ZGBriefs | May 21, 2020

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Featured Article

China Wants Workers to Stay in the Countryside  (May 16, 2020, Foreign Policy)
Factories may be anxious to bring back workers so they can restart production, but that is unlikely to last. There are reports that as many as hundreds of thousands of enterprises have already gone bankrupt.

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Video: In China, Nothing is as it Seems (ChinaSource, via Gumroad)
One thing is true in China: nothing is as it seems. In other words, whatever China seems to be at any given moment, it is, in fact, the opposite. Is it Communist? Yes and no. Is it Capitalist? Yes and no. Is it poor? Yes and no. Is it rich? Yes and no! We think you get the picture. In this lecture, Joann Pittman will introduce a paradigm for understanding the confusion and complexity that is modern-day China by highlighting contrasting myths. This video was originally produced for an online course titled, Serving Well in China.
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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China’s coronavirus discrimination is testing relations with Africa  (May 15, 2020, World Magazine)
But the Chinese response has not mollified the still outraged African public, causing the governments of Nigeria and Kenya to consider evacuating their citizens from China.

China’s Djibouti naval base increasing its power  (May 16, 2020, East Asia Forum)
Djibouti’s PLA military base has more diverse missions than initially stated. The base includes personnel from various branches, including marines and special forces. It is equipped with a heliport which can also be used by drones. It also built a 660 metre-long pier, where large PLA ships will soon be able to moor.

Hong Kong legislature to push ahead with China anthem bill after chaotic scuffles  (May 17, 2020, Reuters)
Hong Kong’s legislature plunged into chaotic scuffles for a second time this month, as pro-Beijing lawmakers on Monday took control of a key committee, paving the way for a debate on a bill that would criminalise abuse of China’s national anthem.

Tibetans demand China disclose fate of boy taken away in ’95  (May 17, 2020, AP)
The Tibetan parliament in northern India, known as the Kashag, said the boy named the 11th Panchen Lama who was taken away at age 6 along with his family in 1995 continued to be recognized as the sole legitimate holder of his title.

China sends special investigation team to Israel after ambassador’s death  (May 18, 2020, South China Morning Post)
China is sending a special investigative team to Israel following the sudden death of its ambassador Du Wei, whose body was found at his residence on Sunday. The team, accompanied by a member of Du’s family, was due to travel on Monday, and will handle arrangements for the remains, as well as conducting its own internal investigation, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Why has China slapped tariffs on Australian barley and what can Australia do about it?  (May 19, 2020, The Guardian)
It’s the trade dispute that has soured relations between Australia and China and threatens a $500m a year blow to the Australian economy. But what is at the heart of China’s decision to slap 80% tariffs on Australian barley exports? And will Australia follow through on its threats to go to the trade umpire to challenge the decision?

Hong Kong extends coronavirus group restrictions, Tiananmen vigil at risk  (May 19, 2020, Reuters)
Hong Kong on Tuesday extended a restriction on public gatherings for at least another two weeks as authorities still report new coronavirus cases occasionally, in a move that threatens the city’s annual vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen crackdown. 

China prepares to stage annual congress – and pretence of business as usual  (May 20, 2020, The Guardian)
Even more so than other years, it is critical that the parliamentary session – which coincides with the meeting of an advisory body, collectively known as “two sessions” – goes off without a hitch. The event, a time for China’s political elite to rubber-stamp policies and indicate new policy directions, was delayed for two months because of the coronavirus.

“The National People’s Congress will be a difficult balancing act”  (May 20, 2020, MERICS)
Almost two-and-a-half months later than usual, the annual session of the National People’s Congress will begin in Beijing on Friday. Almost 3,000 delegates will meet for a shorter period than usual and under particularly strict health and safety provisions. Beijing wants to prevent at all costs coronavirus infections among the delegates from all over China. MERICS analyst Nis Grünberg answers some questions.

In China’s Crisis, Xi Sees a Crucible to Strengthen His Rule  (May 20, 2020, The New York Times)
China’s leader is using the country’s success — and the criticism against it — to urge the party and the people to weather tough days ahead.

US Air Force ramps up flyovers near China in sign of rising tension and risk of conflict between world powers  (May 20, 2020, South China Morning Post)
In the latest announcement, the US Pacific Air Forces said on Twitter on Tuesday that B-1 bombers conducted a mission in the South China Sea, just days after training with the US Navy near Hawaii, “demonstrating the credibility of US air forces to address a diverse and uncertain security environment”.

China strongly objects to Pompeo’s praise for Taiwan president  (May 20, 2020, The Guardian)
Pompeo said Tsai’s “courage and vision in leading Taiwan’s vibrant democracy [was] an inspiration to the region and the world”, in remarks Taiwan described as the first delivered to a Taiwanese president by a US secretary of state. China’s foreign ministry said Pompeo’s act had severely damaged peace and stability in the strait between Taiwan and China. 

As China faces a backlash in the West, Xi needs Africa more than ever (May 20, 2020, CNN)
Chinese leader Xi Jinping made preserving diplomatic ties in Africa a centerpiece of his opening address at the World Health Assembly earlier this week, as Beijing faces a backlash among some Western democracies for its role in the coronavirus pandemic.


The Uncertain Future of China’s Urban Churches  (May, 2020, Lausanne Global Analysis)
From the founding of the People’s Republic, the security apparatus of the state has played a ‘cat and mouse’ game with unregistered churches and church leaders to monitor their activities and rein in their growth and influence.

Cross Removals Continue  (May 19, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped cross removals in China. This article from China Christian Daily reports on one cross removal from a historic church in the city of Heifei. The image above is of Hefei Gulou Church before the cross was removed.

Society / Life

China relocates villagers living in 800m-high cliffs in anti-poverty drive  (May 14, 2020, BBC)
They used to call an 800m-high cliff home, but dozens of villagers in China’s Sichuan province have now been relocated to an urban housing estate. Atulie’er village became famous after photos emerged showing adults and children precariously scaling the cliff using just rattan ladders.

Hope, Fear and Grief: Wuhan After the Lockdown Ends  (May 18, 2020, The New York Times)
One month later, people are learning how to navigate life on the other side of the coronavirus crisis.

China abductions: Parents find son snatched in hotel 32 years ago  (May 19, 2020, BBC)
Mao Yin was snatched aged two, while his father stopped to get him some water on the way home from nursery. His parents searched the country for him and his mother distributed more than 100,000 flyers. The family were reunited at a police news conference on Monday, and the son – now aged 34 – said he planned to spend time with his parents.

One-Third of Child Sex Abuse Happens at School, Report Suggests  (May 20, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Due to a lack of sex education in schools and parents’ reluctance to broach the subject, many children in China remain vulnerable to sexual predators.

Economics / Trade / Business

U.S. moves to cut Huawei off from global chip suppliers as China eyes retaliation  (May 15, 2020, Reuters)
A new rule, unveiled by the Commerce Department and first reported by Reuters, expands U.S. authority to require licenses for sales to Huawei of semiconductors made abroad with U.S. technology, vastly expanding its reach to halt exports to the world’s No. 2 smartphone maker.

China’s factories are producing more but the economy is still very fragile  (May 15, 2020, CNN)
China’s economy shrank 6.8% in the first three months of 2020 compared to a year earlier, amounting to about 693 billion yuan ($98 billion) in lost output. While the International Monetary Fund still expects China’s GDP to grow 1.2% this year, analysts warn that the country’s recovery will be drawn out.

New China-Wide Tax Policy Means Foreigners Must Now Register at the Tax Bureau in Person  (May 16, 2020, The Beijinger)
new tax policy now requires most employees in China to register through an app that can be downloaded on the country’s tax bureau website. Though that might sound simple enough, the catch is that the app requires an individualized tax code, and in yet another case of “things you can’t do without an official Chinese ID number,” foreigners will have to go to a tax bureau office in person to obtain the code.

Prospect of U.S.-China ‘decoupling’ grows amid shortages of medical goods  (April 17, 2020, Marketplace)
A new survey of executives at American corporations with long histories in the China market finds 44% responding that U.S.-China economic “decoupling” is “impossible.” That’s down from 66% last fall, suggesting “great potential” for such decoupling, according to the survey from AmCham China, AmCham Shanghai and PwC China.

US semiconductor giant shuts China factory hailed as ‘a miracle’, in blow to Beijing’s chip plans  (May 20, 2020, South China Morning Post)
US chip giant GlobalFoundries has halted operations at a joint venture factory in China, the company has confirmed, dealing a potential blow to China’s bid to own a bigger slice of the global semiconductor market. The closure of the firm’s only China facility comes just three years after it announced plans to make chips in the mainland, and comes amid an escalating tech war with the United States.

Senate passes bill removing rogue Chinese firms from US stock exchanges  (May 20, 2020, Fox Business)
Chinese companies traded on American exchanges aren’t subject to the same investor-protection rules as their U.S. competitors.


Masked, Sanitized, 1 Meter Apart: Shanghai Goes Back to School  (May 18, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Students returning to Shanghai schools are learning more than just their usual curriculum, with reminders of the importance of social distancing and strict sanitation measures now incorporated into their daily routine.

Health / Environment

With 5 Kids Sick, Hunan Authorities Investigate ‘Infant Formula’  (May 14, 2020, Sixth Tone)
After parents noticed their children’s heads had become swollen, a media investigation found that they had been consuming a protein powder drink instead of hypoallergenic infant formula.

Wuhan Opens Psychiatric Clinic for COVID-19 Survivors  (May 14, 2020, Sixth Tone)
The first psychiatric clinic for COVID-19 survivors, as well as people facing mental health issues related to the pandemic, opened Thursday in Wuhan, as the central Chinese city attempts to heal the widespread psychological trauma caused by the infectious disease and a monthslong lockdown.

Wuhan residents brave queues as coronavirus mass testing begins  (May 15, 2020, The Guardian)
Chinese health authorities have begun testing millions of people in Wuhan, after the city that was once the centre of the coronavirus outbreak reported a small cluster of infections. Officials across the various districts were told to begin testing key groups of residents who had not yet been tested and to complete the work within 10 days.

What Wuhan’s frontline medical workers can teach the world about the Covid-19 mental health battle  (May 19, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Emerging research  from China shows that  frontline health care workers, especially women, had high levels of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress. As we see many of the challenges in Wuhan are being replicated elsewhere, the lessons learned must be used to inform strategies to support frontline medical workers in other parts of the world.

Amid High Stakes, China Is Fast-Tracking COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts  (May 20, 2020, NPR)
The Chinese government has fast-tracked promising projects and has poured money and resources into the effort to find a vaccine. Experts say the ruling Communist Party recognizes that much more is at stake than public health.

Science / Technology

Wikipedia blocked in China in all languages  (May 14, 2020, BBC)
The country had previously banned the Chinese language version of the site, but the block has now been expanded. Wikimedia said it had received “no notice” of the move.

Zoom Suspends Free Service to Individuals in China  (May 19, 2020, Caixin Global)
As of May 1, individual free users can no longer host meetings on Zoom but will still be able to join them. Only paid enterprise accounts and individuals who had upgraded to paid accounts prior to the cutoff date will be able to host meetings.

History / Culture

Book Burning: Banned Books Throughout Chinese History (May 20, 2020, The World of Chinese)
But long before censors began removing errant WeChat stickers (or memes that compare politicians to cartoon characters—we’re looking at you, Winnie) China already had a long history of banning written works deemed undesirable by officials.

Solar Terms 101: Xiaoman, a Time to Celebrate the Small Things in Life  (May 20, 2020, The Beijinger)
The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 节气 jiéqì solar terms based on seasonal changes and natural phenomenon. They play an important role in guiding agricultural activities, even to this day. But even city-dwellers like us can enjoy them.

Travel / Food

I Scream, You Scream: Shanghai’s Weirdest Ice Cream  (May 15, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Sixth Tone reviews the good, the bad, and the ugly of unconventional ice cream flavors found at various Shanghai shops.

Delta and United ready to return to China as international routes slowly resume  (May 18, 2020, The Points Guy)
Delta Air Lines and United Airlines hope to resume flights to China in June, four months after they suspended service to the country during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Atlanta-based Delta aims resume operate daily flights to Shanghai Pudong (PVG) from both its Detroit (DTW) and Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) hubs on June 1, the airline said Monday.

How To Travel Domestically In China: Green Codes and Health Kits in China’s COVID-19 Response  (May 19, 2020, Wild China Blog)
You’ve probably heard about it by now: the green Health Code that is your ticket in China to travel, to stay at a hotel, to get into the subway. […]  The built-in mini-programs are all about tracking where you have been. Upon registering, you’re asked a series of questions, including your whereabouts for the last 14 days and if you’ve had COVID-19 symptoms.

Language / Language Learning

The Best News Apps to Help You Learn Chinese  (May 18, 2020, The Beijinger)
With their friendly interfaces, a varied selection of topics from trusted sources, they can anyone with an intermediate understanding of Chinese take their study to a whole new level. Click the title to download the app from the App Store.

Choice Chengyu: Turtle Terms  (May 19, 2020, The World of Chinese)
In some dialects, turtle-related phrases contain derogatory meanings, such as the phrase “son of a turtle”—a curse in Sichuanese. Generally, though, turtles represent good luck and are invoked in blessings, mainly because they can survive all kinds of harsh environments and enjoy a long life.

Living Cross-culturally

In a New Home in Asia  (May 18, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Here we will look at some others who have resettled in a new home, a new ministry, in Asia after they had to leave their China home.

Returning Home-side: The Path Unintended  (May 20, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
The manner of leaving is of no consequence because God intends goodness even in exiting. However, there are healthy ways to leave the field and there are destructive ways. The manner in which we chose to walk forward reveals more about the state of our heart than the reason for leaving.


A Foot Wide on the Edge of Nowhere: A Book Review  (May 15, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
This is a good book for anyone interested in the outreach to and growth of the ethnic minority churches of southwest China, anyone interested in the history of missions in China during the tumultuous years leading to the founding of the People’s Republic of China, as well as for anyone interested in how God has worked in one Australian multi-generational family to lead people to know and serve him.

Fang Fang: The Wuhan writer whose virus diary angered China  (May 18, 2020, BBC)
A diary written by an award-winning Chinese author documenting her life in Wuhan in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak has now been translated into English. Fang Fang first began publishing online accounts of her experience in the city in January, while it was still believed to be a local crisis.

Links for Researchers

Social credit implementation tracker  (Trivium China)

Looking Ahead: Australia and China after the Pandemic  (Asia Society)
Australia’s headache is not just that China has become much more powerful, but also that it has become more authoritarian, ideological and nationalist under President Xi Jinping. China’s foreign and domestic policies are conflicting more often with Australia’s interests and values.

Pray for China

May 21, 2020 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On May 21, 1891, James Gilmour (景雅各), a pioneer missionary to the Mongols, died in Tianjin at age 47. Gilmour made his first trip to Mongolia in 1870, saw the first conversion in 1884, and buried his wife in Beijing in 1885. Today, the rapid growth experienced by the Mongolian Church after independence in 1990 has ended, and current estimates are 15,000-25,000 Christians among nearly 10 million Mongolians worldwide. Pray for the tiny Mongolian Church to have an effective witness to those struggling with alcoholism and unemployment. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:3

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: Joann Pittman