ZGBriefs | March 4, 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

Has China lifted 100 million people out of poverty? (March 1, 2021, BBC)
Chinese President Xi Jinping says his country has reached the ambitious goal set when he assumed office in 2012 of lifting 100 million people out of poverty. But what has China actually achieved? We’ve compared the Chinese data with global poverty figures compiled by the World Bank.

Sponsored Link

Free Webinar: Confucian Shame in Christian Thinking (ChinaSource)
For Confucian thinkers, shame is an essential element required for moral development. This understanding is foreign to most Westerners. Yet, does shame have a place in Christian theology? Is it something to get rid of or might it have a role in shaping our character? This webinar will explore the diverse ways that honor and shame affect our moral decision making as well as Paul’s use of these ideas within his letters.
Date: March 24, 2021
Time: 1:00-2:00 PM (US Central Daylight Time)
Presenter: Jackson Wu

If you or your company/organization would like to sponsor a link in ZGBriefs, please contact info@chinasource.org for more information.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Two Sessions preview (February 26, 2021, Trivium China)
March Madness is upon us – and we ain’t talking basketball. No, no – we are talking juicy, high-level, rip-roaring Chinese government meetings, baby! That’s right: The annual meetings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC) – colloquially known as the Two Sessions – kick off next week.

In single swoop, dozens of Hong Kong activists charged with subversion (February 28, 2021, Christian Science Monitor)
The crackdown comes as Chinese officials prepare to unveil electoral reforms that will likely further diminish the influence of opposition forces.

China’s electoral reform ‘earthquake’ set to upend Hong Kong politics (March 1, 2021, Reuters)
The proposed reform will put further pressure on pro-democracy activists, who are already the subject of a crackdown on dissent, and has ruffled the feathers of some pro-Beijing loyalists, some of whom may find themselves swept aside by a new and ambitious crop of loyalists, the people said. “It will be an earthquake shaking up local political interests,” said one person briefed on the impending changes.

China’s Upcoming ‘Two Sessions’ Might Be Its Most Important Political Gathering in Decades (March 2, 2021, TIME)
The unveiling of a new Five-Year Plan, the country’s fourteenth, mean that the 10-day policy extravaganza will be brimming with long-term initiatives. Among these will be strongman President Xi Jinping’s “2035 vision”—a grand blueprint that will build momentum as he heads toward an unprecedented third leadership term.

‘If the others go I’ll go’: Inside China’s scheme to transfer Uighurs into work (March 2, 2021, BBC)
China’s policy of transferring hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang to new jobs often far from home is leading to a thinning out of their populations, according to a high-level Chinese study seen by the BBC.

Taiwan issue, risk of conflict loom large for Beijing’s political elite (March 3, 2021, South China Morning Post)
While the question of Taiwan is not on the official agenda for Beijing’s annual “two sessions” legislative meetings , it will be front of mind for many delegates at the conclave, just months ahead of the symbolically important 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party.

Biden brings no relief to tensions between US and China (March 3, 2021, AP)
Although the Biden administration has halted the ferocious rhetorical attacks and near daily announcements of new sanctions on China that had become commonplace under Trump, it has yet to back down on any of Trump’s actions against Beijing.

China poses ‘biggest geopolitical test’ for the U.S., Secretary of State Blinken says (March 3, 2021, NBC News)
“Our relationship with China will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be. And we will engage China from a position of strength,” Blinken said in a speech laying out the Biden administration’s foreign policy vision.

China and South Korea open new lines of communication to cut the chance of a military mishap (March 3, 2021, South China Morning Post)
Two new hotlines were established as part of a revised memorandum of understanding signed on Tuesday between the two defence ministries, the Chinese defence ministry said.

China: Calls for 2022 Winter Olympics boycott doomed to fail (March 3, 2021, AP)
The spokesperson, Guo Weimin, also denounced speculation that Beijing was seeking diplomatic gains by providing COVID-19 vaccines and other global assistance to help fight the pandemic, saying China was only seeking to meet its international obligations in providing a public service.

‘The East Is Rising’: Xi Maps Out China’s Post-Covid Ascent (March 3, 2021, The New York Times)
Xi Jinping has struck a confident posture as he looks to secure China’s prosperity and power in a post-Covid world, saying that the country is entering a time of opportunity when “the East is rising and the West is declining.” But behind closed doors, China’s Communist Party leader has also issued a blunt caveat to officials: Do not count out our competitors, above all the United States.


Our Chinese Sisters (March 1, 2021, China Partnership Blog)
Their lives are not richer or deeper or better than mine or than yours. But their experiences are different, and the challenges they face are not ones the Lord has laid before those of us in the free world.

China’s Churches Celebrating the New Year (March 2, 2021, Chinese Church Voices)
With the Covid-19 restrictions in place during the Spring Festival this year, how did China’s churches celebrate? China Christian Daily gives us glimpse of what the holiday was like for some churches in China.

Society / Life

In Great Hall of the People, “Complete Victory.” In the Countryside, A More Complicated Story (February 26, 2021, China Digital Times)
In late 2020, China declared victory over poverty, marking the end of a five-year campaign to raise rural incomes above $600 per year. In the essay “The Countryside Through A Daughter In-Law’s Eyes,” though, Huang Deng wrote movingly about the harsh realities of life outside of China’s urban areas. The poverty alleviation campaign was intended to address some of those issues, yet significant questions remain about who, exactly, accrued the benefits.

First Chinese Province Scraps Residency Restrictions (February 26, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Jiangxi is allowing its 46 million inhabitants to obtain local household registration without first having lived or worked in the province for a designated period.

Chinese parents are spending big bucks on their kids’ lifestyle (March 1, 2021, Inkstone News)
China’s children’s goods and services market is now worth almost US$700 billion, with parents spending up to 50% of household income to keep their young clothed, fed and entertained.

Economics / Trade / Business

China’s aging population is a bigger challenge than its ‘one-child’ policy, economists say (February 28, 2021, CNBC)
China’s decades-old one-child policy gained renewed attention in the last few weeks, after authorities gave mixed signals on whether they were closer to abolishing limits on how many children people can have. Authorities have rolled back the controversial one-child policy in recent years to allow people to have two children. But economists say other changes are needed for boosting growth as births fall and China’s population rapidly ages.

China Charges Ahead With a National Digital Currency (March 1, 2021, The New York Times)
The electronic Chinese yuan is now being tested in cities such as Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing. No other major power is as far along with a homegrown digital currency.

China is sounding the alarm about a global market bubble (March 2, 2021, CNN)
Guo Shuqing, the Communist Party boss at the People’s Bank of China, told reporters in Beijing on Tuesday that confidence in Chinese markets could be hit by volatility around the world. “We are really afraid the bubble for foreign financial assets will burst someday,” said Guo, who is also chairman of China’s Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission.


Top Shanghai University Offers Weekend Courses for High Schoolers (March 2, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Fudan University’s admissions director clarified that students participating in the new advanced credit program will not be given preferential consideration for enrollment.

Health / Environment

Some local Beijing communities start giving elderly COVID-19 shots (March 1, 2021, Reuters)
Some local communities in Beijing have started giving COVID-19 vaccine doses to people older than 60, even as the city’s disease-control authorities publicly advises this age group against inoculation.

China Aims to Accelerate Vaccination, Reach 40% Immunity by June (March 3, 2021, Sixth Tone)
China wants to vaccinate 40% of its population by the end of June, an ambitious target given the country’s current vaccination rate of just 3.56%. 

History / Culture

The Name Game: 3 Fascinating Facts About Chinese Names (March 1, 2021, Radii China)
An incredible 76 million people share the surname Wang, making it the most popular family name in the world. Here’s one of our favorite Wangs to tell you more and to tell you why you really shouldn’t be getting the pronunciation wrong.

Roots and Branches (March 1, 2021, China Channel)
My Dad grew up in a small fishing village about two hours northwest of Shanghai. His stories about his hometown sound more like Mount Olympus than a poor Chinese village with a flooding problem. According to him, nowhere else in the universe was the air as sweet, the trees as lush and the jade-toned water as beautiful as in the laojia.

The Fall of China’s Working-Class ‘Palaces’ (March 2, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Beginning in the 1990s, the country’s working-class cultural spaces began to disappear, to be replaced by private, for-profit entities.

‘Exceptional’ 15th-Century Ming Dynasty bowl unearthed at US yard sale (March 3, 2021, BBC)
As far as antiques hunting goes, this might just be as good as it gets. A small bowl bought for just $35 (£25) at a market sale in the US state of Connecticut has turned out to be a rare 15th-Century Chinese artefact. The white porcelain bowl was spotted by an unidentified antiques enthusiast near New Haven last year, and they quickly sought an expert evaluation.

Travel / Food

Changchun! (February 26, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
By the time I moved away from Changchun in 1998, the city had undergone an amazing transformation. As the train pulled away from the station, I couldn’t help wonder what the city would look like twenty years hence. Well, we are now past twenty years hence and when I look at pictures and videos from the city, there is little I recognize. 

Arts / Entertainment / Media

“Love the Motherland” – New Moral Guidelines for Chinese Performers Come Into Force (March 1, 2021, What’s on Weibo)
n February 5th of 2021, the China Association of Performing Arts (中国演出行业协会), which is run by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, officially released new guidelines for Chinese performers in order to promote the idea that Chinese performers should abide by rules of ‘social morality,’ stating they could face a permanent ban from their profession if they fail to comply.

Language / Language Learning

Chinese minority languages face extinction (February 22, 2021, Inkstone News)
A new study from UNESCO found that dozens of Chinese languages could be lost. But the phenomenon is not particularly unique to China.


Mao’s Black Box: Resilience and Religious Revival in Wenzhou: A Book Review (March 1, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
The church that emerged in Wenzhou after the Mao years was remarkably cohesive and disproportionately influential as Wenzhou believers spread across China and beyond, doing business, planting churches, and becoming a resource to the greater Chinese church. 

A Book about Balthasar and Why You Should Read It: A ChinaSource Conversation (March 3, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
Academics are regularly requested to write reviews for recently published books. At the invitation of Studies in World Christianity, I will be writing a review of Dr. Joshua Brown’s1 new monograph, Balthasar in Light of Early Confucianism. […] I hope that this interview might draw some attention to the careful work Dr. Brown has presented in this volume, and that its contents might enrich Christian theological thinking. 

Links for Researchers

NPC Calendar: March 2021 (NPC Observer)
The 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) will convene for its fourth annual session on Friday, March 5. The session’s agenda has not yet been finalized, but we expect it to include following items… 

NPC Launches Official Chinese Law Database: A Guide & Review (NPC Observer)
The National People’s Congress (NPC) on Wednesday, February 24 formally launched a database of Chinese legal authorities: the National Database of Laws and Regulations [国家法律法规数据库]

NPC & CPPCC Annual Sessions 2021 (Xinhua News)


How does the Chinese Communist Party operate? (March 3, 2021, Inkstone News)
The Communist Party of China has been the dominant political entity running the nation since 1949. During that time, the body also known as the Chinese Communist Party has led the country from a poor, insular existence to a role as a global economic powerhouse. But along the way, the party has kept a tight grip on power and quashed any form of dissent. 

Pray for China

March 7
On Mar. 7, 2007, Back to Jerusalem pioneer Mecca Zhao Maijia (赵麦加弟兄) went to be with the Lord. Zhao served the Lord in Xinjiang for over 60 years—many with his wife, Grace He Enzheng (何恩证姊妹). After her death in 2009, their descendants cooperated with agricultural experts from Taiwan to build “Canaan Farm,” a modern agricultural demonstration farm in Kashgar that planned to employ young Uighurs with the purpose of introducing them to the love of Jesus. Pray for Uighurs in Xinjiang to experience God’s grace and salvation during the government’s harsh crackdown on all aspects of Uighur culture. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Image credit: bfatphoto, via Flickr
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