Blog EntriesContemporary Society

ZGBriefs The Weeks Top Picks, January 30 Issue


The New Contexts and Challenges in China Today (Global China Center)

In this article, Kevin Yao does an excellent job of summarizing the current socio-political context of China:

Needless to say, the context in which the Chinese Church lives is a fast-changing one. As China undergoes drastic social and cultural changes, the Church there is facing new realities and challenges. If the overseas churches continue to walk along with the Chinese Christians in a constructive way, it is absolutely necessary to understand the Chinese Church's current dynamics in Chinese society and culture, and to adjust their approaches and strategies accordingly.

In my view, there are three monumental shiftings or mega trends in the Chinese context, which have huge implications for the Christian ministry there.

The three shifts he identifies are: from social consensus to social division; from Marxist dominance to religious tolerance; and from open-mindedness to nationalism.

His conclusion about the main challenge facing the church in China is interesting, and probably somewhat surprising to most people outside of China:

Furthermore, the competitor of Christianity in China of the 1980s was relatively easy to be identified: primarily Marxism. But today there are multiple competitors ranging from Marxism to traditional religions, and from consumerism to new religious cults. In the face of nationalist pressure, to make the Church genuinely Chinese is becoming an even more urgent task. Taking all factors into account, I believe the challenges the Chinese Church faces in the 21st century are mounting, not waning. And the paramount external challenge may no longer be governmental persecution, but religious pluralism.

Why Is China Purging Its Former Top Security Chief, Zhou Yongkang? (December 17, 2013, China File)

We don't often highlight articles about inner-Party political intrigue in this blog, but this one was too good to pass up. Too good in this sense: reading the foreign analyst and the Chinese analyst's take on the purge of Zhou Yongkang is a stark reminder of how much outsiders really don't get what goes on within the Party, and how the strategies, tactics, and machinations are rooted in traditional Chinese state-craft.

Here's what the Chinese analyst has to say:

Xi Jinping plans to use Zhou Yongkang as a sacrifice in his anti-corruption campaign. If Xi failed to break the unwritten rule that the Politburo Standing members are immune to any legal punishment, his anti-corruption would have no teeth. Zhou Yongkang's corruption has been well-known and people both inside and outside of the Party hate him. Thus, he has become the best tool to build up Xi Jinping's power.

Later in the article, he puts it into historical context:

This is how Chinese politics is strange: because Chinese leaders (and business leaders) love reading books (some of them fictional) about the manipulations of the emperors, everyone in Chinese politics knows how to play dirty.

But people tend to underestimate the scope of a critical situation or how it might unfold. If Zhou Yongkang had seen his own fate in Bo Xilai's troubles, if Bo had seen his own life sentence in Wang Lijun's, would either of them have allowed themselves to be captured? Obviously, they didn't calculate well.

And at the time, Xi Jinping didn't necessarily know what his own next steps would be. He didn't make his choice until now. Of course, he made the right choice. Regardless of what kind of leader he turns out to be, arresting Zhou Yongkang lifts everyone's spirits.

A good feud in the imperial court makes a great show. So let's all find a cozy spot on the couch and wait for the next episode.

Or as we might say in American English, "pass the popcorn!"

Hole in your Chinese vocabulary? Hole in your neck (China Hope Live)

This post by Joel in his blog "China Hope Live" will warm the hearts of everyone who has studied Chinese and/or been to a Chinese hospital. Knowing Chinese is great, and in most situations, one can figure out what is going on, even if one doesn't know every single word being uttered. But there are times when suddenly not knowing ONE word in a sentence can stop you dead in your tracks because it happens to be the most essential word in the conversation.

This happened to Joel when he went to the hospital to have a small cyst removed from his neck. He was told that he'd have to return another day because they were out of clean surgical equipment. Not wanting to leave and return, he pressed for another solution. And that's where his vocabulary failed him:

And then the first nurse gets an idea, "Or maybe you could just use a ______." They both stop and turn, eyeing the lump on the side of my neck from across the room.

"Hmmm " the surgeon mulls it over, her eye still on me. And it's in this moment that I wish I had a bigger vocabulary. I don't know what a ______ is; technical medical terms are outside my Chinese vocab range. I probably don't even know what a ____ is in English. But I'm sure it's something sharp. And not what they would normally use to cut a hole in the side of my neck.

Happy Reading!

Photo Credit: trendsimages.com

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