ZGBriefs | March 19, 2020

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Featured Article

Face masks and coronavirus: how culture affects your decision to wear one  (March 14, 2020, South China Morning Post)
In East Asia, where memories of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak 17 years ago remain strong, wearing face masks when out has become the norm. Many see it as a collective responsibility to reduce transmission of the coronavirus, with more than 120,000 confirmed cases in more than 100 countries.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Chinese Tycoon Who Criticized Xi’s Response to Coronavirus Has Vanished  (March 14, 2020, The New York Times)
Mr. Ren, an outspoken property tycoon in Beijing, wrote in a scathing essay that China’s leader, Xi Jinping, was a power-hungry “clown.” He said the ruling Communist Party’s strict limits on free speech had exacerbated the coronavirus epidemic. Now Mr. Ren, one of the most prominent critics of Mr. Xi in mainland China, is missing, his friends said on Saturday.

As China Cracks Down on Coronavirus Coverage, Journalists Fight Back  (March 14, 2020, The New York Times)
The Communist Party is trying to fill the airwaves with positive stories about its battle against the virus. Chinese reporters, buoyed by widespread calls for free speech, are resisting.

Inside China’s campaign to blame the U.S. for the coronavirus pandemic  (March 15, 2020, Market Watch)
The seemingly coordinated effort to, at minimum, sow doubts about the virus’s origin, and, at its most extreme, to directly accuse the U.S. military of creating and spreading the pathogen, has come from Chinese medical leaders, ambassadors and Foreign Ministry spokespersons — not to mention the hundreds of thousands of comments on Chinese social media echoing the conspiracy theories.

What does the coronavirus reveal about the presence of foreigners in Wuhan and Hubei?  (March 16, 2020, The Asia Dialogue)
While many countries have rushed to bring their citizens home, sub-Saharan African countries seem to be caught between safeguarding their political-economic interests with China and arousing the ire of their citizens left in Wuhan and Hubei.

China to expel New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reporters  (March 17, 2020, CNN)
China has announced it will expel journalists from three US media outlets, in a major escalation of tensions with Washington. The decision, effective immediately, will require US nationals working for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal to return their press accreditation within 10 days, if their credentials expire before the end of 2020.

Timeline: The early days of China's coronavirus outbreak and cover-up  (March 18 2020, Axios)
Axios has compiled a timeline of the earliest weeks of the coronavirus outbreak in China, highlighting when the cover-up started and ended — and showing how, during that time, the virus already started spreading around the world, including to the United States.

China's internal security force on frontlines of Hong Kong protests  (March 18, 2020, Reuters)
Officers from China’s top internal security force – the People’s Armed Police – joined Hong Kong police on the frontlines to observe anti-government protests that peaked last year, according to a senior foreign diplomat and an opposition politician.


Some Unanswered Questions  (March 13, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
During the webinar, “Our China Stories: Unpacking Contemporary Narratives about the Church in China” with Dr. Brent Fulton in February, participants were able to ask questions following the presentation. There were eleven questions submitted that we did not have time to respond to during the time allotted.

Mission Ministry in Hong Kong, Part 1 : Sunset or Sunrise?  (March 16, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
The social movement in Hong Kong since June last year has awakened local churches to the possibility that the government in the mainland will extend its control over religious activities to Hong Kong after the expiry of “one country, two systems” in 2047. Churches must consider how to cope with the dwindling freedom following after the repression of Christianity in mainland China.

The Impact of the Coronavirus Outbreak on a Christian Official: A Testimony  (March 17, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
In this article from Territory, a local government official shares how the coronavirus has been his “wake-up call” to the Christian faith. The author also writes about what life is like on the front-lines in the war against the coronavirus in China.

Society / Life

COVID-19 and China’s Forbidden ‘Cities Within Cities’  (March 13, 2020, Sixth Tone)
In urban areas, at least, one of the most common practices involved sealing off residential communities one-by-one throughout entire cities. Officials’ work was made easier because many of the residential developments built over the past 30 years are gated communities, with perimeter walls, security guards, surveillance cameras, and easily monitored gates — all paid for by the residents themselves via property management fees.

Tacky But Effective? The Endless Creativity of China's Anti-Virus Propaganda Banners  (March 16, 2020, The Beijinger)
During the battle with COVID-19, China's literati wannabes have found their calling, unleashing their endless creativity seemingly overnight with slogans hung alongside streets, in front of neighborhoods, and pinned to otherwise bare, drab walls across the country. 

24 Hours in Post-Lockdown Shanghai  (March 17, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Businesses have reopened. Traffic chokes the streets. But for many families, the COVID-19 crisis feels far from over.

In China, life returning to normal as coronavirus outbreak slows  (March 17, 2020, Al Jazeera)
As the number of COVID-19 cases confirmed overseas daily have surpassed those within China, the draconian measures that appear to have quelled the outbreak domestically – particularly outside Hubei – are gradually being relaxed.

Will the Coronavirus Change the Way China’s Millennials See Their Country?  (March 18, 2020, The New Yorker)
In a manner that Wu had never before witnessed, they were divulging intimate details of their devastated lives, airing grievances, pleading for help. “We Chinese are not in the habit of exposing our vulnerability,” she said. “It’s a measure of how desperate things had become.”

Economics / Trade / Business

Halting China’s Economy Was Hard. Restarting It Is Harder.  (March 12, 2020, The New York Times)
Beijing brought the world’s No. 2 economy to a halt to quell the coronavirus epidemic. Its difficulties in reviving business offer a potential lesson for other countries.

Coronavirus Could End China’s Decades-Long Economic Growth Streak  (March 16, 2020, The New York Times)
The weakness raises the possibility that the Chinese economy may have shrunk in the first quarter of this year. It would be the first contraction since 1976.

China’s economy suffers dramatic collapse in January, February in warning to rest of world  (March 16, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The coronavirus’ impact on China’s economy was made plain in new numbers released on Monday, which showed a dramatic collapse across the board. Amid a widespread shutdown of manufacturing operations, industrial production – a measure of manufacturing, mining and utilities activity – declined by 13.5 per cent over the first two months of the year, combined data for January and February showed.

Alternatives to China: Where is the Manufacturing Capacity?  (March 18, 2020, China Briefing)
But to shift production isn’t so simple – China remains an attractive consumer market, and demand there is now once again picking up. Uniqlo, the Japanese retailer, have just reopened all their Chinese stores except those still under lockdown in Hubei Province. Apple has reopened all its China stores – just as it closed down all non-China retail outlets.

Open source of trouble: China’s efforts to decouple from foreign IT technologies  (March 18, 2020, Mercator Institute for China Studies)
Chinese tech companies are turning to European suppliers and collaborative projects to cut their reliance on US suppliers. Caroline Meinhardt says Europe faces some tough choices.

Health / Environment

First Covid-19 case happened in November, China government records show – report  (March 13, 2020, The Guardian)
The report, in the South China Morning Post, said Chinese authorities had identified at least 266 people who contracted the virus last year and who came under medical surveillance, and the earliest case was 17 November – weeks before authorities announced the emergence of the new virus.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on relations between China and the Middle East  (March 17, 2020, The Asia Dialogue)
The surprising effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to foster comradeship between China and most Middle-Eastern states in combatting a common enemy.

China developing 9 potential vaccines in global race for coronavirus cure  (March 18, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The race to develop a Covid-19  vaccine is on, with the United States already starting a clinical trial and China close behind. On Tuesday, vaccine producer CanSino Biologics, in Tianjin in China’s northeast, said it was looking for volunteers to take part in a six-month clinical trial of a treatment it had developed jointly with the Academy of Military Medical Sciences.

History / Culture

Precursors of Four Top Hospitals in China: Church Hospitals and Gospel Spirit  (March 17, 2020, China Christian Daily)
Today, the stories of church hospitals may still be mentioned from time to time. After all, they bear witness to the missionaries who actively served the community, saved lives and promoted public awareness of health. They did this in an environment where there was an absence of adequate medical care and medicine, and under the limited conditions of medical facilities. Stories about this time period include the four top hospitals in the early missionary history.

Travel / Food

Hong Kong to quarantine all arrivals from abroad (March 17, 2020)
Hong Kong will quarantine all people arriving from abroad for 14 days, its leader Carrie Lam has said. The restrictions, which will kick in on Thursday, will not apply to those from Macau or Taiwan. Entrants from mainland China already had to self-isolate. Ms Lam said the majority of Hong Kong's cases had been imported, adding that "strict measures" were needed.

Change Your Chopstick Habits To Curb COVID-19, Cities Say  (March 18, 2020, Sixth Tone)
A new front has opened up in China’s “people’s war” against the novel coronavirus: the nation’s dinner tables. In recent days, local authorities across the country have been promoting the use of serving chopsticks and spoons, or gongkuai gongshao in Chinese, to prevent residents from unwittingly passing on the virus when they share dishes.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

New Series Spotlights Behind-the-Scenes Heroes of Chinese Film  (March 18, 2020, Sixth Tone)
“Tales of Chinese Filmmakers” brings camera operators, sound designers, voice actors, and other unsung film crew members to center stage.

Language / Language Learning

How good is your Chinese?  (March 15, 2020, Hacking Chinese)
In this article, we’re going to look at evaluating how good your Chinese is, not because you need to pass an exam, but because it will help you reach your goals, whatever they are.

We Live in Different Worlds  (March 18, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Lexical-semantic categories are not the only areas that define different worlds for different sociolinguistic groups. Grammatical categories also present the world differently to speakers of different languages.

Living Cross-culturally

Beijing Bunker: "We Did Not Anticipate the Huge Negative Impact the Virus Would Have on Businesses" (March 18, 2020, The Beijinger)
As Beijing enters its seventh week in self-quarantine, the stories of how people have been dealing with the coronavirus outbreak – by staying, leaving, or watching on from afar – are many and varied. In Beijing Bunker, we quiz Beijingers on what approach they've been taking to stay safe and sane through the ordeal.

Links for Researchers

2019 Annual Report: Chinese Government Persecution of Churches and Christians in Mainland China (January – December 2019, China Aid Association)

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