ZGBriefs | March 5, 2020

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Featured Article

How Will Coronavirus Impact China in the Long Term?  (February 26, 2020, China File)
What signs are there of the economic and political impact of the virus? And what should the world be keeping an eye on in the next few weeks?

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Webinar Recording: Our China Stories – Unpacking Contemporary Narratives about the Church in China
What we fundamentally believe about China’s church impacts how we view what is desirable, what is possible, and ultimately how we choose to engage. This webinar explores four narratives about the church in China that have dominated Western Christian perceptions over the past four decades. How has our understanding of China’s past and present shaped our expectations for the future and in what ways have we become victims of our own narratives?
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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

High Noon for Xi Jinping: The President Vs The Virus  (February 18, 2020, Little Red Podcast)
To discuss what happens when a leader obsessed with control faces an uncontrollable foe, Louisa and Graeme are joined by Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Director of the Centre for US China Relations at the Asia Society, Shaun Roache the chief Asia-Pacific economist at Standard & Poors, and from Wuhan by the New York Times’ Chris Buckley.

Coronavirus disinformation creates challenges for China's government  (March 2, 2020, CNN)
But the overwhelming narrative on social media is that concealing the truth has caused another problem. Amid dwindling public trust, authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to combat potentially harmful disinformation.

China Uighurs 'moved into factory forced labour' for foreign brands  (February 2, 2020, BBC)
Thousands of Muslims from China's Uighur minority group are working under coercive conditions at factories that supply some of the world's biggest brands, a new report says. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute said this was the next phase in China's re-education of Uighurs.

U.S. Puts New Restrictions On China State-Run Media Journalists  (March 3, 2020, NPR)
NPR's Rachel Martin talks to Steven Butler of the Committee to Protect Journalists about the White House capping the number of Chinese nationals allowed to work in the U.S. from China state-run media.

What Does Beijing Believe About the Coronavirus?  (March 4, 2020, Foreign Policy)
China wants to convince the world that things are getting back to normal. But it’s also tacitly endorsing conspiracy theories.


You Can’t Do That in China!  (February 26, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
A weakness of our dominant China church narratives is that they tend to provoke quick judgments about events as they unfold while preventing us from perceiving deeper realities of what may be happening beneath the surface. By limiting our vision of what is possible, our narratives keep us from recognizing when the church may be in fact doing something entirely new. 

Shanghai Christian Nursing Home Shows Love amid COVID-19 Crisis  (February 27, 2020, China Christian Daily)
Seated beside the Gospel Church in Minhang District, the nursing home, visited by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby last April, is integrated with senior care, nursing and medical care, rehabilitation, culture and recreation, spiritual consolation, and hospice care, according to the WeChat account of Shanghai Christianity.

How Many Christians in China? Preferred Estimates, Part 2  (March 2, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
In today’s post we will hear from Dr. Carsten Vala, Professor of Political Science at Loyola University in Maryland, and author of the book, The Politics of Protestant Churches and the Party-State in China. (You can read my review of the book here.) By way of reminder, the questions that I put to him were, what is your current best estimate of how many Christians there are in China, and how did you arrive at that number?

Pastoral Advice for Life’s Dilemmas  (March 3, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
Where can Christians turn for advice from a Christian perspective on topics like love, marriage, work, and life? One resource is an online Christian “Dear Abby” type column from the Three-Self Patriotic Movement WeChat account. The “Abby” in this case is “Yuan Sheng,” a pastor in the Three-Self church and an editor for its journal Tianfeng.

Society / Life

Listen: Mr. Chen Goes to Wuhan (February 28, 2020, This American Life)
What happens when a Chinese man—just a guy, not a journalist or dissident—decides to go to Wuhan and investigate the country’s response to coronavirus? Reporter Jiayang Fan brings us the story of Chen Qiushi.

China’s Plans to Ease Permanent Residence for Foreigners Stir Online Debate  (February 29, 2020, Radii China)
Online, the subject has generated considerable discussion, with a mix of anti-immigrant sentiment and more open views similar to that found in many other countries at present, as well as debates over Chinese identity.

China's Red Banners Take On Coronavirus. Even Mahjong Gets A Mention  (March 1, 2020, NPR)
When it comes to coronavirus, sometimes the tone is straightforward: "Better to wear a mask than a ventilator; better to stay at home than in an ICU." Others are more dramatic: "Those who gather together are shameless; those who play mahjong are daredevils." "Have a bite of a wild animal dish today, see you in hell tomorrow."

Why China’s “Sea Turtles” Face Inner Struggles After Returning to Home Shores  (March 1, 2020, Radii China)
Many Chinese graduates of overseas colleges experience more than just "reverse culture shock" upon returning home – their worldview is shaken up.

How WeChat censored even neutral messages about the coronavirus in China  (March 3, 2020, South China Morning Post)
China’s most popular messaging app censored a range of neutral chat group references to the coronavirus epidemic , potentially threatening public access to essential health and safety information, according to a digital media research group.

Personal Essay: Coronavirus Lockdown Is A 'Living Hell'  (March 3, 2020, NPR)
I know that coronavirus is the reason for the lockdown — but did life in Wuhan have to become a living hell? Why were we notified about the city lockdown at 2 a.m. on the second to last morning before the Lunar New Year?

Chinese Authorities Track People's Phones as Some Return to Work  (March 3, 2020, Radio Free Asia)
Anyone who visits an office building, shopping mall, or residential compound, or who rides the subway in certain regions of the country not currently on lockdown, could be asked to scan a QR code with their phone and fill in details about their travel history and body temperature.

10 Chinese Readers Share Their Stories of the Coronavirus Crisis  (March 4, 2020, The New York Times)
One wrote about being asked to move out by a landlord in Europe. Others described fleeing China to escape the epidemic.

From Tea Farmer to Online Influencer: Uncle Huang and China’s Rural Live Streamers  (March 4, 2020, What’s on Weibo)
One of the online trends that became popular this year comes with a term of its own, namely cūnbō (村播): rural livestreaming.  Chinese farmers using livestreaming as a way to sell their products and promote their business have become a more common occurrence on China’s e-commerce and social media platforms. 

Podcast: The View from Beijing (March 4, 2020, Deep Background, with Noah Feldman)
In an effort to curtail the spread of coronavirus, much of China is essentially under lockdown. Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Ian Johnson talks about what life is like in the capital city.

A ‘Blue Great Wall’ Divides a City as It Battles the Coronavirus  (March 4, 2020, The New York Times)
With a name evoking another era, the blue sheets of metal also tell a tale of China’s growth — and of the steep bills coming due.

Economics / Trade / Business

Coronavirus Could Be The End Of China As A Global Manufacturing Hub  (March 1, 2020, Forbes)
The new coronavirus Covid-19 will end up being the final curtain on China’s nearly 30 year role as the world’s leading manufacturer. “Using China as a hub…that model died this week, I think,” says Vladimir Signorelli, head of Bretton Woods Research, a macro investment research firm.

China Stopped Its Economy to Tackle Coronavirus. Now the World Suffers.  (March 2, 2020, The New York Times)
The virtual shutdown of one of the world’s biggest economies is hurting business around the globe, from multinational firms to truck drivers and tour guides.

Lights Are On but No One’s Working: How Local Governments Are Faking Coronavirus Recovery  (February 4, 2020, Caixin Global)
As new coronavirus cases in China slowed in recent weeks, local governments in less-affected regions pushed companies and factories to return to work, typically by assigning concrete targets to district officials. Company insiders and local civil servants told Caixin that, under pressure to fulfill quotas they could not otherwise meet, they deftly cooked the books.

Clock ticking for China to stop foreign firms fleeing country, report says  (March 4, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Labour-intensive textile production, hi-tech electronics and pollution-heavy industries like metal smelting could be the first to leave if the government failed to contain the spread of the deadly virus by the end of the month, the experts said in a report published on Monday in the Bulletin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Coronavirus’ economic impact in East and Southeast Asia  (March 4, 2020, East Asia Forum)
The ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) estimates that the COVID-19 epidemic could deduct as much as half a percentage point from the economic growth of some regional economies in 2020.

China's economy could shrink for the first time in decades because of the coronavirus  (March 4, 2020, CNN)
The novel coronavirus outbreak has been brutal for China and could plunge the country's economy into its first contraction since the 1970s. Economic activity sharply declined across the board in February as companies struggled to reopen for business or hire workers during a government-mandated shutdown, according to official and private surveys released in recent days.

China’s wildlife trade  (March 4, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Beijing has banned the trade and consumption of wild animals in response to a coronavirus epidemic linked to a wildlife market in Wuhan in the central Chinese province of Hubei.

Health / Environment

First coronavirus autopsy highlights how illness targets lungs  (February 28, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The report, released on Friday, said it was too soon to draw firm conclusions about the disease, but said the lung lesions it produced were less pronounced than Sars. It also said there was not enough evidence to say whether damage to other organs was caused by Covid-19 or other causes.

Uncovered: Rare Diseases in China  (February 28, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Millions of people in China are living with rare diseases. Many of them, however, aren’t covered by health insurance plans.

Meet the major general on China’s coronavirus scientific front line  (March 3, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Chen Wei is leading an effort to understand the previously unknown pathogen in the epicentre of the epidemic. The 54-year-old virologist is building on the knowledge and skills she gained fighting Sars and Ebola. 

Hubei Struggles to Handle a Mountain of Medical Waste  (March 3, 2020, Sixth Tone)
The COVID-19 epidemic is forcing cities to enlist incinerators, industrial furnaces, and cement kilns to destroy tons of used medical equipment.

Beijing Adjusts Foreign Quarantine Rules as COVID-19 Spreads Overseas  (March 3, 2020, The Beijinger)
Citizens coming from South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, and “other severely affected countries” are now required to conduct a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. The news came this afternoon at the city government's daily press conference on the outbreak.

China Warns of Desert Locust Invasion  (March 4, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Last week, the forestry administration said China’s risk of a desert locust invasion remains low. However, experts predict that locust plagues in neighboring countries including Pakistan and India, as well as favorable weather patterns, could allow the pests to spread into the regions of Tibet, Xinjiang, or Yunnan in June and July.

Coronavirus could cause global medicine shortages as China’s factory closures hit supply chains  (March 4, 2020, South China Morning Post)
China’s efforts to contain the coronavirus by initially shutting down factories and keeping workforces at home could have global ramifications for public health around the world, including regarding diabetes, blood pressure, headaches and fevers.

WHO has Chinese characteristics?  (March 4, 2020, Mercator Institute for China Studies)
The WHO’s excessive acclaim of China’s response to the coronavirus is a sign of Beijing’s growing sway over the UN agency, says Thomas Geddes.

Inside Wuhan’s ‘Fangcang’ Shelter Hospitals  (May 4, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Since February, Wuhan authorities have sought to quarantine COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms in over a dozen makeshift clinics. How does the system work?

Chinese scientists identify two strains of the coronavirus, indicating it’s already mutated at least once (March 4, 2020, CNBC)
The more aggressive type of virus was found to be prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan — the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected late last year. But the frequency of this type of virus has since decreased from early January, the scientists said. Researchers cautioned that data examined in the study was still “very limited.”

Science / Technology

Coronavirus: China's tech fights back  (March 3, 2020, BBC)
Disinfecting robots, smart helmets, thermal camera-equipped drones and advanced facial recognition software are all being deployed in the fight against Covid-19 at the heart of the outbreak in China.

Here’s What China’s Lunar Probe Has Discovered on the Dark Side of the Moon  (March 3, 2020, Radii China)
China’s lunar probe Chang’e-4 made history on January 3, 2019 by becoming the first in the world to successfully execute a soft landing on the far side of the moon. Since then, Chang’e’s rover Jade Rabbit-2 (玉兔-2) has been scouting the area, using radar and radio technology to analyze its terrain and mineral composition. The rover’s findings have been both mysterious and exciting.

History / Culture

Next to be demolished: historic Canton Road / Guangdong Lu / 广东路 (March 4, 2020, Katya Knyaseva)
Chinese blogs have begun to alert the public to the impending demolition of the historic neighborhoods on Canton (Guangdong) Road 广东路.

Video: Japanese Enter Peking in 1937  (Everyday Life in Maoist China)

Video: China in 1980 (Everyday Life in Maoist China)

Travel / Food

With chefs idle and vegetables rotting, China’s virus-hit restaurants say their goose is cooked  (March 2, 2020, The Washington Post)
Several weeks into an epidemic that brought the country to a standstill, Chinese officials and economists are increasingly worried about the devastation wrought on a crucial part of the economy: restaurants and retailers, karaoke halls and family-owned factories — countless small and midsize businesses that collectively employ 80 percent of China’s workers and produce 68 percent of the country’s business revenue.

Living Cross-culturally

Living in Isolation  (March 4, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
When friends and family back home ask about the coronavirus situation, the first word that comes to mind is “eerie.” My family and I live in a Chinese megacity of about 26 million people. Imagine if you shut down not just New York City but the nine largest cities in the US at the same time. That would be eerie.

Workouts and walks: How 2 Canadians in China are living amid coronavirus outbreak  (March 4, 2020, Global News)
Teaching classes online, doing at-home workouts and taking short walks are just some of the ways two Canadians are killing time while living under strict restrictions in China amid the coronavirus outbreak.


The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China  (Penguin Random House)
The acclaimed translation of the complete fiction of the father of modern Chinese literature.

Links for Researchers

Law Enforcement in the Time of the Coronavirus  (March 3, 2020, China Law Translate)
China’s Ministry of Justice has released a major document on administrative law enforcement during the coronavirus epidemic. This includes not only policing, but also ensuring that administrative permitting and regulation can continue as normally as possible. Among the many interesting moves to facilitate law enforcement, three recurring themes stand out, giving a clue as to the Ministry’s priorities.


2 Resources for Those Affected by Coronavirus Restrictions  (February 28, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
As the people of Wuhan and its surrounding areas and other major cities in China are affected by the restrictions put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the impact of isolation and fear is taking a toll. There have been calls for prayer, local outreaches, and attempts by pastors and other believers to comfort and encourage those who are feeling the effects of the ongoing isolation. We would like to share two resources that can be passed on to those in restricted areas.

Image credit: Tender Young Pony of Insomnia, via Flickr
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