ZGBriefs | September 16, 2021

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Featured Article

Buddies With Rice: China’s Simplest and Most Loved Dishes (September 10, 2021, The World of Chinese)
Probably the simplest of all xiafancai is the legendary spicy sauce Laoganma, but there are many more nutritious (and delicious) rice partners out there. From stewed radish with sausage to fish head with tofu, these ingredients are best cooked in old-style wood-fired stoves, which bring out an earthy fragrance to food and give a rustic feel to dinnertime.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China to provide Afghanistan with $31 million worth of food and Covid vaccines (September 9, 2021, CNN)
China will provide almost $31 million worth of food, winter weather supplies, vaccines, and medicine to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, China’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. […] Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also announced that China will donate 3 million vaccine doses to Afghanistan in the first batch, according to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua. It is not clear when the vaccines are scheduled to be delivered.

Xi’s call for common prosperity signals a new period of populism, state regulation and interventionism(September 9, 2021, MERICS)
The term “common prosperity” (共同富裕) has long been part of the CCP’s ideological language. Under Xi, the term and an accompanying ideological framing of economic policy are making a comeback. The term represents the ideological core of Xi’s proclaimed ambition of building a socialist society.

US Coast Guard spots Chinese warships off Alaska (September 14, 2021, South China Morning Post) (subscription required)
Four Chinese warships, including one of its most advanced destroyers , were spotted sailing in the waters off Alaska late last month as the Chinese navy steadily expands its range, according to photos posted on a Pentagon information service. The photos taken by the US Coast Guard showed the four Chinese naval vessels shadowed by two US Coast Guard cutters in international waters within the US’ exclusive economic zone in the Aleutian Islands on August 29 and August 30, according to the Defence Visual Information Distribution Service.

Chinese ambassador to UK barred from British parliament (September 14, 2021, The Guardian)
The new Chinese ambassador to the UK has been barred from parliament by the Speakers in the Commons and Lords after the imposition of sanctions on British MPs by Beijing.

Taiwan Air Force Expels China Warplanes During Anti-landing Drills (September 15, 2021, Newsweek)
The Republic of China (ROC) Air Force tasked combat air patrols and issued radio warnings to approaching People’s Liberation Army (PLA) warplanes, which were also tracked with surface-to-air missile systems as they entered the southwest corner of its air defense identification zone (ADIZ), Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Hong Kong: Activists jailed for joining banned Tiananmen vigil (September 15, 2021, BBC)
Nine Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have been sentenced to between six and 10 months in prison for taking part in a banned vigil last year commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. They were among 12 people who pleaded guilty to participating in the event. Three were given suspended sentences.

China denies port visit by German warship (September 15, 2021, DW)
Germany’s “Bayern” warship was planned to stop over in a Chinese port as it passed through the South China Sea. Berlin says Beijing rejected the request “after a period of reflection.”


Video: The (Chinese) Art of a Good Deal (September 9, 2021, CantoSense)
How far would you go for a good deal? In this episode, we talk about Chinese FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and how (left unchecked) it can lead us to miss out on the truly important things. 

Building Bridges of Friendship and Introducing Jesus: Ministry among Liuxuesheng (留学生) (September 13, 2021, ChinaSource Quarterly)

Caring for Orphans: An Interview (1) (September 14, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
In this article, Territory (Jingjie) interviewed a Chinese Christian woman who left a corporate job to care for disabled orphans.

Christian Spirituality in China’s Walled Garden: WeChat as Christian “Alter-Public” (September 15, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
What does China’s digital society mean for the church, especially since the Covid pandemic has forced many congregations to continue their worship and ministries online? This topic has been addressed in several recent ChinaSource posts, ranging from high praise to critical reservation. In between these perspectives, this post and video presentation highlights “Jingjie” (境界, Territory) as an example of how WeChat/Weixin has served as an alternative public square for Christians, toeing the line between good citizenship and faithful witness.

Society / Life

Chinese Idols (September 14, 2021, The Signal) (subscription required)
What’s behind Beijing’s crackdown on celebrity fan culture and online gaming? Ian Johnson on the Communist Party’s new push to enforce traditionalist values.

China’s ‘Mass Line’ Moves Online (September 15, 2021, Sixth Tone)
Over the past decade, the Chinese government has invested heavily in soliciting ideas, suggestions, and “constructive” feedback from the broader public. Is anyone listening?

Economics / Trade / Business

Protests Spread As China’s Real Estate Giant Evergrande Mired in Debt (September 14, 2021, Radio Free Asia)
Protesters have been gathering outside the offices of Chinese property giant Evergrande in recent days to demand their money back, as the company struggles to repay debts of more than U.S.$300 billion amid a liquidity crisis. Chanting “Pay us back! Pay us back!”, dozens of protesters gathered outside the company’s headquarters in the southern city of Shenzhen on Wednesday, after the company warned it may not be able to service its debts, and offered property and parking spaces in a bid to stave off creditors’ demands.

Growing Signs Suggest China May Launch Countrywide Property Tax (September 15, 2021, Sixth Tone)
China is likely to roll out its much-discussed property tax to more cities before the end of this year, which analysts say will help close the wealth gap amid growing calls to achieve “common prosperity” by the central government.


Meet Sister Zhang and the Heilongjiang College Room Inspection Gang (September 10, 2021, What’s on Weibo)
This scene featuring a room inspection team at a vocational college could be straight from a Tarantino movie – but these girls from Heilongjiang apparently just like to go about their duties in gang style.

Questions Linger on New Education Rules (September 15, 2021, China Media Project)
In the midst of ongoing discussion over the July rules, one overarching question has remained: Is this a real policy designed to relieve stress on parents and children, responding to rising costs and expectations? Or is it a “head-patting decision” (拍脑袋决策) – a policy expediently thought out and rashly implemented?  

Health / Environment

China moves to contain fresh Covid outbreak in Fujian province (September 13, 2021, The Guardian) China has imposed new restrictions to contain a fresh outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant of Covid-19 in the south-eastern Fujian province, with measures including mass testing, suspended transport services and closures of bars and cinemas.

Science / Technology

China’s Shenzhou 12 astronauts send back stunning images of Earth (photos) (September 14, 2021, Space)
A first batch of images taken by Tang Hongbo and released in August include views from space of the Gulf of Guinea, lights illuminating North Africa, the Ethiopian Highlands and Indian Ocean, as well as Tang’s sleeping quarters. Shenzhou 12 commander Nie Haisheng also sent back images of Beijing at night and a section of the Pacific Ocean. 

Travel / Food

The COVID-Era Preflight Checklist (September 10, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
We left China earlier this year to make a quick trip back to the States. A “quick trip” used to be two weeks. Now it cannot be shorter than a month and more likely a quick turnaround will be six to eight weeks. The flight from China to the US used to take us 24 hours door to door. This time it was 48 hours. However, what made this trip different was not the longer flight time or the total length but the ongoing uncertainty and inability to plan much beyond the next step.

On the Tracks of the Yunnan-Vietnam Railway (September 13, 2021, The World of Chinese)
These are the remnants of Bisezhai Train Station (碧色寨火车站) , one of the oldest in China, and a product of French colonialism in Vietnam and southwest China in the 1800s. The old station has been here for over a century, and though it is now a site for tourists, it was once a vital stop on the Vietnam-Yunnan Railway that brought trade from European countries and their colonies all the way to China.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Foul Play: Why Chinese Football is Built on Shaky Ground (September 12, 2021, The World of Chinese)
China’s drive to reform the beautiful game is riddled with scandal, debt, and disregard for fans.

Chinese-American Documentary on Wuhan Lockdown Wins Emmy Glory (September 14, 2021, Radii China)
76 Days was co-directed by Chinese-American director Hao Wu and highlights the stories of those affected by the spread of Covid-19 amid the Wuhan lockdown in early 2020. Wu’s documentary project began in February 2020, shortly after Wuhan’s history-making lockdown started on January 23, and continued until the city reopened in April. 

Language / Language Learning

On the Character: 野 (September 11, 2021, The World of Chinese)
The history and development of a Chinese character that is far-seeing and untamed.

China jettisons English (September 12, 2021, Language Log)
So they say, but I wouldn’t count on it.  We’ve heard this patriotic, isolationist tune sung countless times during the last thirty years or so (in fact, it happens every time preceding a national political meeting, but nothing ever comes of it).

Sichuan Says Officials Must Drop Dialects at Work (September 14, 2021, Sixth Tone)
After a secret investigation uncovered that many civil servants and party cadres converse in their local tongue during work hours instead of the standardized Chinese preferred by the government, the southwestern province Sichuan is banning the use of dialects in the office.

Links for Researchers

China’s New Direction: Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Policy, 2021 Report (September 2021, Asia Society)


Recording and Resources—Learning About China (September 10, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
On Thursday, August 26, we hosted a webinar titled “Learning About China: Sipping from a Fire  Hose.” In my presentation, I highlighted key books and other resources that have been helpful to me over the years in deepening my understanding of and love for China. Here is the list of resources mentioned, …

Pray for China

September 22
On Sept. 22, 1881, Cheng Jingyi (诚静怡牧师) was born in Beijing into a Manchu Christian family. After studying theology in Tianjin and Scotland, he began pastoring a newly independent church in Beijing. For the next 3 decades, he was a leader in the movement to create a unified Chinese church independent of missionary leadership. In 1910, he chaired the first convening of the National Evangelism Conference and also attended the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh as one of China’s two delegates. In 1918, Cheng worked with six prominent Chinese Christians to form the Chinese Home Mission Society (中华国内布道会), an indigenous interdenominational mission devoted to reaching minority nationalities in southwest China. (Those six were: Dr. Shi Meiyu (史美玉医生-Mary Stone), Cai Sujuan (蔡苏娟姊妹-Christiana Tsai), Yu Rizhang (余日章-David Z.T. Yui), Dora Yu Cidu (余慈度姊妹), Hu Suzhen (胡素贞女士), and Ding Limei (丁立梅牧师). He died in Shanghai in 1940 after returning from a mission trip to the southwest in poor health. Pray for Chinese Christians to manifest a spirit of unity and love in an era of growing denominational distinctiveness. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Image credit: llee_wu, 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