ZGBriefs | May 14, 2020

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Featured Article

How China’s Provinces Came to Have Their Single Word Abbreviations  (May 11, 2020, The Beijinger)
However, the official, unified system was settled around the end of the Qing dynasty, more than a century ago, for one simple and practical consideration: to reduce the need for space and time when writing telegrams. That handiness wasn’t lost on China’s general population and the letters have since gone mainstream.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

SCMP Series: China in a post-virus world  (South China Morning Post)
The global backlash Beijing may face as a result of its actions and rhetoric during the coronavirus pandemic.

How Will China Shape Global Governance?  (May 9, 2020, China File)
Do China’s leaders aspire to supplant the U.S. in steering these organizations? Or do they merely hope to make them more accommodating of the Chinese leadership’s interests and goals? If China does hold more sway in multilateral organizations, what does that portend for global governance more broadly?

Indian and Chinese soldiers injured in cross-border fistfight, says Delhi  (May 10, 2020, The Guardian)
Several Indian and Chinese soldiers have been injured in a cross-border clash involving fistfights and stone-throwing at a remote but strategically important mountain pass near Tibet, the Indian army said on Sunday. […] The “stand-off” on Saturday – at Naku La sector near the 15,000-feet (4,572-metre) Nathu La crossing in the northeastern state of Sikkim – was later resolved after “dialogue and interaction” at a local level, Hooda said.

Hong Kong police arrest more than 200 as pro-democracy protests return  (May 11, 2020, Reuters)
Hundreds of riot police were deployed to disperse the protesters on Sunday, with some members of the media caught up in the chaos that evoked memories of the sometimes violent unrest that rocked the global financial hub last year.

Carrie Lam blames Hong Kong education system for fuelling protests  (May 11, 2020, The Guardian)
Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader, Carrie Lam, has vowed to overhaul the city’s education system, saying its liberal studies curriculum helped to fuel last year’s violent pro-democracy protests.

‘The stakes are higher’: Hong Kong’s battle lines redrawn for post-Covid protests  (May 12, 2020, The Guardian)
The territory is braced for a summer of activism, but mass demonstrations may be a thing of the past as police target leaders, reporters and freedoms.

How China’s ‘United Front’ Endangers Ethnic Chinese Abroad  (May 12, 2020, The Diplomat)
Amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s United Front Work Department is putting the Chinese diaspora in greater danger.

China’s local officials under pressure amid coronavirus pandemic to address rise in unemployment  (May 13, 2020, South China Morning Post)
University graduates, migrant workers and the country’s small business sector are the most at risk and China’s leadership has responded by making controlling unemployment a higher priority for the year ahead than getting the growth rate back on track.

China’s new army of tough-talking diplomats  (May 13, 2020, BBC)
China has dispatched an increasingly vocal cadre of diplomats out into the world of social media to take on all comers with, at times, an eye-blinking frankness. Their aim is to defend China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and challenge those who question Beijing’s version of events.

US officially warns China is launching cyberattacks to steal coronavirus research  (May 13, 2020, CNN)
The US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued a “public service announcement” Wednesday warning that China is likely launching cyberattacks to steal coronavirus data related to vaccines and treatments from US research institutions and pharmaceutical companies, calling it a “significant threat.”


Church Tour: Beijing St. Michael’s Church  (May 7, 2020, China Christian Daily)
Above the main entrance of the church is a statue of St. Michael, the patron saint of the church. Statues of angels and exquisite stained glass windows are the two most striking highlights in the architecture of Beijing Legation Quarter. And unlike the other four Catholic churches in Beijing, it has never been severely damaged in the 100 years since it was built.

Near China’s border with Russia, the Orthodox Church regains a toehold  (May 7, 2020, The Economist)
But it is last year’s Pascha in Ergun that will go down in history. For the first time in more than six decades, the church’s midnight service was led by a local. Father Pavel had recently returned from his ordination in Russia. At last, Ergun’s flock had a priest again.

Zhejiang Church Releases 45 Minutes Of Daily Family Altar Practice  (May 11, 2020, China Christian Daily)
The church has shared information with the brothers and sisters in this way for two months. Beginning on March 3, the church started broadcasting the “Voice of the Pastor” on their WeChat account. The pastoral staff share details every day to help brothers and sisters build a family altar. 

Beijing CC&TSPM Launches Broadcast Live Sunday Worship Services  (May 11, 2020, China Christian Daily)
On May 6, 2020, the Beijing CC&TSPM announced that a platform for the live broadcast of Sunday worship services led by the theological education team was launched. The worship starts at 9:30 every Sunday morning beginning May 10, according to Beijing CC&TSPM. During the service, church pastors from Beijing will lead participants in worship.

Interview: The Challenges Facing the Church in Post-pandemic Era  (May 11, 2020, China Christian Daily)
Christian Times, a Shanghai-based Chinese Christian newspaper, interviewed four guest speakers from different areas, asking them to share their insights on the pandemic’s impact on churches. They all observed that the virus has brought many challenges to local churches, such as the inability to meet in-person for worship, financial stress, and ministry difficulties. 

The Revival of a Rural Church  (May 12, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
While there are many negative news reports during the COVID-19 pandemic, this story of a revitalized rural church is a much-needed source of encouragement. China Christian Daily reports on a rural church in Hubei province (home to the city of Wuhan) that went from close-to-closing its doors to being a reinvigorated congregation.

Churches Offer Online Courses On Basic Essentials  (May 12, 2020, China Christian Daily)
Summer is soon coming, and it is not yet known when worship services in China will resume. Since the pastoral work of the church cannot cease, some churches have begun registering applicants in baptismal preparation classes.

Chinese Government Restricts Nanyang Bishop’s Funeral  (May 12, 2020, International Christian Concern)
Chinese officials imposed restrictions on the funeral of 98-year-old Bishop Joseph Zhu Baoyu of Nanyang, Henan province. Only 40 people were allowed to attend the May 9 funeral in Henan province. People were being watched and parishioners were banned from taking photographs of the service.

Society / Life

The Business of Being Born  (May 10, 2020, The World of Chinese)
As the last resort of many infertile couples, ART—including artificial insemination (AI), in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET), and derivative techniques—have seen explosive demand from China. They even have a popular nickname, “Child-Giving Guanyin (送子观音),” after the bodhisattva that Chinese traditionally worshiped as the goddess of fertility, but their recent breakneck development has raised many ethical, legal, and cultural complications for Chinese society.

Are China’s Youth Still “Optimistic” After the Coronavirus Outbreak?  (May 11, 2020, Radii China)
As China recovers after a nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, the country’s economic growth faces its worst downturn since 1976. Yet despite everything, Chinese youth are still optimistic about their future — at least, according to a major recent survey.

With a poor social safety net, is China prepared to handle a job crisis? (May 12, 2020, Inkstone News)
The coronavirus pandemic is causing massive job losses in China. With a patchy social welfare system, life is getting harder for the millions of migrant workers. 

Economics / Trade / Business

80 million Chinese may already be out of work. 9 million more will soon be competing for jobs, too  (May 8, 2020, CNN)
Other experts say that the 80 million figure is likely much closer to reality. It’s also a lot more disturbing — it would mean that nearly 10% of people in China who are supposed to be employed are actually out of work, according to economists at Société Générale.

Evidence of demand shock wave to China’s economy piles up, as South Korean exports collapse  (May 11, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Collapsing shipments from South Korea, plunging commodity rates, wildly fluctuating cargo costs and a hollowing out of jobs markets for major trading partners are all ominous signs for China’s industrial base, which has struggled to return to full capacity since a coronavirus-led shutdown in the first quarter.

China halts beef imports from four Australian firms as COVID-19 spat sours trade  (May 11, 2020, Reuters)
The suspension comes after Australia last month called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus and just days after China proposed introducing an 80% tariff on Australian barley shipments. 

China is exempting some foreign executives from travel ban as authorities get coronavirus outbreak under control  (May 12, 2020, South China Morning Post)
The Ministry of Commerce told some key foreign companies they can apply for exemptions to the entry ban if they want to get executives back into China, according to people familiar with the matter.

Restarting China’s economy?  (April 13, 2020, East Asia Forum)
While the reopening of China’s economy is positive news for the world economy, the global economic slowdown still poses a great challenge for China’s return to normalcy.


International Students Have Been Stuck on Beijing University Campuses for Months  (May 8, 2020, The Beijinger)
The Beijinger spoke to several such international students who said that they were never given an entry-exit pass, meaning that once they step off campus they are effectively unable to return to their dorms. Luckily, many have been able to order deliveries but must retrieve them through a fence at the edge of campus.

Jiangsu School Prescribes Running to Counter ‘Quarantine 15’  (May 9, 2020, Sixth Tone)
A middle school in eastern China has instituted a weight-loss program for students returning to campus after spending months at home due to COVID-19, but experts say the well-intentioned initiative could do physical and psychological harm.

China’s Top Universities Cancel Entrance Exams For Overseas Students  (May 11, 2020, Radio Free Asia)
The cancellations will effectively make it far easier for international students to win places at top Chinese universities, and is likely linked to the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing overseas propaganda effort, analysts said.

Health / Environment

China says it will update disease control measures in wake of coronavirus  (May 9, 2020, The Guardian)
China will reform its disease prevention and control system to address weaknesses exposed by the coronavirus outbreak, a senior health official has said.

Leaked Chinese Virus Database Covers 230 Cities, 640,000 Updates  (Mary 12, 2020, Foreign Policy)
A dataset of coronavirus cases and deaths from the military’s National University of Defense Technology, leaked to Foreign Policy, offers insight into how Beijing has gathered coronavirus data on its population. 

’10 days of battle’: Wuhan draws up ambitious Covid-19 testing plan  (May 13, 2020, The Guardian)
Fearful of another outbreak and a return to the draconian lockdowns, the authorities are drawing up plans for “10 days of battle”, directing each district of Wuhan to develop and submit plans to test all their citizens. There are few details for the ambitious undertaking, but Chinese media has suggested the “10-day” directive is a time limit for each region, on staggered start times.

History / Culture

Brick by Brick: Inside the Mammoth Project to Restore the Great Wall of China (Sixth Tone)
Despite being one of China’s national icons, the Great Wall fell into terrible disrepair during the height of the country’s economic boom. Construction and tourism projects chipped away at the ancient fortifications, with hundreds of kilometers of wall lost forever. In recent years, however, things have changed dramatically. As Beijing pursues a policy of “national rejuvenation,” making the Great Wall great again has become a central objective.

Interactive: 100 Photos That Shook China: Memories of 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake (May 12, 2020, Sixth Tone)

Watch: Beijing of 100 Years Ago Comes to Life in Full Color  (May 12, 2020, The Beijinger)
Video of Beijing from more than 100 years ago began trending on social media recently, but not just because of the footage’s centennial birthday. Rather, it was because the footage had been remastered and colorized, presenting Old Beijing as it’s never been seen before.

Travel / Food

Eating in Xi’an, Where Wheat and Lamb Speak to China’s Varied Palate  (May 11, 2020, The New York Times)
In the city’s Muslim Quarter, meals are a celebration of globalization and ethnic diversity — and a lasting defense against erasure.

Why China’s Food Delivery is Better Than Yours  (May 11, 2020, Radii China)
Modern China is practically a lazy foodie’s paradise. Cities like Shanghai and Beijing now boast some of the world’s most advanced delivery ecosystems, through which a meal can be at your doorstep within less than an hour, for less than a dollar.

Disney reopens its Shanghai theme park, with many restrictions  (May 11, 2020, The Guardian)
Disney has reopened its Shanghai theme park with new physical distancing rules preventing Mickey Mouse from posing with customers, more than three months after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to close. Visitors must wear face masks, undergo temperature checks on arrival and be given timed entry slots in a much changed theme park experience.

Beijing’s peanut-butter-infused sesame sauce tastes like nostalgia  (May 13, 2020, Matador Network)
Soon every dish would be slathered in zhi ma jiang, or sesame paste, a condiment ubiquitous in Beijing cuisine.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Chicken Soup for the Pandemic  (May 12, 2020, The World of Chinese)
The seven-episode documentary series In Wuhan, jointly produced by online streaming platform Bilibili, CCTV, and production studio Figure, has polarized audiences with its portrayal of life at the epicenter of China’s battle against coronavirus since its release for free online streaming on February 26.

Language / Language Learning

Matthew Pottinger’s speech in Mandarin  (May 9, 2020, Language Log)
Something extraordinary happened on May 4, 2020.  Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger delivered an extremely impressive speech in virtually flawless Mandarin. 

Dashan Explains His Chinese Name  (May 13, 2020, Sinosplice)
许大山 [Xǔ Dàshān] was the character name, but I dropped the surname when I took 大山 [Dàshān] as a stage name and then eventually as my all-purpose Chinese name. At that point I completely stopped using the name I had been given in Chinese class at university.

Living Cross-culturally

Grief—What about the Kids?  (May 11, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
What impact does it have on a child who suddenly needs to leave the country that has been home? For some kids, China has been the only home they have ever known. So let’s consider the impact grief has on children and how best to help them grieve well.

The Best Things About COVID19  (May 12, 2020, The Culture Blend)
What hidden gift have you received that never would have or could have happened apart from this? It’s my blog. I’ll go first.

Dangers, Pitfalls, Connection, and Hope During Transition  (May 13, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
So, let’s talk about the pitfalls to you, your soul, and your relationship with God during transition, followed by five ways to connect with God.


A Map of Shanghai’s Neglected Crannies  (May 11, 2020, China Channel)
As editor Jin Li mentions in his introduction to a new collection of fiction based in the city, The Book of Shanghai, unlike Beijing, Xi’an or nearby Hangzhou, Shanghai did not become a major city until after the first Opium War when the colonial powers used it as a port.

China’s Good War: How World War II is Shaping a New Nationalism, by Rana Mitter (Harvard University Press)
China’s Good War begins with the academics who shepherded the once-taboo subject into wider discourse. Encouraged by reforms under Deng Xiaoping, they researched the Guomindang war effort, collaboration with the Japanese, and China’s role in forming the post-1945 global order. 

Links for Researchers

How Xi Jinping’s “New Era” Should Have Ended U.S. Debate on Beijing’s Ambitions  (May 8, 2020, Center for Strategic and International Studies)
This report is adapted from testimony submitted to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s postponed hearing on “A ‘China Model?’ Beijing’s Promotion of Alternative Global Norms and Standards.” 

Pray for China

May 13, 2020, Pray for China: A Walk Through History
On May 13, 1876, Dr. Edward H. Hume (胡美) was born to missionary parents in India. Hume and his wife Charlotte came to Changsha, Hunan, in 1906 to work in the Yale-in-China Mission and founded a medical school and hospital. Hume resigned in 1926 when his proposal to turn the work over to nationals was rejected, and he left China with his wife and their five children. A biographical sketch of Hume is found in Jonathan Spence’s To Change China: Western Advisers in China, 1620-1960. Pray for Chinese and foreign Christians in Hunan to partner together to benefit the church. 
As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. 2 Corinthians 8:23

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

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons