ZGBriefs | April 12, 2018

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Featured Article

China’s Communist Party Takes (Even More) Control of the Media: A ChinaFile Conversation (April 11, 2018, China File)
China’s Communist Party made moves last month to solidify and formalize its (already substantial) control over the country’s media. China’s main state-run broadcasters are to be consolidated into a massive new “Voice of China” under the management of the Party’s Central Propaganda Department.

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Overseas NGO Law

North Korean Group Establishes Foreign NGO Representative Office in Jilin Province (April 9, 2018, The China NGO Project)
Located in Changchun city, Jilin province, the North Korea International Trade Promotion Council (朝鲜国际贸易促进委员会) is, not surprisingly, focused on trade promotion between North Korea and Jilin.

A Round-up of Some Recent NGO-related News and Articles (April 9, 2018, The China NGO Project)
Below is a summary of several Chinese government entities’ recent statements that relate to foreign NGOs, as well as a quick look at academic work related to Chinese civil society more broadly.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

What is changing about the rule of the Chinese Communist Party? (April 5, 2018, Andrew Batson’s Blog)
The truth is that the Communist Party’s role is both obvious and rather difficult to explain. It is in charge, but how exactly it is in charge, and how exactly it exercises its leadership, are not well understood by outsiders.

How Far Will China Go? (April 6, 2018, Foreign Policy)
From buying influence at American universities to forcing Chinese nationals to return home, Beijing is expanding its political operations abroad.

Podcast: China-Africa Relations in the Xi Jinping Era (April 9, 2018, China File)
Eisenman is among a growing number of scholars who are carefully watching the evolution of China-Africa relations in the new Xi Jinping era. He joins Eric and Cobus to talk about what to expect in the coming months as both Africans and Chinese officials prepare for the upcoming Sino-Africa mega-summit, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, that will take place in Beijing in September.

Passengers ordered to show ID cards to use subway as Chinese state tightens grip on restive Xinjiang region (April 10, 2018, South China Morning Post)
The first subway in the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang will soon be open for business – but only for passengers who present their identity cards when buying tickets.

Baseless rumours: why talk of a Chinese military installation in Vanuatu misses the point (April 10, 2018, The Guardian)
Reports this week that Vanuatu was to be the site of a Chinese military basecaught most in Vanuatu by surprise. Officials with detailed knowledge of relevant matters swore hand on heart they’d never even heard hints of such talk.

Xi Jinping Promotes Openness at a China Forum Rife With Restrictions (April 11,2018, The New York Times)
President Xi Jinping of China took center stage at his country’s annual Boao Forum for Asia this week to the welcoming arms of many in the global elite. 

Xi strikes conciliatory tone on trade but offers few concessions (April 11, 2018, The New York Times)
Then he slipped in a Chinese proverb: “Heaven has its own law and those who embrace it will prosper.” The saying, meant to celebrate China’s unique blend of socialism and a market-driven economy, contained another message: that China would continue to play by its own rules.

Wife of detained lawyer placed under house arrest in Beijing (April 11, 2018, The Guardan)
Li planned to march for 62 miles (100km) to the city of Tianjin, where she believes he is being held. But on Tuesday, the seventh day of her march, Li was picked up by plainclothes officers and returned to her home in Beijing, which she was now barred from leaving, Li and her supporters said.

Podcast: How to Make Friends and Influence People: Inside the Magic Weapon of the United Front (April 10, Little Red Podcast)
But exactly how does the United Front Work Department gain support for China abroad? In this episode, Graeme is joined by Gerry Groot from the University of Adelaide, who demystifies the inner workings of the body dubbed a Magic Weapon by Xi Jinping.


Great awakenings: Understanding Christianity’s appeal to Chinese hearts (March 29, 2018, World Magazine)
Through hundreds of interviews with Christians all across the country, Ma and Li show how Christianity transforms the lives of believers, including their views on education, marriage, charity, and nationalism. Here are edited excerpts of my interview with Ma, who grew up in China and professed faith while earning her Ph.D. in sociology.

Gerrit Gong makes Mormon history to become first apostle of Asian ancestry as church signals interest in China (April 1, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Appointment could be a sign of church’s ambition to establish a stronger foothold in China, a country that currently doesn’t officially recognise the religion.

Bibles in China: The Gray Zone Shrinks (April 9, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
Bibles are now no longer for sale online in China, and that is, indeed, bad news. But we need to be clear what hasn’t happened and what has happened. There have been no new regulations concerning Bible sales. There has been increased enforcement of existing regulations. In other words, the gray zone has shrunk considerably.

Celebrating Holy Week in China (April 10, 2018, Chinese Church Voices)
Many churches in China marked Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday with special worship services. This week we are posting two articles from China Christian Daily that highlight the celebrations. 

Harbin Orthodox church reopens (April 11, 2018, Global Times)
An Eastern Orthodox Church reopened for worship on Saturday in Harbin, the icy city in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province about 600 kilometers from the Russian border. For Orthodox Christmas in January, worshippers had borrowed a nearby Catholic church. But on Saturday, a congregation of about 100 flocked to the Protection (Pokrov) of the Theotokos Church to worship for the first time since it was closed for repair in 2014, the provincial bureau of religious affairs reported on Tuesday. 

Society / Life

China Setting up 'Grid' System to Monitor Ordinary People (April 10, 2018, Radio Free Asia)
The ruling Chinese Communist Party is developing a new system of social control that will allow it even closer control over its citizens' lives, RFA has learned. The system will carve up neighborhoods into a grid pattern with 15-20 households per square, and give each grid a dedicated monitor who will report back on residents' affairs to existing neighborhood committees.

Chinese Sperm Bank Seeks Donors. Only Good Communists Need Apply (April 11, 2018, The New York Times)
The advertisement for sperm donors was exacting. No bald men. No hereditary diseases like color blindness. And in case there were any doubts, the sperm bank at Peking University Third Hospital clarified: Only men with an abiding love for the “socialist motherland” need apply.

Chinese Real Estate Shenanigans – Bizarre Divorce & Remarry Scheme to Avoid Taxes Goes Trending (April 11, 2018, What’s on Weibo)
A bizarre report about two couples divorcing and ‘wife swapping’ in order to avoid paying taxes on their property transfer has become a popular news story of the day in China. While Chinese media denounce the tax-evasive real estate “shenanigans”, netizens have unexpectedly sided with the couples.

Economics / Trade / Business

How much has the US lost from China's IP theft? (March 23, 2018, CNN)
The United States Trade Representative, which led the seven-month investigation into China's intellectual property theft and made recommendations to the Trump administration, found that "Chinese theft of American IP currently costs between $225 billion and $600 billion annually." 

What It Takes For An American To Do Business In China (April 6, 2018, NPR)
NPR's Mary Louise Kelly speaks with Claire Reade from the Center for Strategic and International Studies about what the newest round of proposed tariffs mean for U.S.-China trade relations.

China to create national financial database to fend off systemic risk (April 9, 2018, Reuters)
China will launch a five-year plan to build a national financial database with a focus on cross-sector products and important institutions including holding firms, in Beijing’s latest measure to curb systemic financial risk, the cabinet said on Monday.


Is Gender Equality at Chinese Colleges a Sham? (April 5, 2018, Sixth Tone)
[The proportion of] female university students from wealthier backgrounds suggests that the only women to enjoy equal opportunity to men are those higher up on the socio-economic ladder.

Health / Environment

Harmful ozone pollution worsening in northern China, says study (April 11, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Concentrations of hazardous ground-level ozone have worsened in northern China despite countrywide efforts to tackle air pollution, according to a study published by Peking University.

Science / Technology

Beijing Launches Pioneering Brain Science Center (April 6, 2018, Scientific American)
Beijing has announced plans to build a brain-science centre that will rival in size some of the world’s largest neuroscience organizations. It will also serve as a core facility for the country’s long-awaited brain project—China’s version of the high-profile brain-science initiativesunder way elsewhere in the world.

It Was A Company With A Lot Of Promise. Then A Chinese Customer Stole Its Technology (April 9, 2018, NPR)
As the Trump administration prepares to do battle over intellectual property theft by China, what happened to American Superconductor underscores the risks that foreign firms may face when they do business in that country. Within weeks, the company concluded that Sinovel had somehow obtained the source code for its electronic components and was installing a pirated version in the wind turbines it sold.

How China’s Massive AI Plan Actually Works (April 10, 2018, China Policy Institute)
Recognizing this, Beijing’s AI plan serves less as a “plan” and more as a “wish list” of technologies the central government would like to see built. It then incentivizes ambitious local officials to use all the tools at their disposal—subsidies, public contracts, and AI-friendly policies—to guide and aid the private sector in developing those technologies. 

Tech Shame in The “New Era” (April 11, 2018, China Media Project)
When does a corporate apology become a political self-confession, or jiantao (检讨), an act of submission not to social mores and concerns, but to those in power? The line can certainly blur in China. But the public apology today from Zhang Yiming (张一鸣), the founder and CEO of one of China’s leading tech-based news and information platforms, crosses deep into the territory of political abjection.

Face-Scanning Technology Officially Implemented at Beijing Capital International Airport (April 12, 2018, The Beijinger)
our future departures from the notoriously busy Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) are poised to become much more convenient, now that its second terminal has adopted facial recognition technology. After two years of trials, the new technology is now firmly installed at BCIA Terminal 2. At a rate of just one minute each, passenger processing times are estimated to rise from 160 to 266 an hour.

History / Culture

Seeing Red: China’s Communist Revolution Captured on Camera (April 7, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Photos from 1949 depict the historic moments when CCP soldiers from China’s rural heartland occupied the nation’s sophisticated cities.

How Taboos About Death Hold Back Chinese Archaeology (April 11, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Grave desecration destroys any “positive” feng shui the site enjoys; the act itself is seen as equivalent to declaring open hostility toward the descendants of the deceased.

Video: The people & life in Kalgan (Zhangjiakou), 1928. Zhangjiakou is one of the cities to hold 2022 Winter Olympics. (Tong Bingxue, via Twitter)

Travel / Food

Red Revolution: China’s Ever-Changing Tea Type (April 7, 2018, Radii China)
The world of red tea is becoming more complex as times goes on and new types of red tea are popping up everywhere. It is hard to explain everything about red tea, or to predict exactly where it is going, but I do want to take the time to share with you my observations from my travels around China.

Photos: 23 Days, 1,300 Miles, and Some Very High Expectations: A Father and Son Bike to Lhasa (April 11, 2018, China File)

3 Best Hotels in Lhasa (April 11, 2018, Wild China Blog)
Staying in Lhasa gives you a convenient lodging from which to view city sights like the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple. And from a Lhasa hotel base, out of city attractions including crystal-clear lakes and Tibetan monasteries are also easily accessible. 

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Wangdrak’s Rain Boots: A Film Review (April 6, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
For a glimpse of Tibet, for a good story about childhood struggles and a precious friendship, or just for the opportunity to see how something as simple as rain can turn a town upside down, this is a worthy watch.

Why Chinese Filmgoers Don’t Buy Hollywood’s Values Anymore (April 9, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Well-worn Western tropes of individualism and liberalism fail to resonate with audiences embracing a different form of national pride.

It Built an Empire of GIFs, Buzzy News and Jokes. China Isn’t Amused (April 11, 2018, The New York Times)
A Chinese start-up that appears to have mastered the art of keeping people glued to their smartphones also has a knack for something else: drawing the ire of China’s censors. The country’s top media regulator on Tuesday ordered the company, Bytedance, to shut down its app for sharing jokes and silly videos. 


Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown (March 29, 2018, China File)
In Patriot Number One, Hilgers follows this dauntless family through a world hidden in plain sight: a byzantine network of employment agencies and language schools, of underground asylum brokers and illegal dormitories that Flushing’s Chinese community relies on for survival.

Out of China: How the Chinese Ended the Era of Domination: A Book Review (April 11, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
While certainly not a book for the faint-hearted in terms of breadth and detail; it is definitely for those with an interest in China’s modern history both as it played out and in how it has been variously understood and portrayed. 

Confucianism, A Habit of the Heart (Reading Religion)
The present edited volume discusses the way “habits of the heart” shape contemporary East Asian societies, and poses the questions of what the potential of these “habits” is for the development of an East Asian “civil religion” and what the possibilities might be for a greater global civil order.

Links for Researchers

INFOGRAPHIC: China’s Leaders of Party and State after the 13th NPC and CPPCC (April 5, 2018, Medium)
The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies presents a visual guide to China’s leadership after the “Two Meetings” of March 2018, and the new leaders’ ties to Xi Jinping.

New report offers backstage pass to China’s forced TV confessions (April 8, 2018, RSDL Monitor)
A ground-breaking report that provides the first detailed analysis on how China forces detainees to confess on television before trial and arrest, and how these confessions are rehearsed, staged and directed.

Pre-suasion: How the PRC Controls the Message on a Sino-US Trade War (April 9, Jamestown Foundation)
In the CCP version of events, China will be slow to anger. But once provoked, it will reluctantly respond—in a calm, stern fashion—to undeserved, irrational foreign bullying, as it seeks to protect the rules-based international trade regime from an erratic American president.

Image credit: Image Credit: by Noliv O, 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