinhua, Xi landed in Wuhan on Tuesday where he planned to “visit and express his regards” to frontline medical workers, military, community staff, grassroots party officials, volunteers, patients and residents.

Will China learn from the COVID-19 epidemic?  (March 10, 2020, East Asia Forum)
A widely circulated social-media article describes 11 striking mistakes China has repeated this time around. The most grievous failings are the government cover-ups and censorship in the early phases of the epidemic which cost the country a precious three weeks in January to fight the virus.

Coronavirus Lockdown in Shanghai: One Month In  (March 11, 2020, Sinosplice)
I’ve been getting lots of questions from friends all over the world about how things are going in Shanghai (especially as the virus continues to spread globally), so I decided to share a bit more about our situation in Shanghai, one month in.


Coronavirus 4: household Daoists in Shanxi  (March 3, 2020, Stephen Jones Blog)
Whereas my previous posts on the crisis have concerned responses online and behind the closed doors of temples, here we find how ritual activity is still being maintained for routine burials.

Insights from a 19th Century Welshman: A Lecture on the Life and Ministry of Timothy Richard.  (March 6, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Are there lessons to be learned about effective cross-cultural work from a 19th  century Welsh Baptist missionary? According to Dr. Andrew Kaiser (a regular ChinaSource contributor) the answer is a resounding yes! The Welsh Baptist missionary in question is Timothy Richard, who served in China for 45 years, beginning in 1870. According to Kaiser, author of a recent biography of Richard, he “pioneered a pragmatic and sympathetic approach to cross-cultural ministry that was surprisingly progressive for his time.”

China’s Kaifeng Jews date back 1,400 years and have an unlikely ambassador – a teenager from Hong Kong  (March 8, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The dwindling community, which has only 100 practising members in Henan province, was established in AD600.  After learning of their existence online, an 18-year-old schoolboy with no Jewish heritage went on a voyage of discovery.

How Many Christians in China? Preferred Estimates, Part 3  (March 9, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
In posing the question, we are not looking to nail down the “definitive” number; rather we want to show that estimates vary and, for a variety of reasons, different people have their own best estimates. At the end of the day, estimates are all we really have.

2 Hubei Churches Serving Effectively  (March 10, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
Chinese authorities continue to work around the clock to contain COVID-19. Likewise, Christians in China, including in hard hit Hubei province, continue to minister full-time. This article from China Christian Daily profiles two churches in Hubei province that find unique ways to reach congregants in spite of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Society / Life

Photo Gallery: China’s New Deserts  (March 5, 2020, China File)
From Madoi county, a settlement near the headwaters of the Yellow River, our two-car convoy headed out to visit a desert Yang Yong had first viewed through binoculars in 1997.

Proposed Residency Changes Spark Racist Backlash in China  (March 5, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Opponents of a new draft regulation say relaxing permanent residency requirements could lead to an influx of “low-quality” immigrants and jeopardize the county’s racial purity.

How Much Does it Cost to Raise a Child in China?  (March 6, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Before adjusting for inflation, the average Chinese child costs a total of 191,000 yuan from their birth to age 17. The average kid in the city requires 273,200 yuan; while for a child growing up in the countryside, the costs are somewhat lower, at 143,400 yuan.

Coronavirus: China’s huge migrant worker population bearing the brunt of economic shutdown  (March 6, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Ernan Cui, China analyst at research firm Gavekal Dragonomics, a consultancy, estimated that the outbreak could cost China’s migrant workers a combined 800 billion yuan (US$115 billion) in lost wages, an amount that will be impossible to recoup by working longer hours when business is back to normal.

'The new normal': China's excessive coronavirus public monitoring could be here to stay (March 8, 2020, The Guardian)
Experts say the virus, which emerged in Wuhan in December, has given authorities a pretext for accelerating the mass collection of personal data to track citizens, a dangerous prospect given that the country does not have stringent laws governing personal data.

PHOTOS: In A Coronavirus Crisis, Delivery Workers Can Be A Lifeline  (March 8, 2020, NPR)
Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China, has been in lockdown mode for weeks. But its delivery workers, zipping through empty streets on their motorcycles and scooters, are still very much on the move.

At least 10 dead after coronavirus quarantine hotel in China collapses  (September 8, 2020, The Guardian)
The Xinjia Express Hotel in the city of Quanzhou, Fujian province, collapsed suddenly around 7:30pm on Saturday, with more than 750 medics and rescuers and 20 ambulances responding to the disaster. Of 71 people believed to be staying at the hotel at the time, 58 had been under quarantine.

‘Our Daily Media Consumption Is Completely Different’  (March 9, 2020, China File)
I grumbled about the conversation to a group of my friends who, like me, were born and raised in China and now work for international media. I asked them how they managed talking to their loved ones back in China, when censorship had become so much more pervasive.

Abused and Stressed, China’s Community Workers Seek Help  (March 10, 2020, Sixth Tone)
As the head of Huanggu’s residential committee, Liu is responsible for monitoring over 10,000 residents: checking their temperatures, logging when they enter and leave the compound, and ensuring those ordered to isolate themselves at home stay indoors, among other duties.

OK, We’re Back to a Simple "Everyone Quarantines"  (March 11, 2020, The Beijinger)
In their daily press briefing today, Beijing clarified that ALL people flying in from overseas will be required to do a 14-day quarantine at home or in a government-designated facility, CGTN reports. They now join all people returning from domestic destinations within China in being required to conduct a two-week quarantine.

Economics / Trade / Business

China’s exports and imports plummet in January and February  (March 7, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Exports fell by 17.2 per cent in January and February combined compared to the same period a year earlier, according to data released on Saturday by the General Administration of Customs. This was down from 7.9 per cent growth in December. Imports dropped 4 per cent from a year earlier, down from 16.5 per cent growth in December.

British Steel: Takeover by Chinese firm completed  (March 9, 2020, BBC)
A Chinese firm completed its takeover of British Steel on Monday. Jingye Group said that the move would save more than 3,000 jobs in Scunthorpe and Teesside and it would modernise the towns' steelworks. The firm reportedly offered £50m to buy the company after it collapsed and was placed under the control of the UK Insolvency Service last year.

Coronavirus: China’s restaurants and shops suffer ‘sleepless nights’ as business closures surge  (March 10, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Across China, restaurants, hotels, small shops, and tourist agencies have borne the brunt of Beijing’s efforts. to contain the virus outbreak, leading to rush of closures that threaten to leave some business owners deep in debt.

Nike to review supply chains in China after reports Uighurs forced to make shoes  (March 11, 2020, The Washington Post)
One of its biggest suppliers in the world, the South Korean-owned Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co., was now looking for ways to end the contracts of Uighur workers making Nikes in its factory, the American company said in a statemen tposted on its website.

Is China getting back to business?  (March 11, 2020, BBC)
And now – with official figures appearing to show that the crisis there may have stabilised for the time being – there are signs that more people are heading back to their workplaces. However, questions remain about just how far Asia’s economic giant really is from resuming anything like “normal” business activity.


Forced online by virus, China’s schools run into censorship  (March 4, 2020, AP)
Biology courses have been blocked for “pornographic content.” History and politics classes are among the most vulnerable; subjects such as the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward are regularly censored in classes and online discussions.

China's classrooms without students  (March 8, 2020, BBC)
John Sudworth looks at the impact of China's efforts to deal with the virus across education – taking classes online – and some of its unexpected advantages.

International Students Warned of Disciplinary Action if They Return to Beijing  (March 9, 2020, The Beijinger)
Students at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) and Tsinghua University (whose iconic old gate is pictured at top) have both received warnings in the past week that anyone who returns to Beijing will face disciplinary measures, though neither specified what exactly they may be.

How the coronavirus deepens the classroom divide for China’s schoolchildren  (March 10, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Education authorities have ordered schools to conduct online lessons but the families of many rural pupils can’t afford to tap into cyberspace. Other parents must leave their sons and daughters unattended at home as they continue to go to the office.

Health / Environment

In a City Under Lockdown, a Race to Deliver Anti-HIV Drugs  (March 6, 2020, Sixth Tone)
In virus-stricken Wuhan, patients are struggling to access antiviral medication. Volunteer networks have emerged to help them.

Months still to go in global coronavirus spread, top Chinese scientist warns  (March 9, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Leading Chinese epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan said he expected the coronavirus epidemic  to keep spreading around the world for the next few months. “The development of the global epidemic is projected to continue until at least June,” Zhong said, addressing a disease prevention meeting in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on Friday.

Wuhan doctor speaks out against authorities  (March 11, 2020, The Guardian)
A doctor in Wuhan has spoken out after seeing several of her colleagues die from the coronavirus, criticising hospital authorities for suppressing early warnings of the outbreak in an interview censors have been trying to erase from the internet.

Science / Technology

Even mask-wearers can be ID'd, China facial recognition firm says  (March 9, 2020, Reuters)
A Chinese company says it has developed the country’s first facial recognition technology that can identify people when they are wearing a mask, as most are these days because of the coronavirus, and help in the fight against the disease.

History / Culture

Tracing the Tangut  (March 8, 2020, The World of Chinese)
As Genghis Khan lay dying, he ordered his generals to take revenge on the people that killed him—and exterminate an empire without a trace.

Empire of Merchants  (March 10, 2020, The World of Chinese)
Anhui today is often forgotten; one of the poorer, landlocked provinces in the east, from which large numbers migrate to cities like Nanjing for work, though its sacred mountain range of Huangshan draws plenty of visitors into the province as well. But the region was once an economic powerhouse in its own right, famous for its successful merchants, who made sacks of money dominating trade in salt, tea, and lumber, and who wielded significant political clout for centuries.

Travel / Food

Beijing Capital International Airport Sections Off Entire Wing to Process High-Risk Flights  (March 10, 2020, The Beijinger)
The area, BCIA's T3-D, was chosen for its relative isolation and has been operational as of midnight last night. It will handle all passengers on inbound flights from countries currently experiencing high levels of infection, a label that has so far largely pertained to Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.

Language / Language Learning

The coronavirus is inspiring memes, parodies and art in Asia as a way to cope  (March 6, 2020, The Los Angeles Times)
The collective effort — a surge of humor and creativity in the face of disturbing infection rates — has highlighted the disease’s strain on families and the failings of governments to protect their people. But it’s also serving like a coping mechanism, providing levity to a crisis that has shown few bounds.

Choice Chengyu: Tree Talk  (March 11, 2020, The World of Chinese)
Besides their ecological importance, trees have symbolic meaning in Chinese culture. For example, evergreens, like pine and cypress, are often associated with integrity and loyalty, since they don’t fade even in extreme cold. A bay tree can represent good luck, outstanding talent, and a successful career. These symbolisms have been codified in many chengyu related to trees…

Living Cross-culturally

Foreign Permanent Residency in China: New Draft Regulations Released  (March 5, 2020, China Briefing)
China has released a new set of regulations to determine how foreign citizens can apply for permanent residency in China. The ‘exposure draft’ is open for public consultation till March 27, 2020 after which the regulations will get finalized.


China's apartheid system was key to its economic explosion, new book argues  (March 4, 2020, Axios)
What Beijing has touted as a better model of economic growth is actually based on systematic exploitation of its rural population, writes Dexter Roberts, a former Bloomberg China correspondent. His book, "The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World" is slated for release on March 10 by St. Martin's Press.

Old photos of Hong Kong’s harbours show city’s vibrant maritime life since the 1890s  (March 5, 2020, South China Morning Post)
This volume is full of “harboury” photos, as he calls them, including maritime scenes of crews and cleaners; two submarines in a naval dry dock where China’s People’s Liberation Army barracks in Central stand today; Aberdeen harbour sampans; dragon boat races; leisure boats of a genteel age; and swimming parties.

Bringing the Gospel to Guangxi  (March 11, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Arthur Lin’s history of missions in Guangxi helps to fill in this gap, bringing alive much of the history, geography, and ethnic diversity of the region. Part of the ongoing Studies in Chinese Christianity series edited by G. Wright Doyle and Carol Lee Hamrin of the Global China Center, Lin’s work relies primarily on the words of missionaries who served in the region. Meticulously researched and skillfully narrated, Lin’s documentary portrait gives voice to the hundreds, many of them martyrs, who brought the Christian gospel to Guangxi.

Prayers for President Xi: Petitions for the President of People's Republic of China (Prayers for Presidents Book 3), by Charles Garriott, via Amazon
Using selected portions of the Old Testament book of Proverbs, Garriott makes the theological case not only for the importance of prayer but the significance of specific and intentional petitioning of God for the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. The book is a guide in praying for the president's work, life, family and spiritual needs. 

Building the Buddhist Revival: Reconstructing Monasteries in Modern Chin  (Oxford University Press)
First major work in any language to address this topic. Addresses current discussions within Buddhist Studies about the nature of modern Chinese Buddhism. Makes extensive use of Chinese Buddhist periodical sources. Makes innovative use of Digital Humanities techniques to collect and analyze research data

Links for Researchers

Video: Coronavirus Social Impact: NGOs in China Operating and Evolving through COVID-19  (March 11, 2020, CDC, via National Committee on U.S-China Relations, via YouTube)
Ford Foundation’s China Director, Elizabeth Knup, considers COVID-19’s potential to change the NGO landscape in China moving forward. She also discusses how her organization has adjusted to work during the epidemic and shares some of the ways Ford-funded NGOs are responding to the crisis.

A nationwide survey of psychological distress among Chinese people in the COVID-19 epidemic: implications and policy recommendations  (BMJ Journals General Psychology)
The implementation of unprecedented strict quarantine measures in China has kept a large number of people in isolation and affected many aspects of people’s lives. It has also triggered a wide variety of psychological problems, such as panic disorder, anxiety and depression. This study is the first nationwide large-scale survey of psychological distress in the general population of China during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource 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 of Northwestern-St. Paul …View Full Bio