ZGBriefs | May 7, 2020

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Featured Article

How Tea Transformed China’s Countryside  (May 1, 2020, China Channel)
In Bangdong, money does grow on trees – about 80 percent of residents’ income is from tea – and I’m not keen to waste it for the sake of a learning experience. Moreover, this is the spring crop, the most valuable harvest of Bangdong’s five picking seasons at roughly $50 per kilogram.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

How COVID-19 may change rules of engagement with China  (April 30, 2020, Christian Science Monitor)
A lack of transparency about COVID-19 has deepened the concerns many countries already had about their relations with China. But that growing discomfort must compete with economic self-interest. 

China plans to send Uygur Muslims from Xinjiang re-education camps to work in other parts of country (May 2, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Inmates who have undergone compulsory re-education programme to be moved to other parts of China under job placement scheme delayed by Covid-19 outbreak. Critics have said the camps are a move to eradicate cultural and religious identity but Beijing has defended them as way of boosting job opportunities and combating Islamic radicalization.

Global Backlash Builds Against China Over Coronavirus  (May 3, 2020, The New York Times)
As calls for inquiries and reparations spread, Beijing has responded aggressively, mixing threats with aid and adding to a growing mistrust of China.

Internal Chinese report warns Beijing faces Tiananmen-like global backlash over virus  (May 4, 2020, Reuters)
The report, presented early last month by the Ministry of State Security to top Beijing leaders including President Xi Jinping, concluded that global anti-China sentiment is at its highest since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, the sources said.

Covid-19 in China: From ‘Chernobyl Moment’ to Impetus for Nationalism  (May 4, 2020, Made in China Journal)
The situation was so grim and criticism from ordinary citizens so prevalent that some observers dubbed the crisis China’s ‘Chernobyl moment’ (Shih 2020b). However, as the epidemic has—at least for now—been brought under control, critical voices also seem to be fading away, even though anger lingers in Wuhan, where some dissidents are still fighting to resist the official victorious narrative.

Coronavirus Survivors Want Answers, and China Is Silencing Them  (May 4, 2020, The New York Times)
In Wuhan, where the pandemic started, the police have threatened and interrogated grieving relatives. Lawyers have been warned not to help them sue.

Europe and China were on course for a reset. Coronavirus changed all that  (May 5, 2020, CNN)
China’s response to covid-19 has left a bitter taste in the mouths of European officials. From draconian clampdowns on its own citizens to accusations of spreading misinformation in Europe, this crisis has been a reminder that closer engagement with China comes with risk.

China Steps Up Security in Beijing, Detains Activist Ahead of Congress  (May 6, 2020, Radio Free Asia)
Beginning in May, district and neighborhood government offices have been told to draw up “stability maintenance” plans to ensure no trouble comes from peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party ahead of the meetings. Plans include spot checks and monitoring of small hotels and guesthouses, temporary rental accommodation, and other “hidden dangers,” sources said.

China calls Hong Kong protesters a ‘political virus’  (May 6, 2020, The Guardian)
Beijing’s top political office in Hong Kong has called protesters a “political virus” and said the semi-autonomous city will never be calm until “poisonous” and “violent” black-clad demonstrators are eliminated. The warning on Wednesday by China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office (HKMAO) said the central government in Beijing would not sit idly by with “this recklessly demented force” in place, referring to the protest movement which has shaken Hong Kong since last June and sometimes drawn millions to the street.

China’s Covid-19 quandary as stricken Africa asks for debt relief  (May 6, 2020, Inkstone News)
African nations have received billions from China through its controversial belt and road infrastructure projects. Now some are struggling to make repayments as they reel from the economic impact of the pandemic.


China suspends all church activities, Marian pilgrimages  (April 30, 2020, UCA News)
All public church activities in China, including Marian pilgrimages, have been suspended for another month, announced the two bodies that run the state-controlled Catholic Church in the communist country. The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and its bishops’ forum, the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China, jointly announced the further delay to activities.

Encouragement in Suffering  (May 5, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
There is nothing that can strengthen and encourage us except the faith we hold. Dear brothers and sisters, let us encourage one another and comfort one another through the faith that we have, our faith in the eternal truth that cannot be broken and found in the Bible that is eternally unchanging.

Church Tour: Beijing North Catholic Church  (May 5, 2020, China Christian Daily)
Among the four major Catholic churches in Beijing, Xishiku Church is the largest one. This church is commonly known as the “The North Church” and is now the cathedral of the Catholic Diocese of Beijing.

Fear Comes From The Invisible World – An Evangelistic Tract From A Chinese House Church  (May 5, 2020, China Partnership Blog)
This was originally a short gospel tract distributed by a Chinese house church in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides an interesting glimpse into the language and topics Chinese use to evangelize their own culture. 

Heilongjiang Church Launches Online Bible Program  (May 6, 2020, China Christian Daily)
Recently, the church in Jinsha New District in Qitaihe City, Heilongjiang Province, launched on its official account a Bible reading plan entitled, “the Bible accompanies you every day”. By talking with the workers who are responsible for the activities, we have found that church pastors started this activity to make brothers and sisters more eager to listen to the word of God during this special period.

Society / Life

China’s good netizens  (April 30, 2020, MERICS)
Beijing has issued rules to encourage regime-friendly online content. David Lenz sees a wave of volunteer cheerleaders crowding out the critical voices still present on the Chinese internet. 

The Chinese of Chattanooga  (April 30, 2020, The World of Chinese)
“We don’t have enough of a community to support a Chinatown,” says Dr. Ling-Jun Wang, professor of physics at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga,  but “we do have a [Chinese] grocery store.” Wang is one of the first of a modern wave of Chinese immigrants who came to the US after it normalized relations with the PRC in 1979. 

Residence permit points systems widen China’s class divide  (April 30, 2020, East Asia Forum)
Through their permits, and depending on their points, migrants have ‘equal rights’ to access state services including children’s education, employment services, health and family planning, culture and sports, legal aid, vehicle registration and vocational examinations.

Grief in a Fallen City: On Processing the Trauma of COVID-19  (May 1, 2020, Sixth Tone)
COVID-19 killed over 3,800 people in Wuhan. A local grief counselor discusses what it’s like to help the survivors pick up the pieces.

In Photos: Reliving the End of Wuhan’s Lockdown With Photographer Andy Braun  (May 2, 2020, The Beijinger)
So when he got the opportunity to spend five days in Wuhan, photographing the tail end of the Hubei capital’s long and arduous lockdown, he quickly boarded a train in Shanghai and set out for the now-infamous city.

‘Textbook’ Discrimination: Human Rights Report Accuses China Of Mistreating Africans  (May 6, 2020, NPR)
“Chinese authorities claim ‘zero tolerance’ for discrimination, but what they are doing to Africans in Guangzhou is a textbook case of just that,” Human Rights Watch researcher Yaqiu Wang says in the release. “Beijing should immediately investigate and hold accountable all officials and others responsible for discriminatory treatment.”

Economics / Trade / Business

Chinese Takeout: A Shanghai Restaurant’s Struggles in the Wake of Covid-19  (April 30, 2020, Radii China)
This mom-and-pop restaurant is one of many across China that have been hit hard by the economic recession.

Chinese domestic tourism gets a Labour Day holiday boost as ‘revenge travellers’ throw off the shackles of coronavirus lockdown  (May 5, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Although far lower than a year ago, domestic tourism revenue almost quadrupled from April’s Ching Ming Festival as people who had been cooped up at home for weeks leapt at the opportunity to get away for a few days.

Disney announces its Shanghai park will begin phased reopening next week  (May 5, 2020, CNN)
Disney said it will begin a phased reopening of its Shanghai theme park next week, a move that comes at the same time the company reported significant losses due to the closure of its parks world-wide. The company’s largest international park is slated to reopen under “enhanced safety measures”for the first time in more than three months on May 11.

Health / Environment

Diary of a ‘Fangcang’ Shelter Hospital Medic  (April 30, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Keting Fangcang once housed 1,500 mildly ill COVID-19 patients. Far from Wuhan’s ICUs, doctors there spent as much time tending to their patient’s emotional needs as their physical ones.

From the Front Lines: A Steep Learning Curve, a Bittersweet End  (May 5, 2020, Sixth Tone)
From opening the first coronavirus-only ward among non-respiratory departments in her hospital to grappling with a disease then only classified as an “unknown pneumonia,” Dr. He, like Wuhan itself, was put to the test like never before.

Two weeks of zero local infections: How Hong Kong contained its second wave of Covid-19  (May 5, 2020, CNN)
Hong Kong’s success in surviving multiple waves of the virus provides hard earned lessons to other cities around the world now looking to relax restrictions.

Give us first-hand information to fight virus, Taiwan asks WHO  (May 6, 2020, Reuters)
Taiwan’s health minister asked the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday to ensure the island had access to first-hand information about the coronavirus, saying that not having the full picture slows down epidemic-prevention work.

Science / Technology

China launches mission to determine height of Mount Everest once and for all  (May 1, 2020, South China Morning Post)
China is sending a surveying and mapping team to the summit of  Mount Everest  this month in a bid to end the long-running debate over the precise height of the world’s tallest mountain. The mission was announced on Wednesday at one of the mountain’s base camps in Tibet, where a team of 53 surveyors has been making technical preparations since March 2. 

History / Culture

A collection: Beijing in 1983  (Everyday Life in Maoist China)

Sleeping in Ancient Times  (May 2, 2020, The World of Chinese)
A proverb goes, “A full night’s sleep is better than taking ginseng (吃人参不如睡五更),” showing that sleep was historically considered important for one’s health. Many different tools and methods were developed to help the ancient Chinese catch their forty winks.

The May Fourth Movement in Chinese History  (May 4, 2020, Sixth Tone)
In the years that followed, the May Fourth Movement quickly came to be viewed as a milestone in modern Chinese history and symbolic of a broader shift in Chinese society.

Air View of Peiping, Sept. 4th, 1949, by US Military after Japanese surrender, the inner street of Fu Cheng Gate of west Peiping, National Archives.  (May 5, 2020, Tong Bingxue, via Twitter)

Travel / Food

Travel to Shandong Province: A Complete Guide  (April 30, 2020, Sapore di Cina)
Shandong, which translates to “East of the mountains”, is a populous province that has played a vital role throughout China’s history. It’s the home of Mount Tai, a site with one of the longest histories of religious worship. Besides, Confucius was born in Qufu, one of the biggest cities in the province. It’s a religious and cultural center for Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, and also the third wealthiest province of China.

In Beijing, flight bookings surge by 15 times as restrictions relax  (April 30, 2020, Matador Network)
If China is modeling how the rest of the travel industry will bounce back from the virus, recent travel data is encouraging. Since Beijing relaxed its coronavirus rules yesterday, data from online reservation service Qunar showed that flight bookings out of the Chinese capital have increased by up to 15 times.

For the chop: ‘dining table revolution’ takes aim at food sharing in China  (May 1, 2020, The Guardian)
Authorities have launched an aggressive campaign to convince diners to use designated serving utensils known as gongkuai or gongshao, or “public chopsticks” and “public spoon”. Officials are also encouraging the serving of separate portions rather than “family style”, where a group shares several dishes.

Lifeblood of China  (May 4, 2020, The World of Chinese)
Among the historical achievements of Chinese civilization, the Grand Canal is sometimes forgotten. At a co­lossal 1,794 kilometers, it is the longest and oldest man-made waterway in the world. Perhaps no single innovation has had such a profound influence on Chinese civilization as this feat of engineering.

Uyghur Laghman | Introduction to Ban Main Noodles  (May 5, 2020, Far West China)
Uyghur laghman, also known as “lagman” or 拌面 (ban mian), is one of the most popular dishes you can find in China’s western region of Xinjiang. Personally…I love the dish! And I’m excited to give you a brief introduction to what it is and why it’s so special.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Premiering in Your Inbox: China’s New Indie Doc Sensation  (May 4, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Filmmaker Jiang Nengjie spent eight years making his latest feature. Then, he messaged his fans to tell them how they could download it for free.

Language / Language Learning

Priceless Words  (May 6, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
Slang-filled English is like another foreign language to them, and typically, newly arrived Chinese students have more trouble understanding American roommates than professors lecturing in class. Slang has its own niche in semantic fields.

How to Choose a Chinese Name: 4 Approaches  (May 6, 2020, Sinosplice)
Should learners of Chinese have a Chinese name? That’s a good question, but it’s not one that I’ll be answering in this article. Assuming that you feel you need a Chinese name, there are several approaches that you can take, depending on your preferences and your needs.

Living Cross-culturally

I sacrificed more by leaving the mission field  (May 4, 2020, Jackson Wu)
Working cross-culturally can change people. For short termers (2-3 years or less), the effects will vary depending on the person. However, long-term missionaries can no longer see the world as they did before being immersed in another place.

Sometimes It’s the Little Things: The Importance of Grieving Well  (May 4, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
When our time in China ended in a rather dramatic way and we returned to our home country hurt and grieving, our organization did not know what to do with us. We met with a counselor one time. We were told it was serious, especially for my husband, but after that there was no follow up. That was that. It was never talked about again and we were expected to be back in the saddle and move on. Time, space, and resources were not available to us.


[Review] “Scintillating Tales Of Shanghai’s Sojourners: Paul French’s Destination: Shanghai” By Ronald Torrance  (May 5, 2020, Cha Journal)
An accessible account of the era, French’s Destination: Shanghai recounts eighteen vignettes of foreign sojourners in Shanghai during the twentieth century, some of them familiar, others decidedly less so.

Online Event: A Book Talk on “The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, The Factory, and The Future of the World”  (May 5, 2020, Center for Strategic and International Studies)
Roberts brings to life the problems that China and its people face today as they attempt to overcome a divisive system that poses a serious challenge to the country’s future development. In so doing, he paints a boot-on-the-ground cautionary picture of China for a world now held in its financial thrall. 

Links for Researchers

America Challenges China’s National Talent Programs  (May 5, 2020, Center for Strategic & International Studies)
This paper reviews the history of China’s overseas talent programs, analyzes why they have generated diplomatic discord, and offers policy recommendations for China and the United States. If adopted, such steps will protect collaborative research and publishing.


Worldview Seminar (ERRChina)
This course is designed for those who seek to minister among the Chinese, whether in North America or in China, or to learn more about Chinese Worldviews. The course surveys the core teachings, history and development of Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Buddhism, folk religions and Christianity in China. Presenters will lecture about the impact of these traditions on Chinese thought and society today. 
June 28, 2020 – July 5, 2020
Bay Area (Zoom audit option available as well)

Pray for China

May 4, 2020, Pray for China: A Walk Through History
On May 4, 1919, Chinese students in Beijing took the streets to protest against the Chinese government for accepting unfavorable terms under the Treaty of Versailles. As part of the May 4th Movement (五四运动) and a heightened sense of nationalism, many Chinese intellectuals turned away from democratic values and embraced Marxism. Pray for those Chinese intellectuals who have rejected Marxism and embraced Christ to serve the people with God’s love.

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