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ZGBriefs The Weeks Top Picks, January 9 Issue

The must-read stories from the editor of ZGBriefs

Researching Chinese Christianity: (Mis)conceptions and revelations (The China Story)

Gerda Wielander, of the University of Westminster writes about the social and political impact of Christians in contemporary China:

"Adopting a non-religious approach, my own recent study aimed to find out what really was the social and political impact of Christianity in China today. [1] Are Chinese Christians a new moral vanguard? And if so, does this moral vanguard constitute a challenge or a pillar of support for the Chinese leadership? Will Chinese Christians usher in political change or would they even welcome it? Is there a significant link between political liberalism and Christian values, ideas and faith in China today?"

Giving examples of how Christian values have influenced China's transformation, she writes:

"Christian values have not only had an influence on China's transformation; their more notable existence in China today is in itself a symptom of China's transformation. Chinese Christians represent a significant voice in what is already a much more diverse and pluralistic society than twenty years ago. While comparatively small in number, Chinese Christians regardless of denomination have often been presented in mainland media as people of principled behaviour and superior moral standards. Even when keeping a low profile, Chinese Christians are noticeable for their behavior [4], often through what they no longer take part in as a result of their faith and resulting code of ethics: the refusal to join the compulsory singing sessions of party songs, which are still part of political education on campus; the refusal to take financial hand-outs when the source of the funds is dubious; the refusal to engage in business practices and banquets involving sexual encounters."

Her conclusion is an excellent reminder to those engaged with the church in China (either as researchers or practitioners) that we need to examine the lenses that we use:

"The framing of the religious question in China through the distorting lens of political repression, human rights violation and dissent, has perhaps led us to ask the wrong questions. In our attempts to better understand the role and function of Christianity in China today, we need to step around the signposts planted by various interest groups in order to gain a fuller picture of the complex and dynamic realities of this important social phenomenon."

Video Series: One Billion Stories (

Here's the description from the site: "One Billion Stories is a series of short films set in Shanghai about the people we pass by every day."

A great place to hear stories of ordinary people in their own words and voices.

Guanxi Part 1 (Grasping Chinese)

This looks to be a promising new blog on all things related to Chinese language and language learning. This particular post takes up the word guanxi and makes a brave and valiant attempt to make it understandable to westerners:

"Guanxi to me starts of as "personal relationships," and then moves outward from there. Where Americans, "don't mix business with pleasure," typically, Chinese do. Therefore is both "relationships" and "connections." What you end up with is a contact list more complicated than Facebook."

Is there an English equivalent to the term, wonders the blogger?

"But before I talk about whether or not it's a bad thing, let me just say that there ARE equivalentsto different facets of this complex gem of a word. Let's just leave some of the beauty of it all for another installment, since this post is hitting at the core of its most common use."

If you're working in China or with Chinese people and you're not trying to figure out what guanxi means really means, then you're missing out on most of what is going on around you.

Image credit: Pink Tree and Clothes, by Jakob Montrasio, via Flickr

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