No. 81 | 08.01.2022

Dear reader,

In our special Retrospective 2021 edition, we’ve curated the most important stories that we published last year. When read together, this digest provides a sharp view into the changing landscape of Chinese politics, culture, and society of 2021. We hope that it also provides some understanding about the direction that the country is taking in the year to come.

Next week, we will resume the publication of our regular News on China digest.

Happy New Year!

—Dongsheng editorial collective

National Politics

President Xi announces a new cycle of reforms to address social inequalities in the country and build “common prosperity”

Following recent measures in education, housing, and the tech sector, government will formulate public policies that reconcile economic efficiency with the strengthening of the welfare state, such as taxes (property, income, and inheritance), social security reforms, and encouraging philanthropy (No. 65)

Global Times, 18.08.2021

South China Morning Post, 18.08.2021

China overhauls private tutoring sector (US $125 billion), banning for-profit, foreign, and listed companies in school-curriculum teaching

New regulation targets institutions teaching school curriculum content to address unequal access to education, lower costs and children’s workloads, and improve public online education; enrollment grew from 202.6 to 325.3 million students (2015-9) (No. 61)

Nikkei Asia, 26.07.2021

Bloomberg, 24.07.2021

South China Morning Post, 23.07.2021

To circumvent the Evergrande crisis, Beijing asks state-backed companies to buy the builders’ assets, while local governments control its revenue

Among many deals, Guangzhou’s state-owned construction company is considering purchasing a soccer stadium (US $1.9 billion) and surrounding condominiums; municipalities in 10 provinces centrally manage the company’s cash flow to ensure continuity of projects (No. 70)

Reuters, 29.09.2021

Caixin Global, 27.09.2021

“Three-child policy” announced to cope with aging population and declining birthrate, after enabling families to have two children in 2016

“One-child policy” introduced in 1979 – with exceptions for rural and ethnic minority families – reduced 400 million births during period; more social support for families and women expected to come with new policy (No. 53)

Xinhua, 01.06.2021

South China Morning Post, 01.06.2021

Government investigates ride-hailing app Didi for national security risks, shortly after US $4.4 billion IPO on Wall Street

Didi (90% of Chinese market) is the first big tech investigated since Data Security Law passed in June, followed by US-listed Full Truck Alliance and Boss Zhipin; China may revise foreign investment criteria for domestic tech companies (No. 58)

South China Morning Post, 05.07.2021

South China Morning Post, 05.07.2021

Resolution of the sixth plenary of the 19th CPC Central Committee elevates Xi’s “core position” to the level of Mao and Deng

Attended by 370 top leaders, the sixth plenary focused on ideology and Party-building, highlighting Xi Jinping Thought in guiding the “new era” of socialism with Chinese characteristics and CPC’s confidence in leading processes towards achieving common prosperity and national rejuvenation goals (No. 76)

Global Times, 12.11.2021

South China Morning Post, 06.11.2021

Read the full text of the Resolution


China challenges US unilateralism and hegemony in first high-level bilateral meeting in Alaska since Biden’s election

A tense opening exchange with US counterparts, top foreign affairs diplomat Yang Jiechi disputed US imposition of “universal” values, opposed interference in China’s internal affairs and asserted that US does not “represent international public opinion” (No. 44)

Asia Times, 22.03.2021

Full transcript in Nikkei, 19.03.2021

China, Russia and Venezuela announce the formation of a new bloc to defend UN founding charter against US unilateralism

Against sanctions and arbitrary interventions by US and allies, the “Group of Friends” – including Cuba, Bolivia, Angola, Iran and 10 others – calls for principles of multilateralism, non-interference in countries’ internal affairs and peaceful conflict resolution (No. 43)

Brasil de Fato, 15.03.2021

Newsweek, 12.03.2021

President Xi pledges one billion vaccines for African countries at the 8th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)

Meeting in Dakar (Senegal), China announces that it will donate 600 million doses, produce 400 million doses in partnership with African countries, and send 500 specialists for ten agriculture and poverty alleviation projects on the continent, among other commitments (No. 78)

CGTN, 30.11.2021

Africa Business, 29.11.2021

China and ASEAN elevate relationship to “comprehensive strategic partnership” status, boosting security and development cooperation

China has pledged US $1.5 billion for pandemic relief and economic recovery over next three years to the Southeast Asian bloc – its largest trading partner – and announces US $150 billion in agricultural imports from ASEAN over the next five years (No. 77)

South China Morning Post, 22.11.2021

Global Times, 22.11.2021

China’s state banks lent US $137 billion to Latin American governments and state-owned enterprises (2006-21)

Washington promises investment in the region to regain lost influence, but its “Build Back Better World” project remains without a budget; Venezuela (US $62.2 billion) and Brazil (US $29.7 billion) have been the biggest beneficiaries of Chinese loans (No. 72)

Financial Times, 18.10.2021

US drops extradition charges against Huawei’s finance chief Meng Wanzhou, who returns to China after three years in Canadian detention

In 2018, Canadian authorities arrested Huawei founder’s daughter, at the behest of the US, on charges of violating sanctions against Iran, for which Meng pleaded not guilty but acknowledged wrongdoing; Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – convicted for spying – left China hours after (No. 70)

Global Times, 25.09.2021

CGTN, 26.09.2021


Backed by government funding, China leads the US in many high-tech sectors – particularly hardware – but lags behind in software

Chinese companies dominate sales of smartphones (58% 2021, US 15%), solar panels (67% 2020, US 1%), commercial drones (80% of US market 2020 Q1, US 4%), and telecoms equipment (36% of 2021 revenue, US 9%) but still lag in semiconductors (4% of 2020 sales, US 47%) (No. 69)

Washington Post, 21.09.2021

In December 2001, after 15 years and 37 meetings, China became a member of the World Trade Organization

In 20 years, the country grew from the world’s sixth to second largest economy, with trade volume growing from US $516 billion to $5 trillion, and reaching 11.5% of global total (2001, 3.4%); country signed over 400 multilateral agreements and 128 bilateral investment treaties (No. 80)

Global Times, 09.12.2021

Global Times, 08.12.2021 (infographic about Chinese achievements since joining the WTO)

China’s net worth grew from US $7 to $120 trillion (2000-2020) surpassing the US, which doubled net worth to $90 trillion

In the ten countries surveyed, rising equity and real estate valuations (accounting for ⅔ of total wealth) drove growth; China accounted for half of growth, but the share of the country’s wealthiest 10% grew (48%-67%) (No. 77)

Bloomberg, 15.11.2021

Category Icons

Agriculture and Environment

China outlines plan to reduce CO2 emissions and increase clean energy to 25% of total in 2030, and over 80% by 2060

Policy includes measures to control coal power production, specific emission targets according to industry, and banning new energy-intensive projects (oil refining, ethylene); government reaffirms commitment despite the current energy crisis (No. 73)

Global Times, 24.10.2021

China announces US $233 million fund to protect biodiversity in developing countries at UN COP 15 Convention on Biodiversity

Held in Kunming (Yunnan), China’s most biodiverse province, the Convention set 21 new goals, which included protecting at least 30% of land and sea areas globally and US $200 billion annual financing (2021-31) (No. 71)

China Daily, 12.10.2021

South China Morning Post, 09.10.2021

Giant pandas are no longer classified “endangered” as China’s wild panda population grows to 1,800 from 1,100 in 2000

As the status of pandas is upgraded to “vulnerable,” World Wildlife Fund praises Chinese government’s conservation efforts, which have also helped Siberian tigers, Asian elephants, and crested ibises to thrive (No. 59)

NPR, 09.07.2021

Guardian, 09.07.2021

Hybrid rice scientist Yuan Longping (1930-2021) remembered for contributions against global hunger, including 16 grain pilot programs in Africa

In Madagascar, seed technology and innovative methods tripled transplanting speed (to 0.3 hectares/day) and yields (to >7.5 tons/hectare) from 2006 to 2019; China trained 14,000+ technicians in 80 developing countries (Africa Weekly No. 15)

Global Times, 23.05.2021

Global Times, 10.12.2019


WHO certifies malaria eradication in China, which shares disease-control experiences with African and Asian countries

Prior to 1949, China recorded 30 million cases and 300,000 deaths annually; anti-malaria efforts began in 1956 with distributing medicine and reducing breeding areas, advancing with the discovery of the artemisinin drug by Nobel Prize-winning scientist Tu Youyou (2015) (No. 58)

Science, 29.06.2021

Global Times, 30.06.2021

Shanghai tested over 33,000 people at Disneyland, hours after being notified of one confirmed COVID-19 case

Visitors were shuttled home after the city’s rapid containment response and no new cases were found, drawing praise from the public; top respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan defends country’s zero-Covid strategy as “less costly” than living with the disease (No. 74)

Caixin Global, 02.11.2021

China Daily, 02.11.2021

Science and Technology

China becomes the third country in history to land a spacecraft on Mars after seven-month journey

Zhurong (god of fire) rover will collect data about the planet’s soil and atmosphere over next three months in the latest mission of the Chinese space program, which launched first part of new space station earlier this month (No. 51)

Nature, 14.05.2021

Financial Times, 09.05.2021

China’s FAST, the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope, opens for international research (10% of total observation time)

FAST’s capacity to explore the universe quadruples US’s Arecibo, which collapsed last December in Puerto Rico; Chinese scientists already discovered over 300 pulsars and deepened their understanding of the Andromeda galaxy (No. 46)

SHINE, 31.03.2021

China sends longest-ever crewed mission to Tiangong space station for six months, carrying out technology tests, construction work, and spacewalks

China’s young space program is advancing with six more missions planned next year, including two crewed ones to complete the “Heavenly Palace” space station; European, Russian, Indian, and Israeli missions have failed in recent years (No. 56)

Asia Times, 17.10.2021

People’s Life and Culture

Wang Yaping of Shenzhou-13 mission becomes the first female taikonaut on China’s space station and conduct a spacewalk

Wang is a pioneer in the male-dominated science fields, as government eases age limits and prioritizes funding for women; 49% of university degree-holders are women, but comprised only 5.3-6% of academicians in China’s top two science institutions (2019) (No. 72)

Global Times, 15.10.2021

South China Morning Post, 19.10.2021

China’s youth increasingly prefer domestic culture, values and brands over the US’s, unlike previous generations

Top 10 films in 2020 were domestic, with foreign films comprising 16.3% of box-office sales (vs. 35.9% in 2019); favorable view of US is falling (58-39%, 2019-20) as pride in Chinese development grows (No. 44)

South China Morning Post, 20.03.2021

Chinese social media campaigns erupt in support of Xinjiang cotton, boycotting international brands linked to Better Cotton Initiative

Communist Youth League, official media and netizens are leading the boycott movement, celebrities terminate corporate contracts and #ISupportXinjiangCotton hashtag received six billion Weibo views (No. 45)

What’s on Weibo, 28.03.2021

Museum culture thrives in China, fueled by investment in new facilities, TV programs, and consumer products that popularize cultural heritage

From 2016 to 2020, an average of one museum was opened every two days (totaling 5,788); despite the pandemic, last year’s 29,000 exhibitions and 225,000 educational activities received 540 million visitors (No. 64)

ChinAfrica, 13.08.2021

National Holiday hit, The Battle of Lake Changjin, set to be highest-grossing Chinese film ever, as domestic industry surpassed the US’s in 2020

For six years in a row, Chinese films have exceeded foreign productions in domestic box office, reaching US $3.9 billion in first half-year; country limits imported films (34 ann.) and streaming content (30%) (No. 71)

Nikkei Asia, 08.10.2021

Global Times, 07.10.2021

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