ZGBriefs | March 9, 2017

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Featured Article

The Rasping on the Radio (March 2, 2017, The World of Chinese)
That’s right: once you’ve ridden with the radio-fanatic taxi driver enough, you may start to recognize certain voices. One in particular is an older-sounding man whose sandpapery tones seem to come from the depths of his acerbic, somewhat excitable soul. This is Shan Tianfang (单田芳), one of China’s pre-eminent artists in an ancient performing arts genre called pingshu (评书), which literally means “commenting on the book” but is usually referred to as “oral storytelling.”


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Overseas NGO Law

China’s NGO regulations discourage foreigners and suppress critical voices (February 24, 2017, Hong Kong Free Press)
I contend that the law is the latest in a series of actions to drive a wedge between foreign actors and Chinese civil society, rendering Chinese NGOs dependent on China’s state for funding.

Overseas NGOs in China: Left in Legal Limbo (March 4, 2017, The Diplomat)
A round table discussion with a dozen or so mainly German NGOs in January – among them private and political foundations and church-related development agencies – revealed an array of obstacles that delay registration with the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and the severe consequences for those waiting to complete the process.

How a Lawyer Can Help (March 8, 2017, From the West Courtyard)
I recently spoke to a friend who works for a US-based NGO that is in the process of registering in China. A key take away from that conversation was the importance of a lawyer for groups trying to register. Based on my conversation with him, here are four ways a lawyer can help:

Special Section: National People’s Congress

Chinese Lawmakers’ Wallets Have Grown Along With Xi’s Power (March 2, 2017, The New York Times)
Mao once branded capitalists enemies of the Chinese people. In the era of President Xi Jinping, those capitalists are billionaire lawmakers — and they’re getting even wealthier. The combined fortune of the wealthiest members of China’s Parliament and its advisory body amounts to $500 billion, just below the annual economic output of Sweden.

A Quick Scan at the NPC (March 3, 2017, China Media Project)
The QR code, it seems, it being pushed this year as a symbol of sorts for the government’s professed openness and transparency. Also on Sunday, media reports said, codes were posted at the “Minister Channel” (部长通道) outside the entrance to the Great Hall of the People. There was no longer any need for reporters to “flag down” (拦) government ministers and patter them with questions — they could simply “scan-code” the ministers, submitting their questions over mobile.

China congress: BBC team forced to sign confession (March 3, 2017, BBC)
As soon as we arrived in Yang Linghua's village it was clear they were expecting us. The road to her house was blocked by a large group of people and, within a few minutes, they'd assaulted us and smashed all of our cameras. While such violence can be part of the risk faced by foreign reporters in China, what happened next is more unusual.

Words Count: Chinese State of the Nation Speech All About the ‘Party’ (March 5, 2017, China Real Time)
The Chinese government’s annual policy blueprint runs more than 18,000 Chinese characters. Only a fraction of them are necessary to grasp this year’s theme: a dramatic emphasis on the Communist Party, in particular its leader.

China NPC 2017: The Reports (March 5, 2017, China Real Time)
As we’ve noted in past years, the reports are loaded with political jargon and can be dry as toast, but they give an important sense of the government’s feelings about the economy and plans for the year.

China begins annual political sessions with synchronized tea pouring and the shadow of a leadership shuffle (March 5, 2017, The Los Angeles Times)
The National People’s Congress, a largely ceremonial body, sticks to a script and proceeds like an overly choreographed play — down to servers’ synchronized pouring of tea. But officials are working even harder this year to praise their boss and make sure nothing goes wrong. The reason: A leadership shakeup this fall could lay the foundation for President Xi Jinping to extend his years in power.

China's National People's Congress kicks off with weakened, politically-minded growth target (March 5, 2017, CNBC)
That magic number — "around 6.5 percent, or higher if possible" — was announced by Premier Li Keqiang, who delivered his version of a "state of the union" address on Sunday. If China delivers growth at that pace this year, it would be slower than the 6.7 percent expansion last year.

The Pomp and Politics of China's Annual Congress (March 7, 2017, Bloomberg)
The National People's Congress is many things. It's China's top legislative body and a rubber stamp for policies hammered out behind closed doors by the ruling Communist Party. It's the only time each year that many top officials in the world's second-biggest economy face the press. Above all, it's a master class in orchestration.

Eyes on selfie-taking ushers at China's political meetings (March 8, 2017, AP)
Dressed in vermillion coats, colorful scarves and high-heeled boots, the well-coiffed young women accompany delegates at China's rubber stamp legislature to the Great Hall of the People then hold signs up to guide them back to their buses. […]  The women have become as much a feature of the National People's Congress' annual session as the speeches and ritualized discussions inside the imposing building. Whether leaping into the air as a group or posing in perfectly symmetrical lines, their images grace the pages and websites of Chinese news outlets.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China has the right to ‘step in’ to Hong Kong election: official (March 6, 2017, Globe and Mail)
China’s third most powerful leader said on Monday that Beijing had the right to “step in” to Hong Kong’s leadership contest, according to local politicians who met him, in remarks fueling fears of meddling from Communist Party leaders.

Hong Kong police to stage riot drills to prepare for Xi Jinping visit (March 7, 2017, The Guardian)

Police in Hong Kong have reportedly launched a security crackdown as the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, prepares to make a rare and potentially tempestuous trip to the former British colony to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its return to China. 

Dalai Lama Interview Fuels New Fire in China-Tibet Spat (March 7, 2017, Foreign Policy)
The Dalai Lama said hard-line Chinese officials have parts of their brains missing in an interview with Oliver for his HBO show, Last Week Tonight. The Dalai Lama also reiterated he could be the last Dalai Lama in line, ending the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual succession process that the Chinese government worked to supplant.

Don’t Call it the New Chinese Global Order (Yet) (March 7, 2017, Foreign Policy)
As Trump declares that Washington’s new strategy is an isolationist “America First,” is Beijing moving away from a reactive foreign policy strategy? If so, how will — and how should — Beijing try to shape the new world order? —

China's foreign minister calls on North Korea to halt missile tests (March 8, 2017, CNBC)
China, fearing a rapid escalation of tension on the Korean peninsula, called on North Korea on Wednesday to stop its nuclear and missile tests and for South Korea and the United States to stop joint military drills and seek talks instead.

Religion

Why China may want to repair its fraught relations with the Vatican (March 2, 2017, The Conversation)
From my perspective, if the government thinks in the same pragmatic terms, it may conclude that the best way to eliminate a black market is to eliminate its reason for being. A Sino-Vatican rapprochement over the power to appoint bishops would accomplish that, allowing “underground” and “aboveground” churches to fully unite.

Is Christianity Contrary to Chinese Traditional Culture? (March 5, 2017, China Christian Daily)
In contrast, China's five thousand years of history gives Chinese a sense of superiority about their culture. In the past Chinese emperor thought of China as the center of the world, the heavenly country on earth, and the Western countries were collectively referred to as "foreign states."

How Do You Spell “Success?” (March 6, 2017, From the West Courtyard)
Developments in China over the past two decades have created the conditions for unprecedented collaboration between Chinese Christians and those from outside the country. With increased collaboration, however, has come more opportunities for miscommunication and missteps as Chinese and foreign believers attempt to work together.

Have We Failed Returnee Christians? (Part 2) (March 7, 2017, From the West Courtyard)
Part one focused more on the overseas church, while part two looks closely at the church in mainland China. This week we post the rest of the article with Chinese readers’ comments from the original blog.

Over 80 Chinese Christians Arrested for Worshiping in House Churches (March 7, 2017, Christian Post)
The raids were conducted on house churches in the cities of Urumqi, Kuytun and in Shawan Counties. Those arrested were charged with crimes such as "engaging in religious activities at non-religious sites."

Taoist Monks Find New Role as Environmentalists (March 7, 2017, Sixth Tone)
More than 2,500 years after Lao-tzu wrote his classic tome at Louguantai, China’s leading Taoists convened at the same spot to pen the Qinling Agreement, in which they pledged to protect the environment and become quiet champions of a new “green revolution” which they called the “Daoist Ecological Protection Network.”

Society / Life

Matchmaking Events a Shot at Love for Chinese With Disabilities (March 2, 2017, Sixth Tone)
Two years later, Li and around a hundred other young people attended a xiangqinhui, or matchmaking event, specifically organized with disabled people in mind. The biannual mixer was organized by the Jinguoyuan Matchmaking Agency. Most of the attendees were born in the 1970s or ’80s; there were also about three times as many men as women. Everyone sat in specially designated areas depending on their disability: visual, auditory, physical, or mental.

10 White Houses, 4 Arcs de Triomphe, 2 Sphinxes ... Now China’s Tower Bridge Attracts Scorn (March 2, 2017, The New York Times)
Now a version of London’s Tower Bridge in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou has rekindled a debate over China’s rush to copy foreign landmarks, as the country rethinks decades of urban experimentation that has produced an extraordinary number of knockoffs of world-renowned structures.

New satellite images show inside China’s ghost cities (March 3, 2017, Business Insider)
While some ghost cities are reportedly filling in, the problem isn’t going away. A recent Baidu study of phone data gave clear evidence of 50 cities with areas of high vacancy. And just this fall China's richest man called Chinese real estate "the biggest bubble in history." We looked inside some ghost cities with the latest in satellite technology, including time-lapse images, to show what’s making progress and what isn’t.

Friday Photo: Banquet Hall (March 3, 2017, Outside-In)
China celebrates International Women’s Day every year on March 8. Usually what that means is women in the workplace are hosted to a lunch or perhaps given the afternoon off. When I taught at a university in China, my classes were in the morning, so I always felt a bit cheated when the school officials proudly announced that we didn’t have to work in the afternoon.

Chinese Dads, It’s Time For You to Start Acting Like Parents (March 6, 2017, Sixth Tone)
Discussing male involvement in child care is especially meaningful in China, given that the state has recently revised its family planning policies and allowed each couple to have up to two children. This has pushed a number of formerly marginal debates into mainstream discourse.

Busy Hating! (March 8, 2017, China Change)
This poem is making rounds on Chinese social media as execrable protests against South Korea over THAAD deployment continue across the country.

China’s former child brides refuse to be silenced (March 8, 2017, South China Morning Post)
Former child brides Ma Panyan and her sister Ma Panhui have found their quest for justice has only brought them further misery. The siblings, who say their older sister was also sold into marriage as a young teen, claim Women’s Federation officials in their home county of Wushan, Chonqing, partnered with police to monitor them and stop them speaking to international journalists.

Economics / Trade / Business

China Employee Resignations: Handle with Care (March 3, 2017, China Law Blog)
The first thing you should do with an employee who is resigning is to make sure that his or her resignation letter properly lists the reason for the resignation. If your employee tells you orally or by WeChat or QQ that he or she is leaving for a job with a “better fit,” but the resignation letter lists the reason as “compensation issues,” you have a problem.

China and Economic Reform: Xi Jinping’s Track Record (March 4, 2017, The New York Times)
Still, his administration has made some small changes, and there have been hints that Mr. Xi may focus more on economic overhauls when he starts his second term. Here is what Mr. Xi has done so far — and, more important, what he has not done.

China’s Plan to Build Its Own High-Tech Industries Worries Western Businesses (March 7, 2017, The New York Times)
China has charted out a $300 billion plan to become nearly self-sufficient by 2025 in a range of important industries, from planes to computer chips to electric cars, as it looks to kick-start its next stage of economic development. But big companies in the rest of the world worry that it is more than that: an unfair advantage in China’s home court, and perhaps elsewhere.

China's ZTE to pay $892M for violating Iran sanctions (March 7, 2017, USA Today)
The smartphone and tablet maker is accused of shipping equipment using items made in the U.S. to Iran illegally, said the Justice Department. The company also bid on two projects based in Iran involving cellular and landline network infrastructure, which would include using components from the U.S. ZTE was also accused of trying to cover up its dealings with Iran.

China sees first monthly trade deficit in three years (March 8, 2017, BBC)
China has reported its first monthly trade deficit in three years, after imports surged and a slowdown during the Lunar New Year holidays hit output. Higher commodity prices and domestic demand were credited with pushing February's imports up 38.1% on a year earlier. But exports unexpectedly fell 1.3%, giving a trade deficit of $9.2bn for the month.

Forming a China WFOE Under the New Rules: Minimum Capital Requirements (March 8, 2017, China Law Blog)
Note that China the country has its laws/rules on this and many of China’s cities have their own rules on this as well. And in addition to the rules, you also must consider local “customs” in addition to what is on paper. 

Education

Overruled (March 3, 2017, The World of Chinese)
No hand-holding, gaining weight, nude-sleeping or unapproved bathroom visits: the weirdest school rules across China.

Health / Environment

China’s citizens are complaining more loudly about polluted air (March 2, 2017, The Economist)
In recent months, amid persistent dense smog in Beijing and many other cities, alarm and anger have been growing. A few brave citizens are beginning to protest.

CDC Concerned by H7N9 Bird Flu’s Sudden Spread in China (March 3, 2017, NBC News)
A sudden surge in cases of H7N9 bird flu in China is a "cause for concern," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. It's infected 460 people just since October, the CDC said in a report. "It's by far the largest epidemic wave since 2013," said CDC flu expert Dr. Tim Uyeki.

'Parched' Chinese city plans to pump water from Russian lake via 1,000km pipeline (March 7, 2017, The Guardian)
China is reportedly considering plans to build a 1,000km (620 mile) pipeline to pump water all the way from Siberia to its drought-stricken northwest. According to reports in the Chinese media, urban planners in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, have drawn up proposals to pipe water into the chronically parched region from Russia’s Lake Baikal, the deepest freshwater lake on earth.

Science / Technology

China Describes Its Vision Of Government-Controlled Internet (March 2, 2017, NPR)
In its first cyber policy paper, the Chinese government is emphasizing its control over Internet access in China, and argued that each nation should govern the Internet as it sees fit.

How to Use the Newly Bilingual Alipay as a Laowai (March 2, 2017, The Beijinger)
There are several reasons why you'd want to set up Alipay in addition to WeChat Wallet. At 10 years old (twice the age of WeChat) Alipay is China's longest-running mobile payment app, which means that it has more customers and compatibility with businesses and electronic banking features. For example, using Alipay you can link directly to Taobao, whereas WeChat cannot.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Aftershock: A Film Review (March 3, 2017, From the West Courtyard)
This film does a beautiful job in commemorating the lives that were lost in the Tangshan earthquake. But the insight it provides into the people of China and the lingering impact of surviving hardship goes beyond 1976. Whether it’s Tangshan, Sichuan, or any other disaster that China has endured, the pain is not just pain, and it definitely never stands alone.

Migrant Identities (March 7, 2017, The World of Chinese)
The plot of Second-Generation Migrant is more or less besides the point—a somewhat aimless young worker, born and raised in Beijing by parents from Henan, tries to start a business and find love; the film’s highlights are the naturalistic dialogue, consisting of actors stumbling over words, and occasional cuts away from the action to conduct mock documentary-style interviews with the lead actor.

History / Culture

Ancient skulls give clues to China human history (March 3, 2017, BBC)
The partial skulls from China are between 105,000 and 125,000 years old and lack faces. But they show clear similarities to and differences from their Neanderthal contemporaries in the west.

These Rare Examples of Early Photography in China Captured a Disappearing World (March 7, 2017, TIME)
Though photography would capture changing history, or cause history to change, in many places, the timing of its arrival in China proved particularly interesting from a historical perspective.

Travel / Food

Photo: A Chilly Walk Amid China’s Ice Art (The New York Times)

Weilong’s “Patriotic Spicy Sticks” Become Internet Hit In Lotte Boycott (March 3, 2017, What’s on Weibo)
As the Lotte Group has come under fire in China due to a conflict over the installment of the controversial US anti-missile system on a golf course owned by Lotte, Chinese companies show their patriotism by boycotting the South Korean conglomerate. For Chinese snack brand Weilong, the boycott seems like a smart strategy: their ‘spicy sticks’ (辣条) are now declared a ‘national snack’ on Weibo.

Language / Language Learning

Rhetorical questions in Chinese (March 2, 2017, Sapore di Cina)
Obviously, Chinese too – a language of great richness – makes regular use of rhetorical questions which I’ll introduce in this article.

Books

Ruth’s Record: The Diary of an American in Japanese-occupied Shanghai 1941-45 (March 3, 2017, China Rhyming)
The year 1941 was a turning point for the world, but long-time Shanghai resident Ruth Hill Barr had no way of knowing that when she started her five-year diary on January 1st. Before the year was over, the Japanese Army had occupied Shanghai’s International Settlement, and she and her family were stranded as enemy aliens, soon to be placed in a Japanese internment camp.

Review: 'Christianity and Modern Chinese Social Work' A Book About Good Samaritan (March 4, 2017, China Christian Daily)
"Christianity and the Chinese Social work", by Zuo Fu-Rong, showed the great and even dominant role played by Christianity in modern Chinese society. The book lists in details the contribution of Christianity in China's education, medical care, disaster relief, social work and so on, by a comprehensive account of the work and social impact of the missionaries.

The Killing Wind: A Chinese County’s Descent into Madness during the Cultural Revolution (March 8, 2017, China File)
More than a catalog of horrors, The Killing Wind is also a poignant meditation on memory, moral culpability, and the failure of the Chinese government to come to terms with the crimes of the Maoist era. By painting a detailed portrait of this massacre, Tan makes a broader argument about the long-term consequences of the Cultural Revolution, one of the most violent political movements of the twentieth century.

Links for Researchers

China (Includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) 2016 Human Rights Report (United States Department of State)

Introduction to Special Issue on the South China Sea (March 6, 2017, China Policy Institute Analysis)

Chasing the Yellow Demon (January 2017, Journal of Asian Studies)
Johnson describes festivals that helped bind together communities, and in several cases had information showing that some of them had been revived after the Cultural Revolution.

Image credit: The Cab Driver, by Noel Hidalgo, via Flickr