ZGBriefs | April 18, 2019

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Featured Article

Timothy Richard Knew That God Loved Chinese People As Chinese People (April 17, 2019, Christianity Today)
It is easy when reading about Richard the humanitarian, religious scholar, publisher, educator, and political influencer to lose sight of Richard the missionary—and yet this was how he chose to identify himself. While historians remain interested in Richard’s role in these grand events from the past, the church today needs to hear from Richard the missionary. Three distinctives of Richard’s approach to cross-cultural mission particularly deserve to be remembered.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Millions of Chinese youth 'volunteers' to be sent to villages in echo of Maoist policy  (April 12, 2019, The Guardian)
The Communist Youth League (CYL) has promised to despatch more than 10 million students to “rural zones” by 2022 in order to “increase their skills, spread civilisation and promote science and technology”, according to a Communist party document. The aim is to bring to the rural areas the talents of those who would otherwise be attracted to life in the big cities, according to a CYL document quoted in the state-run Global Times daily on Thursday.

Who rules China? Representation on the NPC and Central Committee  (April 13, 2019, East Asia Forum)
The NPC serves as an information feedback mechanism for the CCP to better ‘serve the people’, placate anti-government sentiment at the grassroots and address grievances from constituencies. It achieves what Truex calls ‘representation within bounds’. But who does the NPC actually represent? Who are the 2975 NPC delegates who descended on Beijing this March?

F.B.I. Bars Some China Scholars From Visiting U.S. Over Spying Fears (April 14, 2019, The New York Times)
In the four decades since China and the United States normalized relations, Washington has generally welcomed Chinese scholars and researchers to America, even when Beijing has been less open to reciprocal visits. […]   Now, that door appears to be closing, with the two nations ramping up their strategic rivalry and each regarding academic visitors from the other with greater suspicion — of espionage, commercial theft and political meddling.

Explainer: Answering Five Big Questions on the ‘Study Xi’ App (April 14, 2019, What’s on Weibo)
As the ‘Study Xi’ app, that encourages China’s online population to study Xi Jinping Thought, keeps on dominating China’s top app charts, these are some of the big questions on China’s latest interactive propaganda tool.

One Month, 500,000 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority (April 14, 2019, The New York Times)
Now, documents and interviews show that the authorities are also using a vast, secret system of advanced facial recognition technology to track and control the Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority. It is the first known example of a government intentionally using artificial intelligence for racial profiling, experts said.

Podcast: Susan Thornton on a Crisis in U.S.-China Relations (April 15, 2019, China File)
In this podcast, Paul Haenle spoke with Susan Thornton, former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, on the trajectory for bilateral ties and the potential for a crisis in U.S.-China relations.

Podcast: Power Shifts in Xi Jinping’s China (April 16, 2019, China Channel)
Louisa and Graeme are joined by Andrew Collier of Orient Capital Research and Ryan Manuel of Hong Kong University, who argue that both political and economic decentralisation is underway, laying Xi vulnerable to forces beyond his control.

Xi Jinping’s intolerance of dissent within government heightens the risk of Chinese policy mistakes  (April 18, 2019, South China Morning Post)
The dismissal of an outspoken reformist official reflects a profound change, under Xi, in the way Chinese leaders govern: from a collective decision-making process in which disagreements and debate were allowed, to a centralised leadership style in which loyalty and conformity are prized.


Writing Worship Songs in Chinese (when it’s your second language) (April 11, 2019, Jackson Wu)
Contextualization concerns every aspect of Christian ministry and life. It involves more than developing sound theological doctrine or effective ministry strategies. One area of contextualization that is rarely discussed is songwriting.

Chinese Catholics Stage Sit-in at Second Shaanxi Church Threatened by Demolition (April 11, 2019, Radio Free Asia)
According to the Catholic website AsiaNews, the standoff was sparked by demands from the local government's religious affairs bureau that the whole of Fengxiang County Catholic Diocese join the Catholic Patriotic Association under the control of the ruling Chinese Communist Party. One church has already been demolished in the county, and there are plans to raze at least three more, sparking anger among their followers.

China and the Catholic Church —  Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (April 15, 2019, National Catholic Register)
It remains to be seen whether Pope Francis’ gambit to enter into formal relations with China through the September agreement will yield fruitful and lasting results for the faithful in China, but the complexity of the situation highlights the fact that the Church’s efforts to evangelize China have been historically difficult.

Good News from China (April 16, 2019, The Gospel Coalition)
Amidst many sobering stories of religious crackdown in China, there is at least one ministry still continuing in relative peace. We spoke to Phil Jones about international student ministry in China.

China’s acceptance of Vatican-approved bishop candidates ‘a positive sign’ (April 16, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Father Anthony Yao Shun and Father Stephen Xu Hongwei have been elected in Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi province. They were the first bishop elections since provisional agreement was signed in September.

The 7 most fascinating mosques in China (April 16, 2019, Matador Network)
Within this strictly regulated society, Chinese Muslims continue, nevertheless, to express their cultural heritage in houses of worship. Here are seven of the most fascinating examples of mosques in China that are still standing.

Mainland China And The Trend Of Global Desecularization (April 16, 2019, China Partnership Blog)
Arguably the best example of a country experiencing both modernization and desecularization is the nation of China, particularly if we observe the number of converts to the Christian religion. 

Celebrating the First Re-opened Church (April 16, 2019, Chinese Church Voices)
The date April 8, called "Resurrection Day" at Ningbo Centennial Church, was marked as the first reopening of the church after the Cultural Revolution. On Monday, the Ningbo Christian Council and Three-Self Patriotic Movement (CCC and TSPM) held a series of activities to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the restoration of the church. 

Vatican officials on goodwill mission to China to build on bishops deal (April 17, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Senior Vatican officials will visit Beijing this month to attend a horticultural exhibition as China and the Holy See press ahead with efforts to improve ties.

Society / Life

China Has an Industry for Flaunting Fake Wealth (April 12, 2019, Sixth Tone)
For as little as 6 yuan ($0.90) per video, merchants on messaging app WeChat or e-commerce platform Taobao will add your voice-over to a first-person video showing a fanned-out stack of bank notes, a decadent mansion, a tropical vacation, a hunky celebrity, an exotic pet, or a tricked-out supercar.

Unemployment and mental health in China (April 15, 2019, Asia Dialogue)
In China’s competitive job market, the constant pressure to look for re-employment brings a new understanding of ‘iron rice bowl’ as a tool for survival. The hunt for work, meanwhile, exacerbates the symptoms of ‘unemployment complex syndrome’. In fact, this wave of Chinese unemployment since the 1990s runs parallel and contributes to a general ‘mental health crisis’ (of depression, schizophrenia, stress and suicide, for example) spawned by widespread socioeconomic dislocation.

You Can Now Spend 45 Minutes Silently Observing a Chinese Public Park (April 15, 2019, Radii China)
Over the course of the 45-minute film, we see elderly folk engaging in group aerobics, a young saxophonist in a lesson with his instructor, teenage girls vying for a perfect selfie as the sun sets around them, and countless other tiny, authentic moments of nothingness.

Chinese Netizens Share Their Notre Dame Stories After Fire (April 16, 2019, Sixth Tone)
As videos of the massive fire and billowing smoke overtaking the medieval Gothic structure circulated on microblogging platform Weibo, tens of thousands of Chinese netizens mourned the loss with a hashtag translating to “Me and the Notre Dame in Paris.” Many reminisced about their first time seeing the landmark in the French capital — a popular destination for Chinese tourists — and grieved over the damage done to large parts of the historic monument.

Chinese worker smashes hard hat in viral video, raises safety concerns (April 16, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Construction worker Dou Yongyu appeared in a video uploaded to streaming platform Kuaishou on April 11 looking to test the quality of two hard hats, a yellow one he was wearing and a red one, which he said was worn by supervisors. He smashed the two against each other, breaking a hole in the yellow one. The red one remained intact.

The Great Hoards of China (April 16, 2019, The World of Chinese)
But it’s inside homes where the clutter really starts to build, from old magazines and boxes that thrifty seniors “rescue” from the recycling heap, to unwanted mooncakes and other leftovers of a wasteful gifting culture.

In a Chinese border town, officials try a new approach to immigration (April 17, 2019, The Economist)
But under a scheme begun in 2017, Chinese firms in Dongxing and several nearby cities can now legally hire Vietnamese on monthly renewable visas, says Su Shihao, a local employment agent. The aim is in part to help manufacturing firms in Guangxi, a largely agricultural province, and in part to replace local residents who have left to find work in more prosperous areas of China. 

China is Relaxing Hukou Restrictions in Small and Medium-Sized Cities (April 17, 2019, China Briefing)
Hukou is a household registration system in China – similar to an internal passport – used by the government to regulate population distribution within the country. In practice, the hukou system restricts freedom of movement, the allocation of labor resources in the economy, the equality of urban and rural residents’ status, and the urbanization of cities.

Economics / Trade / Business

The Man Behind Huawei(April 10, 2019, The Los Angeles Times)
Ren Zhengfei turned a company with no intellectual property into the world’s largest telecom and made China a global leader in 5G technology. Washington says he had help from Beijing.

Science / Technology

Photos: Mars in the Gobi Desert (April 17, 2019, The Atlantic)
In the desert hills of China’s Gansu province, a company called C-Space has just opened “Mars Base 1,” a simulated Martian base of operations for future astronauts.

History / Culture

From Ireland to China and Martyrdom: The Legacy of Father Timothy Leonard (April 10, 2019, National Catholic Register)
“What is it but a bad quarter of an hour — think of the reward.” These are the words of Father Timothy Leonard (1893-1929), the first of many martyrs from the Missionary Society of St. Columban to die while trying to keep the faith alive in places that sought to obliterate Christianity.

Ten Outstanding Female Chinese Christians in Chinese Church History (March 12, 2019, China Christian Daily)
In the Chinese church history, female Chinese Christians have been an important group that has promoted the development of the church. In the areas such as missionary work, education, medical care and social affairs, they have made an indelible contribution. 

The Death of Hu Yaobang: Reform Icon and Symbol of Hope for China’s Youth (April 15 2019, Radii China)
On April 15, 1989, former General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party died in Beijing. What came next changed China forever.

Travel / Food

A Photo Visit to Mount Fanjing (April 10, 2019, The Atlantic)
Mount Fanjing, or Fanjingshan, is part of the Wuling mountain range in southwestern China’s Guizhou province. Named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site last year, the mountain is home to a conservation area, a nature reserve, and a number of Buddhist temples—it has been considered a sacred site for centuries.

Chinese Takeout: A Vegetarian Oasis in Meaty Gansu Province(April 11, 2019, Radii China)
Qinglian (Green Lotus) strives to be an oasis of vegetarian cuisine in Dunhuang's desert, where meat-heavy menus pervade.

New High-Speed Rail Route Cuts Beijing-Qingdao Travel Time to Under 3 Hours (April 11, 2019, The Beijinger)
The new daily non-stop bullet train service takes just three hours to get to Qingdao, slashing the previous time of around five hours. 

Guangzhou!  (April 12, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
As China continued to open and reform, Guangzhou, and its neighbor Shenzhen, became the center of China’s economic development. As you can see in this funky time-lapse video produced by the Guangzhou Tourism Office, the city has changed a lot in 40 years! 

Two cities tussle over who makes the tastiest Sichuan hotpot (April 13, 2019, The Economist). 
Both cities share a love of spice-laden Sichuan cuisine, which in recent decades has conquered Chinese palates. But they are at war over which has the best Sichuan hotpot—a type of DIY-cooking that involves boiling vegetables and slices of meat in a communal broth with chillies and numbing peppercorns.

Video: What does the world's largest single-building airport terminal look like?  (April 15, 2019, BBC)
So it might come as a surprise to hear that a new airport, set to open later this year, with what officials claim is the world’s largest terminal housed in a single building, is also in the Chinese capital. This will give Beijing a breathtaking flight capacity, surpassing London’s six airports.

Embrace the beautiful, colorful chaos that is Hong Kong (April 15, 2019, USA Today)
Hong Kong can be a bit overwhelming at first: the sight of flashing neon signs piled on top of each other, the smell of the intense incense in the temples, the sound of haggling market vendors and the crazy jumble of pedestrian and car traffic (although the brightly colored buses and red taxis make it a bit more jolly). But once you go with the flow, you’ll embrace the beautiful, colorful chaos that is Hong Kong.

Jingshan Park's Imperial Temple Reopens to the Public Following a Four-Year Renovation (April 16, 2019, The Beijinger)
Now there's another reason to visit Jingshan Park. The Shouhuang Palace, the second largest imperial complex along the Central Axis of Beijing (second only, of course, to the Forbidden City), opened to the public this past November after a four-year renovation.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

What If Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Had Been a Maoist Revolutionary Epic? (April 12, 2019, Reason)
From the 1965 Chinese film The East Is Red, a “song and dance epic” based on a stage show that had been produced under the personal supervision of Premier Zhou Enlai, I give you the fabulous dance steps and rat-a-tat gunfire of “March of the People’s Liberation Army”.

Where is Li Zhi? Outspoken Folk Musician Seemingly Scrubbed from Internet (April 14, 2019, Radii China)
Li Zhi has seemingly had his profiles deleted from major online platforms just months after a planned tour was abruptly cancelled in mysterious circumstances.

One Child Nation: A Film Review (April 15, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
One Child Nation is a documentary created by Nanfu Wang about China’s one-child policy that was in effect from 1979 to 2015. For 35 years, each family was only allowed to have one child. This was implemented to control population growth as the government believed, without the policy, the country would starve to death.

Language / Language Learning

Sino-English neologisms (April 14, 2019, Language Log)
In recent years, they have become ever more playful and emboldened to create new English terms that they gloss or define in Chinese.  Here are ten such new English terms, or perhaps in some cases I should say modified English terms, together with their Chinese explanations:

Language in Shanghai during World War II and now (April 15, 2019, Language Log)
Shanghai was an amazing city, both good and bad. It is being torn down now (our friend Qin Shao has written about it) and the city is flooded with people from all over China. When I first went there in the late 1980s – it was Sylvia’s first time back since 1949), one heard only Shanghainese spoken in the streets. The last time I was there, I heard only Mandarin on the street.

Choice Chengyu: Rain Speaking (April 17, 2019, The World of Chinese)
When legendary historian Cang Jie created Chinese characters thousands of years ago, grain supposedly fell from the sky like raindrops in celebration. Nowadays, April 20 marks the start of rainy season in China when, according to the ancient agricultural calendar, the sixth solar term brings Grain Rain (or 谷雨) to nourish the crops.

Living Cross-culturally

Accepting a Job in China? Some Questions to Ask (and an Exercise for English Teachers) (April 13, 2019, JeffLindsay.com)
Please don’t make lots of assumptions and assume that everything will be like it is back home. You need to ask a lot of questions! If you find yourself saying, “I’m sure it will be OK” or “I trust it will be fine,” you may have a problem.

Everything You Need to Know About How to Get the Elusive Chinese Green Card (April 15, 2019, The Beijinger)
The near-mythic Chinese permanent resident (“green”) card remains a source of fascination. Do they really exist? Who gets one? How does one obtain this elusive document? Look no further for insight, but be warned: your chances of being the proud owner of a Chinese green card are slim to none.

China Expats and Home Church Support (April 17, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
The intent of the study was to understand the role of the home church support community in the life of Christians who have taken a China posting. Many readers responded, and ultimately, I narrowed the study’s focus to Christian business expatriates from the United States. Many interesting findings emerged from the interviews. In this article, I will share some of those outcomes and include some steps successful expatriates have taken to improve or maintain their home country connections.


Seeking Immortals in Penglai (April 14, 2019, The World of Chinese)
An excerpt from "Rivers Deep, Mountain High," TWOC's recent book on Shandong province.

Links for Researchers

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Seeing Religion in China: Visual Essays of Religious Sites,  
Due by April 30, 2019(Center on Religion and Chinese Society)

Mapping China's Tech Giants(April 18, 2019, Australian Strategic Policy Institute)
ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre has created a public database to map the global expansion of 12 key Chinese technology companies. The aim is to promote a more informed debate about the growth of China’s tech giants and to highlight areas where this expansion is leading to political and geostrategic dilemmas. It’s a tool for journalists, researchers, policymakers and others to use to understand the enormous scale and complexity of China’s tech companies’ global reach.


Summer School – Christians and their Religious Freedom(Aid to the Church in Need, Warsaw, Poland)
Aid to the Church in Need, an international pastoral aid organization, estimates that today, even three-quarters of all victims of religious persecution are Christians. Our Summer School aims to increase students’ sensitivity and awareness to the presence of persecution, various forms of discrimination and prejudices against Christians, and to indicate ways to counteract these tendencies. The workshops will include lectures and seminars. The classes will be conducted by invited specialists.

Image credit: Shanxi Village, by Joann Pittman, via Flickr
Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement 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