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ZGBriefs The Weeks Top Picks, March 20 Issue

Scrolling down through ZGBriefs this week provides another glimpse of the complexity of China today.

The Nightmare Never Ends For Families of Missing Jet (March 19, 2014, TIME)

With the fate of Mayasia Airlines Flight 370 still unknown and dominating much of the media, this article takes a look at what it means for the families and friends of the missing passengers the majority of whom are Mainland Chinese.

The way Xi moves: speech under assault (March 18, 2014, China Media Project)

The title is what caught my attention yet another clever play on the sound of President Xi's name to an English ear. And the article also proved to be well worth reading for anyone interested in knowing and understanding the dynamics in China that influence public expression.

In China today there are three principal spheres of public opinion: schools, commercialised media and the internet.

The article defines each of these three arenas, provides a brief account of its influence in recent years, and then follows with the steps taken by authorities to deal with public opinion in each sphere. Then it looks into the current situation:

After Xi Jinping came to power, he began comprehensively reigning in all spheres of public opinion.

And yet the author maintains that "the internet remains the most crucial battleground of public opinion," and looks ahead to what could unfold in the days to come. Coming out of the University of Hong Kong's China Media Project, it is not optimistic.

China's trade with Africa at record high (March 19, 2014, Christian Science Monitor)

The bottom line on this one? From the last two paragraphs:

As Chinese President Xi Jinping told Senegal President Macky Sall in Beijing in February, China and Africa are completely intertwined and interdependent as far as trade goes.

Almost no African country is without its Chinese trade component, even those with Taiwanese ties, and almost every African country hosts Chinese diplomats, builders, and entrepreneurs.

This article provides an excellent overview of China's expanding trade with, and investment in, Africa and its resulting strong ties and influence.

A small but interesting example:

Recently, too, China became as major purchaser of cotton grown in Mozambique, a country not hitherto known for its cotton. But the new production was stimulated by a Chinese technical assistance effort, part of a Chinese attempt to help Mozambique improve its agricultural productivity.

How to Calculate Your 2013 Expatriate Individual Income Tax in China (March 19, China Briefing)

Taxes are complicated enough in when living and paying in your own country. Paying taxes in China as an expat adds another whole layer of complexity. Here's some helpful information for our readers living, working, and paying taxes in China.

The Color and Complexity of Chinese Opera (March 17, 2014, Slate)

And finally some beautiful photos that capture the brilliant costumes and make-up, and energetic performances of an ancient art form Chinese opera.

Photo Credit: Siu Wang-Ngai

From the ZGBriefs Team: The editor of ZGBriefs is traveling in China this month and although she is still compiling ZGBriefs content, we thought we'd give her a break from doing Top Picks.

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.

Image credit: Wikipedia

ChinaSource Team

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