ZGBriefs | March 2, 2023

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Featured Article

Fragmenting network protocols – China and the end of the web as we know it (February 24, 2023, MERICS)
China is rolling out a new internet protocol (IP) that threatens the fair and equal treatment of traffic on the internet, also known as net neutrality. IPv6+ is a routing system for internet data that allows senders to specify to the network provider the type of content in a data packet and the route it should take. 

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Canada bans TikTok on government devices over security risks (February 28, 2023, The Guardian)
Canada has joined the US and EU in enacting a sweeping ban preventing TikTok from being installed on all government-issued mobile devices, as western officials take action over the Chinese-owned video-sharing app.

Li Keqiang’s Legacy: A Recommitment to Reformism (February 28, 2023, The Diplomat)
Despite his reputation for being a political weakling, Li deserves credit for successfully championing reformist economic values.

China’s Xi heralds ‘unbreakable’ friendship with Belarus, an ally of Russia (March 1, 2023, NPR)
The meeting comes a week after Beijing called for a cease-fire and peace talks to end the war between Russia and Ukraine, both neighbors of Belarus. It also follows a pledge by China and Russia to strengthen their cooperation.

China’s annual parliament to implement Xi’s tightening grip (March 1, 2023, Reuters)
China’s annual parliament opens on Sunday and will implement the biggest government reshuffle in a decade as Xi Jinping tightens control while contending with a host of challenges, from an uneven post-COVID economic recovery to cratering U.S. relations.

FBI chief Christopher Wray says China lab leak most likely (March 1, 2023, BBC)
FBI Director Christopher Wray has said that the bureau believes Covid-19 most likely originated in a Chinese government-controlled lab. “The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident,” he told Fox News. It is the first public confirmation of the FBI’s classified judgement of how the pandemic virus emerged.

New China committee debuts, warns of ‘existential struggle’ (March 1, 2023, AP News)
A special House committee dedicated to countering China began its work Tuesday with a prime-time hearing in which the panel’s chairman called on lawmakers to act with urgency and framed the competition between the U.S. and China as “an existential struggle over what life will look like in the 21st century.”

Meet the 4 men tipped to run China’s economy (March 1, 2023, CNN)
Party elites have just finalized nominations for key government positions ahead of the annual gathering of the National People’s Congress, the country’s rubber-stamp legislature, which starts on Sunday. They include the four men tipped to manage the world’s second biggest economy: Li Qiang as premier, Ding Xuexiang as executive vice premier, He Lifeng as vice premierand Zhu Hexin as the new central bank chief.

Explainer: what is China’s ‘two sessions’ gathering, and why does it matter? (March 1, 2023, The Guardian)
The event is called the “two sessions” because both the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) hold their annual meetings separately, but at the same time. The CPPCC is an advisory body, and the 3,000-member NPC is the CCP’s legislative body, but is largely a “rubber stamping” parliament.


Rupert Clarke: The Medical Missionary on the Tibetan Plateau (February 20, 2023, Christianity Today)
 “This foreign doctor is very good to Tibetans, treating them the way he treats Han Chinese.” Sometimes traveling for weeks, Tibetans and lamas came on horses, on yaks, or on foot in large groups to seek medical treatment. When they arrived at the hospital, they would hear the gospel for the first time, undergo surgery, recover, and joyfully return home with a New Testament or gospel pamphlets.

China rolls out searchable public databases of officially approved religious leaders (February 23, 2023, Radio Free Asia)
The state-backed Buddhist Association of China and Taoist Association of China launched the database on Feb. 22, state news agency Xinhua reported, citing “frequent cases in recent years of fraudsters posing as religious figures.” “This searchable database … will help curb the chaos caused by fake monks and Taoist taking money for teaching,” the report said. It said similar databases for Muslim, Catholic and Protestant clerics would soon follow.

Beyond the Standard Narrative (February 24, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
While we may hear that “China” is clamping down on unregistered meetings or websites or online gatherings, the reality on the ground may tell a different story. 

How I Prayed: Hold Fast to Christ (February 27, 2023, China Partnership)
“After three years of intermittent lockdowns, Christians want to come together… My friend said her church is meeting in small groups, with a few families in each group….Pray for God to give pastors and believers in church bodies like this bravery to face their reality, and also patience as they persevere in difficult circumstances.”

Society / Life

China Moves to Erase the Vestiges of ‘Zero Covid’ to Deter Dissent (February 28, 2023, The New York Times) (subscription required)
The ruling Communist Party is waging an ambitious propaganda campaign to rewrite the public’s memory of its handling of the pandemic, which included some of the harshest restrictions in the world.

Economics / Trade / Business

Growth in China’s Labor Force Slowed Since 2018, Says New Survey (February 28, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Data from a new survey has revealed that the working population in China grew by just 2.8% over the last five years — a significant contraction from a growth rate of 11.8% recorded in 2018. And with China expected to see the biggest ever wave of retirements over the next ten years, concerns over the country’s aging population and its implications on the labor market continue to grow. 

China’s factory activity grows further, marks its highest reading in nearly 11 years (February 28, 2023, CNBC)
China’s factory activity for February bounced further into expansion territory, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics. The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index rose to 52.6 in February – above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction. That marks the highest reading since April 2012, when it hit 53.5.

U.S.-China Trade Stayed Robust in 2022. Will That Last? (February 28, 2023, China File)
How should we interpret these latest figures? Do these numbers obscure medium and long term trends? Or will the U.S. and China remain strong trading partners despite growing restrictions and strains in their broader relationship?

China’s CNOOC discovers oilfield in Bohai Sea (March 1, 2023, Reuters)
China’s CNOOC Ltd (0883.HK), has discovered an oilfield with estimated reserves of 100 million tonnes of light crude in the Bohai Sea, which stretches along China’s northern coastline, the company said on Wednesday. The estimated size of the Bozhong 26-6 field is an ‘oil in place’ metric, referring to the total volume in a reservoir rather than the recoverable portion of that, the company told Reuters.

Health / Environment

Unifying China’s digital health system beyond COVID-19 (March 1, 2023, East Asia Forum)
The itinerary code worked alongside China’s health code (jiankang ma) which tracked individuals’ COVID-19 status, including vaccination status and previous diagnoses, to generate a coloured (red, yellow or green) code indicating the person’s likelihood of COVID-19 infection. While the health code was not terminated entirely, some of its services, like the coloured code, have now ceased to operate. On 9 November 2022, despite these changes, China’s government announced plans to further digitise the national health system and associated services.

Travel / Food

China’s Tourism Rebound Faces a Roadblock: A Lack of Travel Agents (February 24, 2023, Sixth Tone)
But supply-side issues are also playing a major role. In many cases, tourists are ready to return to overseas destinations, but travel companies aren’t. After three years of practically zero bookings, China’s travel industry faces a daunting rebuilding job. Agencies have folded or lost staff. Airlines have cut flights. Partner businesses in overseas destinations have disappeared.

Living Cross-culturally

To Stay or Not to Stay? Is It Time to Leave China? (February 27, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
I suspect that many like him have narrowed decisions about the future to one of two possible options: stay in China or return to one’s home country. However, I don’t think these are the only two options. I see a compelling third option: relocate to an area outside of China to serve diaspora Chinese or train Chinese missionaries (or both). 

Treasures at the Market (March 1, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
One year when I was teaching in northeast China, I noticed my city had a shi chang with a doll seller who had quite a collection of American Girl dolls. This brand of dolls represented the various eras in US history and came with quite a catalog of expensive accompanying clothes and accessories. Two of my teammates’ little girls knew about the dolls and we decided to go and take a closer look.

Links for Researchers

Issues & Insights Vol. 23, WP2 – Digital China: The Strategy and Its Geopolitical Implications (February 22, 2023, Pacific Forum)
In the first installment of a three-part research project, Dr. Dorman and Dr. Hemmings lay out the rise of China’s overall digital grand strategy, Xi’s role in it, and how it has been organized to fulfil Party objectives. The report tracks the rise of the strategy over the past 10 years, the acceleration of that rise during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the current state of the strategy.

Spiritual Life Study of Chinese Residents (The Association of Religion Data Archives)
The lack of quality data has left academia with an unclear picture of what religious life is like in China. Much of what is known comes from government statistics, anecdotal reports from missionaries and religious organizations, or field research. The objective of this study was to design and collect a state of the art random sample of Chinese citizens and assess their religious and spiritual life. 

Pray for China

March 5 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Mar. 5, 1910, Wang Zhen (王镇牧师) was born in Hebei. He became a Christian in 1930, after a Christian doctor told him it would be a miracle from God if his diseased leg was saved from amputation—and it was. However, it was not until he was a seminary student and heard Song Shangjie (宋尚节博士-John Sung) preach in Beijing in 1932, that Wang dedicated his life to the Lord. He pastored for several years; then in 1941, when the war forced the missionary-director to leave China, Wang Zhen took charge of an orphanage in Shanxi. After the war, he moved the orphanage to Beijing and continued to work tirelessly for the orphans and his own seven children. The orphanage was taken over by the new communist government, and in 1955 Wang was sent to prison as a counter-revolutionary. After his release in 1979, he preached and wrote Bible study books until he rested in the Lord on Nov. 2, 1983. Pray for orphans in Hebei, Shanxi, and Beijing to know the Loving Heavenly Father. Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:26

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