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ZGBriefs The Weeks Top Picks, June12 Issue

History in the making and forgotten history were in the news this week along with Chinese-style self-help and the extension of Chinese consumerism to the US.

China's Christians fend off church demolition crew amid latest Communist Party crackdown on faith (June 11, 2014, The Telegraph)

It seems that the campaign in Zhejiang to remove crosses from church buildings and demolish "illegal church buildings" is still going on:

Demolition workers were forced to abandon attempts to strip a cross from a church in a city known as 'China's Jerusalem' after angry Christians forced their way through a blockade of armed guards.

The scuffles broke out as security guards carrying black batons and riot shields tried to stop members of Wenzhou's Guantou church from entering their place of worship to stop the cross's removal in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The demolition team withdrew after congregants had retaken their church, one witness told The Telegraph.

And in a reminder of how widespread this campaign is in Zhejiang:

The scale of Zhejiang's campaign has shocked the region's large Christian community. More than 60 churches have suffered some kind of intervention since the start of this year, according to a list compiled last month by Asia News, a Catholic news agency.

Many of the interventions have taken place in Wenzhou, a port city that has one of China's largest Christian populations and is sometimes called the "Jerusalem of the East".

However, recent weeks have seen the threat of demolition spread to other parts of Zhejiang province, including Ningbo, a major city around 140 miles south of Shanghai.

One wonders what is to be gained by possibly turning those in registered churches against the government.

Meet China's Tony Robbins: The predatory gospel of China's most popular motivational speaker (June 8, 2014, The New Republic)

From Pepperdine University to Panda Express to being China's top motivational speaker, the story of Chen Anzhi

After the dancing on chairs, the group massages, and "The Final Countdown" techno-remix warm-up music, I barely noticed when Chen Anzhi, China's top motivational speaker, finally came onstage. For what felt like the first time since his "success studies" conference began two days earlier, the massive ballroom of Beijing's Fengda Hotel went quiet. "Does anyone here want to live an ordinary life?" Chen asked as he prowled the stage, hair perfectly gelled and blue suit shining. (It might have been the gold threads woven into it.) Only a couple of hands went up. "You can leave now," Chen said. What he was offering was not a stable life, or even a modest improvement in circumstances, but "explosive" success. Normally, he said, it might take as many as 20 years to become a billionaire. But if the attendees followed his advice, he could make them rich within ten. "Is that OK?" he asked with his trademark rapid-fire delivery. "YES!" the audience shouted.

According to his spokesperson, his students number more than 32 million. This has made him the grandfather of the Chinese self-help industrywhich is booming, thanks to 30 years of rapidly rising incomes and even more rapidly rising status anxiety. If you're not rich, the stats imply, you're doing it wrong.

What would Mao think?

First World War: China's forgotten foreign legion (June 2014, Chatham House)

Chatham House did a fascinating story about Chinese sent to Europe during World War I serve the war effort.

On August 24, 1916, in the middle of the battle of the Somme, a contingent of Chinese workers arrived in France to help the Allied war effort. By the time the war ended in 1918, their numbers had grown to more than 140,000. They dug trenches, unloaded military cargoes in the docks, worked in railway yards and factories, and collected corpses for burial from no man's land. More than 2,000 paid with their lives.

The story of the Chinese at the Western Front is largely forgotten by Britain and France, both preoccupied with their own suffering, and by successive Chinese governments, which have seen the labourers as victims of colonial exploitation.

Yet, as the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War approaches, scholars in Europe and China are studying their history and reassessing their role in China's modern history. The Chinese republic's decision to send non-combatants to the mud and barbed wire of the Western Front is now seen as a first, hesitant step away from centuries of imperial isolationism.

It's an important, and largely unknown story.

China's Alibaba plans US online shop (June 11, 2014, BBC)

Are Americans ready for an online shopping experience with Chinese characteristics? With Alibaba announcing that they are ready to launch a US-based online shopping site, we're about to find out.

China's e-commerce giant Alibaba is launching its first online marketplace in the US as it looks to expand its operations outside China. The move comes ahead of Alibaba's share sale in the US, widely expected to one of the biggest by a technology firm. Alibaba is China's biggest online retailer. The total value of goods sold on its platforms last year exceeded that on Amazon and eBay combined.

Will they be successful? Not everyone is convinced:

However, Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst with Forrester, said it was likely to be tough for Alibaba to break into the already-crowded online shopping sector in the US. "US e-commerce is crowded and relies on high marketing expenses to rise above the clutter," she said. "The hope is high. We'll see if they live up to expectations."

Image credit: Huffington Post

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