ZGBriefs | March 25, 2021

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Featured Article

Wuhan study spotlights China’s Covid-19 herd immunity challenge (March 20, 2021, South China Morning Post)
Swift lockdown measures brought disease under control but population vulnerable to imported infections without vaccinations. Researchers find possibly 10 times more people than original estimates could have been infected but herd immunity is a long way off.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

‘Deep concerns’: US and China trade criticisms at Alaska meeting – video (March 19, 2021, The Guardian)
Representatives from the two countries met in Alaska, where a highly unusual extended back-and-forth took place in front of the cameras. When US secretary of state Antony Blinken pointed out “deep concerns” over China’s actions relating to “Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion of our allies”, China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi responded with a 15-minute speech in Chinese lashing out out at what he called a struggling democracy in the US, poor treatment of minorities and foreign and trade policies.

2nd Canadian goes on trial in China on spying charges (March 22, 2021, AP)
A second Canadian citizen held for more than two years on spying charges in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a senior executive of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei went on trial in Beijing on Monday. The trial of analyst and former diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing follows an initial hearing in the case of entrepreneur Michael Spavor in the northeastern city of Dandong on Friday.

China Retaliates After EU Sanctions 4 Chinese Officials, Police Department (March 24, 2021, NPR)
Europe has mostly tried to avoid political confrontation with China, but this week things came to a head over what EU officials say are human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region.

Facebook finds Chinese hacking operation targeting Uyghurs (March 24, 2021, ABC News)
Facebook says hackers in China used fake accounts and impostor websites in a bid to break into the phones of Uyghur Muslims.

Top U.S. diplomat warns China threatens NATO security, calls for joint approach to counter Beijing (March 24, 2021, CNBC)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there’s no question China threatens the collective security of NATO allies, particularly when it comes to technology. Blinken said there’s still space to cooperate with China, but called for NATO to stand firm when Beijing tries to pressure an alliance member.


Police, Officials Raid Bible Study Group in China’s Guiyang (March 18, 2021, Radio Free Asia)
Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou have raided a Protestant house church, detaining at least 10 people for questioning, RFA has learned. The raid came amid a Bible study group meeting held by the Ren’ai Reformed Church in Guizhou’s provincial capital, Guiyang, on Tuesday morning.

3 Questions: Christian Architecture in China (March 19, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
At first, visiting churches in China grew purely out of necessity, as on Sunday morning I would be looking for a church to attend in the city where I was traveling. However, as I visited more churches and checked off each one from this never-ending list, it became a self-imposed mission to document as many churches in China as I could.

The Voice of Chinese Sisters: “The Lord Suffers With Us” (March 22, 2021, China Partnership Blog)
We are pleased to share on our blog the voice of Chinese sisters who spoke at KL2020. Here “Fay” shares about how she has experienced God’s promises in the midst of suffering. “Haley,” a missionary and herself an overseas Chinese, talks about what she has learned from her years of partnering with Chinese sisters in their suffering.

Chinese Young People Seek to Improve Their Futures (2) (March 23, 2021, Chinese Church Voices)
China is officially an atheist country, but that does not mean that there is not a vibrant spirituality in the country. Interest in New Age-type spirituality has soared in recent years in China. And, as this article from the journal Territory points out, young people are particularly drawn to these types of practices.

The Heart of a Single Servant (March 24, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
The seven points that Joy shares are vital for Christian workers of all kinds, but here we hear the heart and conviction of a young, single, Chinese Christian woman in ministry.

Society / Life

China bomb attack kills four in suspected protest over development (March 23, 2021, The Guardian)
Attack at office that makes decisions on land use comes after officials gave 270 acres to a developer, prompting the relocation of farmers.

What Happened In Mingjing Village? (March 23, 2021, China Media Project)
In this case, there were no big headlines. There were no reporters on the scene. There was only a trickle of information, including a pair of terse local police notices, a news item from the state-run Xinhua News Agency that parroted the police line, and a graphic video of the aftermath circulating with little context on social media.

US backs Philippines in standoff over South China Sea reef (March 23, 2021, AP)
The United States said Tuesday its backing the Philippines in a new standoff with Beijing in the disputed South China Sea, where Manila has asked a Chinese fishing flotilla to leave a reef. China ignored the call, insisting it owns the offshore territory.

My Journey Into the Heart of China’s Divorce Crisis (March 24, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Photographer Gao Meilin discusses her struggle to bear witness to China’s rising number of broken marriages.

Ready or Not, Here Come China’s Pop Culture Intellectuals (March 24, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Armed with plenty of jokes, Chinese intellectuals are hitting the reality show circuit. Can they win over mass audiences?

China’s rural revolution: the architects rescuing its villages from oblivion (March 24, 2021, The Guardian)
After 20 years of frantic city-building, rustic China is in a death spiral. Now architects are helping to reverse the exodus – with inspirational tofu factories, rice wine distilleries and lotus tea plants.

Economics / Trade / Business

China debt: ‘under pressure’ local governments racked up US$2.3 trillion in hidden debt last year (March 24, 2021, South China Morning Post)
China’s local governments had 14.8 trillion yuan (US$2.3 trillion) of hidden debt last year, according to Liu Lei, a senior researcher at the National Institution for Finance and Development. Local governments were under pressure to increase infrastructure investments and shore up growth last year through the coronavirus pandemic


Chinese students looking abroad confident about coronavirus pandemic, but keeping an eye on geopolitics (March 24, 2021, South China Morning Post)
As the world gradually moves ahead of the coronavirus, Chinese students are newly confident about studying abroad. But concerns remain about China’s strained relationships with some foreign countries. Half the Chinese students wishing to go overseas said they planned to go this year, while a quarter would leave next year, according to a survey of 1,380 students by Chinese education consultancy EIC Education.

Health / Environment

Vaccinations Only Way Out of Pandemic, China Tells Reluctant Public (March 22, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Officials say getting inoculated needs to be a priority even for people who don’t feel they’re at risk of catching the coronavirus.

Hong Kong Halts Use of Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Over Packaging Defects (March 24, 2021, The New York Times)
Officials said they had found no health risks, but the move deals a blow to the Chinese city’s already troubled inoculation campaign.

In Beijing, COVID-19 Shots Come With Free Grocery Vouchers (March 24, 2021, Sixth Tone)
As China accelerates its COVID-19 inoculation campaign, local authorities are trying to entice the vaccine-shy with special discounts.

History / Culture

Archaeologists uncover 3,000-year-old gold mask in southwest China (March 22, 2021, CNN)
The remains of a gold mask are among a huge cache of 3,000-year-old artifacts found at an archaeological site in China’s Sichuan province. Weighing about 280 grams (0.6 pounds) and estimated to be made from 84% gold, the ceremonial mask is one of over 500 items unearthed from six newly discovered “sacrificial pits,” according to the country’s National Cultural Heritage Administration.

An Ode to Shanghai’s Television Golden Age (March 22, 2021, Sixth Tone)
he city is practically made for TV. So why do televised portrayals always make it seem so drab and lifeless?

The Story of a Song Dynasty Ship (March 24, 2021, The World of Chinese)
Due to its location in the South China Sea, Hainan has been at the forefront of an exciting new field that aims to restore our knowledge of China’s ancient Maritime Silk Road: underwater archeology.

Travel / Food

China Considers New Visa Polices Based on Vaccines (March 21, 2021, Skift)
Beijing is also considering implementing differentiated policies for visa issuance, flights and controls on the numbers of people arriving in China based on vaccination progress and the COVID-19 situations in the countries of origin. “We do not exempt vaccinated people from testing and isolation measures for the time being,” said Feng Zijian, vice director of Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention during the news conference. 

Why Foodies are Flocking to This Southern Chinese City (March 23, 2021, Radii China)
There’s a good reason why Chinese food lovers have been making excursions to Shunde. Located in China’s Guangdong province, the southern city is the sixth in the world to be awarded as one of UNESCO’s Cities of Gastronomy. It’s also an important origin for China’s most popular cuisine overseas: Cantonese food.

‘Red tourism’ boost expected during CPC centenary celebrations (March 24, 2021, China Daily)
“Red tourism” has developed quickly in recent years and is expected to receive a further boost as the nation celebrates the centenary of the Communist Party of China, a senior official said on Tuesday. In recent years, people’s desire to learn and experience revolutionary history and culture has become stronger, Hu Heping, minister of culture and tourism, said at a news conference held by the CPC Central Committee.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

New Documentary “The Six” Details the Untold Legacy of Chinese Men Who Survived the Titanic (March 19, 2021, The Beijinger)
That is until Beijing-based documentarian and researcher Steven Schwankert (who also served as managing editor and is a long-time contributor to the Beijinger) stumbled upon a fleeting mention of six Chinese men – likely from Guangdong province – who survived the infamous shipwreck. Now, nearly five years after beginning a quest to find out more alongside Shanghai-based director Arthur Jones, their film, The Six, will hit Chinese theaters, Apr 16.

Language / Language Learning

New trends in Chinese naming practices (March 19, 2021, Language Log)
Chinese given names are mostly disyllabic, though a considerable number are also monosyllabic.  As most people know, Chinese surnames are mainly monosyllabic, though a few are disyllabic. 

6 things in Chinese that are harder to learn than they seem (March 19, 2021, Hacking Chinese)
Some things are like juggling three balls: it looks hard if you don’t know anything about it, but once you try, it’s not that bad. Other things are like learning to juggle five balls: they look deceptively manageable, but only if you haven’t actually tried to mastered them. Misjudging the difficult of a learning task has different consequences depending on the direction of your error.

How to live a happy life according to Chinese idioms (March 20, 2021, The World of Chinese)
Drawing on these sources and others, the ancient Chinese generated various idioms regarding happiness, guided by different schools of thoughts. The Chinese characters for “happiness” are 喜 (xǐ, delighted), 福 (fú, bliss, good fortune), and 乐 (lè, joy, pleasure). It is perhaps 乐 that captures the contentment of life as a whole the most.


Destination Peking (March 22, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
I like China books and murder mysteries, so years ago I read Paul French’s Midnight in Peking—a book that fit the bill on both accounts. When French’s new book, Destination Peking came out earlier this year, it seemed time to try another of his forays into the lives of expatriates in early 20th century China, even if murder wasn’t involved.

Links for Researchers

China’s Social Credit System in 2021: From fragmentation towards integration (March 3, 2021, MERICS)
The Social Credit System is a highly flexible tool that can quickly be applied to address new policy priorities. During the Covid-19 pandemic, government agencies rapidly issued a slew of directives to implement pandemic-related regulations.

Pray for China

March 31 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Mar. 31, 2016, Hangzhou pastor Joseph Gu Yuese (顾约瑟牧师), leader of one of China’s largest registered churches, was released after spending several weeks in a “black jail.” Rev. Gu had been seized by authorities six months after publishing a letter criticizing the cross-demolition campaign in nearby Wenzhou. He was re-arrested in Jan. 2017 for alleged financial irregularities and was released again months later on Christmas Eve. Pray for him and for others unjustly imprisoned to draw close to the Lord. And say, ‘Thus says the king, “Put this fellow in prison and feed him meager rations of bread and water, until I come in peace.” 1 Kings 22:27  

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