Three stories caught our eye this week, two serious, and one that will make you want to don all of your winter clothes, grab your camera, and head to Harbin, China.
Since it's the end of the year, we decided to jump on the "Top Posts" bandwagon that is careening through the blogosphere. However, since each ZGBriefs post includes dozens of stories, we are highlighting here the top ten most clicked links of the year in other words, your favorite stories.
So here I am, eggnog latte in hand, seated in one of the ubiquitous branches of an internationally branded coffee chain. The city is not important. This could be Hong Kong or Beijing, New York or London. The festive holiday decor would be the same anywhere, along with the exhortations to "Create Wonder" and "Share Joy" stenciled on the front window.
What do Christmas, the one-child policy, and high end art collecting have in common? They are all subjects of the articles we selected as among the most interesting for this week.
Over the weekend there was another deadly attack in Xinjiang Province, in which 16 people were killed.
Top stories from this week's ZG Briefs
Homelessness is not a social problem normally associated with China; however, it appears to be growing, particularly among the population of migrants who have moved into China's cities.
From Chen Guangcheng and the American culture wars to a village that is still living Mao's dream, our top stories this week are quite diverse.
I spend a lot of time in taxis in Beijing and since I am a blondish, big-nosed foreigner who speaks Chinese, many drivers are eager to chat. They want to know what work I do and how much money I make. When I tell them that I am an educator and don't make much money, they wonder what in the world I am doing here.
When I first went to China in the mid-1980's the rural/urban population ratio was 80/20. Today, after three decades of urbanization, that ratio is roughly 50/50.
The two big stories that came out of China this week were China's announced "adjustments" to its infamous one-child policy and the upcoming departure of US Ambassador Gary Locke.
Most of the news out of China this week was political, as the Third Plenum wrapped up their meeting in Beijing and issued their long-awaited communiqu. Details are still emerging and analysts are still trying to figure it all out. In this week's ZGBriefs, we included a special section with links to nine different articles. They are all helpful preliminary takes on the meeting.
My top picks for this week fall into two broad categories: English teaching and violence. The articles about English teaching were of interest to me because once upon a time I was an English teacher in China. The articles on violence are interesting and sober reads and help us understand that underneath the veneer of stability, there are some serious social tensions.
The Chinese Communist Party will hold its "Third Plenum" meeting in Beijing, beginning November 9. All eyes are on General Secretary Xi Jinping and the Party leaders as they unveil a new set of economic reforms. Will they be bold enough to meet the challenges of the day? Will they also include political reforms?
My top picks from this week's ZG Briefs .
Four of my top picks this week have to do with the Chinese language and language learning.
There were a lot of great articles in this week's ZGBriefs, so narrowing them down to four 'top picks' wasn't easy. But here's our attempt:
It was an honor to be part of the sixth China Theology Symposium held this August at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. Centered on the theme "Christian Faith and Ideological Trends in China," the four days of meetings gathered intellectuals from China's major ideological groups, and encouraged them to engage one another with an eye towards elucidating what Christianity may or may not have to contribute to China's future.
Today we are starting a new feature, linking this blog with another of our publications, the ZGBriefs Newsletter. Every Friday, we will highlight articles from the ZGBriefs newsletter that we consider the "must read" articles of the week.
The 2014 Intercessors for China Prayer Calendar is now available.
Special Feature: Adoption
Anyone who has been involved in China over the past 30 years can complete the sentence "When I first came to China " with a vividperhaps even harrowingaccount of what China was like in the past. The readily observable changes in day-to-day living that have come about from rapid development and economic growth are phenomenal and at times unsettling. Those newly arrived in China are often surprised at what they find and realize that the reading they have done or the orientation classes they have taken in preparation for living and working in China have not kept up with the pace of development in China.
One of the easiest places to see real live Mainland Chinese folk beliefs is in the front seat of a Chinese taxi.
For the past few months I have had the song "California Dreaming'" stuck in my head. I blame Chinese president Xi Jinping and his propagation of the notion of a "Chinese Dream."
Well, the cat's out of the bag and Xi is indeed akin to Li Shi Min, as he talks about the "China Dream" and leading China into its "new renaissance", in other words, its new golden age.
Visitors to China often remark at the speed with which cities, or large portions of cities, seem to suddenly appear. Pudong and Shenzhen have risen literally out of nothing to become urban showpieces and major financial centers. The "Bird's Nest" stadium that became the much heralded centerpiece of the 2008 Beijing Games was erected at unprecedented speed, along with dozens of other Olympic venues, several new subway lines, and major beautification projects across the city.
None of this would be possible were it not for hundreds of millions of migrant workers streaming into China's major urban centers. They are the silent, or at least unacknowledged, partners in China's rush to lead the way in global urbanization.
Following up on her January 30, 2013 blog, Tiger Lily poses a question.
January saw some of the worst pollution in China with readings as high as over 800 for PM 2.5.
It is often enlightening to observe what TV programs are being shown to get an inkling of what the government wants people to think. Leading up to the Olympics and June 2009, there were numerous TV serials about the Ming dynasty and Chinese venturing to places like Southeast Asia in search of a better life but not forgetting their Chinese roots. One particular serial was "" which recounts the time of China's maritime supremacy in the 1400s this all just before the 60th anniversary of its navy in 2009 and subsequent flexing of its muscles in the South China Sea.
Following a rapid downturn in 2012, what are the prospects for China's economy in 2013? What trends are being seen, and what do they indicate? How do social and political considerations interact with the economy and does this have any impact for Christianity? Based on statistics, Dr. Zhao gives his outlook for China's economic future.
Editor's Note: This editorial originally appeared in "China by the Numbers" (CS Quarterly, 2012 Winter).
Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China by Leslie T. Chang. Picador, 2010, ISBN-10: 033044736X, ISBN-13: 978-0330447362; 320 pages; paper $10.88; Kindle edition $11.99 at Amazon. (Note: Various editions are available with a slightly different title, dates of publication and number of pages.)
Reviewed by Andrea Klopper
Items requiring your intercession
"Shiba Da," the 18th Party Congress, concluded last month with the seven (not nine!) members of the reconstituted Politburo Standing Committee appearing together for the first time on the red carpet in Beijing's Great Hall of the People. Many have asked what implications the Congress has for Christians in China. While it is known that religious policy was on the agenda this year, only time will tell how the closed-door discussions on this topic will play out in terms of actual policy.
by Mark Alexander
A word from Brent Fulton
Mark's observations go beyond mere travelogue or commentary on the "weirdness" of other cultures. With warmth and humor he brings to life the peculiarities of places he has experienced (Mark's description of a child's first visit to the hairdresser is alone worth the price of the book). But he also does much more. Each carefully written piece is a parable that transcends culture, bringing larger than life meaning to otherwise ordinary life situations. Beautifully illustrated and artistically designed, Insights from Outside cleverly incorporates photographs and sketches that draw the reader further into the vignettes as they unfold.
Insights from Outside is currently on sale for Christmas at GBP3.10 (c.US$4.99*) a copy plus shipping, 5+ copies for GBP2.80 (c.US$4.49*) a copy plus shipping.
*Payment in GB Pounds by credit card or through your PayPal balance.
100% of the book orders mailed from Kunming, China to addresses in the USA and elsewhere around the world have arrived at their intended destinations.
To make an order, request a quote or ask a general enquiry email Mark Alexander: TransculturalPeopleATgmail.com
An excerpt: Chinese Kites: Flying or Falling
As of this year, China officially has more people living in cities than in the countryside. Returning recently to one of China's sprawling megacities, I was again brought face to face with the human reality underlying the most massive migration in the history of the world.
Links to more information on the Chinese in today's world.
In order to understand China today, it's helpful to understand this simple rule: nothing is as it seems. In fact, I would say this rule applies when observing and analyzing nearly all segments of life in China: politics, economy, social relationships and even religion. To put it another way, whatever China seems to be at any given moment, it is in fact, the opposite. This can be difficult for Westerners because we tend to be dichotomist in our thinking, wanting something to be either this or that. We don't do well with this and that.
Exploring the current trend of many Mainland youth to receive their education outside of China, the authors examine cultural and societal issues that can help us understand the situations and challenges these students face as they study in Western countries.
A new book is on its way and this will be of interest especially to those involved in business one way or another. It's supposed to be out in December so if you get this as a Christmas present and read this book, please do post a review.
There are numerous challenges that could derail China's march to super-power status including a collapse of the banking system, regional disintegration, environmental disaster, and military miscalculations. However, perhaps the most likely factor to prevent China's rise will be the one the government can least do anything about: demography. China, as always, has too many people; now, however, it is also lacking in females, youth, and sooner rather than later, a workforce to support its retired population.
Editor's Note: This editorial originally appeared in "Looking Ahead in China" (ChinaSource, 2010 Fall).
Medical care and other social services are taking highly positive trends throughout China.
What are the possibilities regarding the future leadership of China?
Country Driving: A Journey through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler. Harper (New York: 2010), 438pp. ISBN 978-0-06-180409-0, $27.99.
Reviewed by Wayne Martindale
Several agencies have joined together to sponsor research on China's youth. Divided into three units of research, the first part, conducted in Changsha, has been completed. Following is a summary of the findings. In June, the research will be carried out in Chengdu and, towards the end of the summer, in a third city. The entire research project will be completed by the end of 2010.
What impact is technology and instant communication having on China's youth?
The challenges of achieving the goal of integration for ethnic minorities in China and Hong Kong.
China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford.
Reviewed by Kay Danielson
Will the Boat Sink the Water?: The Life of China's Peasants by Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao.
Reviewed by Brad Burgess