Blog EntriesContemporary Society

ZGBriefs The Weeks Top Picks, February 20 Issue

There were a number of articles in this week's ZGBriefs that caught my attention. The first two are about romance and weddings in China. The third one is about government efforts to save abandoned babies by providing "baby hatches" in various cities. The fourth is for fun video highlights of a motorcycle ride around China.

Photos: First Comes Love, Then Comes the Photo Shoot (China File)

This article from China File will be of particular interest to anyone who has been in China and stumbled across elaborate photo shoots taking place in a park or in front of a church. It's a look at over-the-top (at least to Westerners) wedding photos in China:

The wedding banquet comes later. For many Chinese couples, married life really begins in the photo studio where, basted in glitter and hair gel, the brides dressed for a debut at La Scala or night out with Fabio, they gaze upon sets so tufted and inlaid and gold-foiled that comparisons to the real places that seem to have served as modelsVersailles, the homes of Donald Trumpdon't quite suffice. This isn't just a ritual for the rich and corrupt. Flinty investigative reporters, law professors at the country's best universities, bank tellers, even men and women who ordinarily dress and live in a manner that suggests only the most passing of concern with appearances, still greet visitors to their modest homes with towering portraits of themselves surrounded by velvet and marble.

The best part of this piece is the gallery of photos taken by French photographer Guillamme Herbert.

(For a few random pictures of wedding photo shoots in China, please also see the post, "Wedding Photos" on my personal blog.)

It's Hard to Say 'I Love You' in Chinese (February 14, 2014, China File)

In another piece on China File, Beijing-based journalist Roseann Lake writes about a recent neurological study done on the Chinese brain. In the process, they made some interesting discoveries about the Chinese brain and romance. She starts off by noting a conversation she had with a professor on how/why it is so difficult for Chinese people to say "I love you." (in Chinese; it's said a lot in English):

We didn't say 'I love you,'" said Dr. Kaiping Peng, Associate Professor of Psychology Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley. I'd ventured over to his China office on the campus of Beijing's mighty Tsinghua University to talk to him about the romantic prospects of China's rising fleets of well-educated, unmarried Chinese known as shengn, or "leftover women," but our conversation quickly took a historical detour. Though these days Peng wears Diesel jeans and spends his time jetting between Berkeley and Beijing, when he was a young, love-struck student during the Cultural Revolution things were different. "We said, 'wo xihuan ni,' ('I like you')," to express our deepest romantic feelings. Only in the more educated classes, where partners spoke English, were "I love you's," ever exchangedand never in Chinese. "'Wo ai ni,' or the Chinese equivalent of 'I love you,' is a thing of the last thirty years," he told me. "Before then, you just showed love through holding hands, kissing, or maybe writing or doing something nicebut you never said it.

Regarding the neurological study, she notes that the researchers discovered that when shown a picture of someone they were in love with, the participants' brains activated a part of the brain associated with negative feedback. What might that mean?

Though the researchers acknowledge that their work is preliminary, they say that Chinese participants may engage the parts of their brain that cause them to "weigh the relationship more carefully, and take negative aspects into account more readily than Western participants." Chinese cupid, in other words, strikes just as deftly as any other, but his arrow carries a distinctive sting. Is this sting the brain's conditioned response to years of governance that has downplayed the individual relative to the group, to the extent that he or she feels guilty pursuing something as self-indulgent as romantic love? The notion is certainly worth considering.

It's an interesting article with lots to chew on. Be sure to read the whole thing.

China expands abandoned baby hatch scheme (February 16, 2014, BBC News)

The BBC writes about a growing trend in China of cities setting up places where people can anonymously abandon their babies:

The Chinese authorities have set up 25 "baby hatches" across the country to allow parents to safely abandon their unwanted infants. They plan to establish many more over the coming months, despite criticism that they could encourage people to give up their babies. The hatches, which consist of an incubator and a delayed alarm, increase the chances of a baby surviving. Most of those abandoned have disabilities or serious illnesses.

Here's how it works:

Parents simply place a child in the hatch, press an alarm button and then leave, remaining anonymous. Someone then comes to retrieve the baby five to 10 minutes later.

Even though abandoning babies is technically illegal, it is a common enough practice (often resulting in the death of the baby) that authorities are opting to do something that hopefully increases the survival rate of those who are abandoned:

Abandoning a child is illegal in China, but the health authorities believe that the hatches provide a safe environment for something that would go on anyway - and gives the infants a better chance of survival than if they were dumped in the street.

Previously, only one in three abandoned babies would survive.

"Laws emphasise prevention, while baby hatches focus on rescue after the laws are broken," the head of the welfare and adoption centre, Li Bo, told Xinhua.

That this option to rescue babies is available is a good thing: that it is needed is sad.

The Great Ride of China Video Trailer Now Published! (February 19, 2014, Great Ride of China)

Finally, on the lighter side, this video of highlights from a motorcycle trek around China is amazing!

Photo Credit: China File

From the CS Blog Team: Don't miss any of the upcoming posts on the ChinaSource Blog. Subscribe during FebruaryNew Subscribers Month and you might receive one of the $25 Amazon Gift Cards that will be given away at the end of the month!

Today we are starting a new feature, linking this blog with another of our publications, the ZGBriefs Newsletter. Every Friday, we will highlight four articles from the ZGBriefs newsletter that we consider the must read articles of the week.

Herewith are this weeks:

The good, the bad and the exiled? Chinas Class of 77 (CNN)

In this article, Jaimie FlorCruz, CNNs Beijing correspondent, reflects on his time as a student at Beijing University beginning in 1977, and some of his fellow students. These include Premier Li Keqiang, disgraced former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, and exiled dissident Wang Juntao. Its an interesting look at the university careers of these three men, and the different paths they took beyond the academy walls.

When I enrolled at Beida in the fall of 1977, the university was steeped in the political ferment that followed Chairman Mao's death and the start of Deng Xiaoping's reforms.

My classmates, many of whom had worked on farms or in factories during the Cultural Revolution, were viewed by many as China's crme de la crme. They belonged to the storied "Class of '77" who passed the first college entrance exams held after the Cultural Revolution.

During the four years I spent at Beida, I met many other fascinating fellow students who went on to become important players in China's divisive political scene.

Among them was Bo Xilai, once one of the most powerful politicians in China, now disgraced and sentenced to life in prison for corruption and abuse of power.

Kept women (Aeon Magazine)

One of the unfortunate features of society in old China (pre1949) was the practice of having multiple wives, or concubines. When the Communist Party came to power in 1949, it was banned. With the relaxation of state control over the private lives of individuals (somewhat), coupled with the economic prosperity, this practice has made a comeback (albeit not officially sanctioned) in modern China. This article is a rather in-depth look at the modern phenomenon of mistresses in China today.

Shanshans $550 shoes came from her lover, but the soles of her feet, as hard as leather, came from her childhood. We used to play barefoot in the village, she told me. All the girls in the karaoke bar had feet like this.

At 26, Shanshan has come a long way from rural Sichuan, one of Chinas poorer southern provinces, famous for the spiciness of its food and its women. Today her lover, Mr Wu, keeps her in a Beijing apartment that cost 2.5 million yuan ($410,000), and visits whenever he can find the time away from his wife.

Inside the world of Chinas shadow banks (Marketplace)

In the West there is often concern about the financial health of Chinas banking system, and rightly so. However, there may be something more worrying than the Chinese banking system, and that is the shadow banking system, an off-the-books, totally unregulated banking system that a Chinese think-tank suggests is already at 40% of GDP.

"I began making cigarette lighters 20 years ago," continues Huang. "Four of my family members each put in $1,500 and lent it to me without interest. Thats what we call a Wenzhou loan."

Thanks to his Wenzhou loan, Huang Fajing made a fortune selling cigarette lightersChinese media now call him the lighter king.

On his road to cigarette lighter fame and fortune, the Lighter King watched on as more money flowed into Wenzhou. Over time, loans were no longer limited to just family and friends. The Wenzhou loan, says Huang, became a lot less innocent.

"Bigger groups of lenders began to form. They pooled money together and took turns taking out loans. Then they started lending money with very high interest rates - to strangers."

The House Churches Understanding of the Three-Self Church, Chinese Government and Themselves (Pacific Institute for Social Sciences)

This article, written by a house church leader in China (translated), gives an interesting glimpse into the division between the house churches and the official Three-Self Church.

The primary issue for Chinese house churches today is how to manage the relationship with the Three-Self Church and the Chinese government. The relationships among the Three-Self Church, house churches and the government are very complicated. We can only discuss them briefly at this time. If God permits, we should discuss them in greater depth in the future.

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... View Full Bio