ZGBriefs | April 2, 2015

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ZGBriefs is a compilation of news items gathered from published online sources.
ChinaSource is not responsible for the content, and inclusion in ZGBriefs does not equal endorsement.

 Featured Article

Born Red: How Xi Jinping, an unremarkable provincial administrator, became China’s most authoritarian leader since Mao. (April 6 issue, The New Yorker)
Xi is the sixth man to rule the People’s Republic of China, and the first who was born after the revolution, in 1949. He sits atop a pyramid of eighty-seven million members of the Communist Party, an organization larger than the population of Germany. The Party no longer reaches into every corner of Chinese life, as it did in the nineteen-seventies, but Xi nevertheless presides over an economy that, by one measure, recently surpassed the American economy in size; he holds ultimate authority over every general, judge, editor, and state-company C.E.O. As Lenin ordained, in 1902, “For the center . . . to actually direct the orchestra, it needs to know who plays violin and where, who plays a false note and why.”

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Just How Powerful Is Xi Jinping? (March 9, 2015, The Diplomat)
China’s leader has all the levers of power, but can he provide results commensurate with his status?

China Raids Offices of Rights Group as Crackdown on Activism Continues (March 26, 2015, China Real Time)
Chinese security agents raided the offices of a leading human rights organization, according to its employees, the latest sign of the authorities’ mounting hostility toward nongovernmental groups, especially those that receive foreign funding or promote civic activism.

Occupy Hong Kong: Six Months Later (March 30, 2015, China Real Time)
Six months have passed since the outbreak of the pro-democracy Occupy protests in Hong Kong, and a small but determined group of activists wants to make sure their struggle isn’t forgotten.

Fifty Shades of Xi (March 30, 2015, China Media Project)
A long-established practice in Communist China, the act of self-confession, or jiantao (检讨), is a psychological tool of power, about commanding deference and enforcing docility. In Notes of the Shamed, the essayist Mo Luo wrote that the ritual of self-confession — also known as “self-criticism” or “self-denunciation” — is about “exercising control over the spirit,” and “one of the principal means of [ideological] education and rule employed by those who wield power in China.”

NGOs in China fear clampdown as Xi Jinping plans new security controls (March 30, 2015, The Guardian)
Proposed new law could lead to harassment and arrest of local workers, restrictions or expulsion for foreigners, and funding difficulties.

Meet the Chinese villagers protesting for weeks against local Communist Party leader (March 31, 2015, The Telegraph)
The focus of Tianmu’s revolt is Mu Xiangyou, a 68-year-old delegate of the National People’s Congress, Beijing's tightly controlled parliament. Mr Mu has run village affairs for more than three decades but has faced growing opposition in recent years as swathes of the once rural hamlet were bulldozed and replaced with tower blocks and motorways.

Relational Repression in China (March 31, 2015, China Policy Institute Blog)
Relational repression is a social control of protest in China. It amounts to relying on relatives, friends, and native-place connections to defuse popular action. It hinges on persuasion, pressure and the impact of influential people. Its distinguishing feature is that when popular action breaks out, local officials, staff of public organizations and beneficiaries of government largesse with ties to protesters are assembled into a work team to conduct “thought work.” Team members are then expected to use their influence to pacify and “transform” activists, and to coax or pressure them into abandoning popular action.

US Admiral sounds the alarm at China's intentions in South China Sea (April 1, 2015, Sydney Morning Herald)
A powerful American naval officer has fired a warning at China for rapidly building "a Great Wall" of artificial islands across hotly-contested waters. Admiral Harry Harris, soon to take charge of Pacific Command, told a dinner at the Australian War Memorial on Tuesday night that the string of new islands posed a serious threat to stability in the South China Sea. He said the artificial expanse was "roughly the size of Canberra's Black Mountain Nature Reserve" and that they stretched across some of the world's busiest sea lanes.

Meet the Chinese Maritime Militia Waging a ‘People’s War at Sea’ (March 31, 2015, China Real Time)
Along with Vietnam, China is one of very few countries to have a maritime militia. Such forces are typically comprised of civilian fishing vessels and fill a variety of roles, from using emergency response units to rescue stranded vessels to more assertive operations including conducting island landings to declare sovereignty. Mariners retaining civilian jobs in large companies or fishing collectives are recruited into military organizations and undergo military training, political education, and mobilization in defense of China’s maritime interests.


Denominationalism in China: Pre or Post? (March 25, 2015, ChinaSource Blog)
While many would applaud the church’s “post-denominational” character as evidence of the unity of the church in China, others today are asking whether a return to denominations is not only inevitable but should, in fact, be welcomed.

Podcast: An Atheist Country, Embracing Buddhism (March 26, 2015, Interfaith Voices)
Life is hard for many of China's religious minorities, where the government is arresting Tibetan Buddhist monks, ordering churches to take down their crosses, banning Muslim head scarves and sending members of Falun Gong to prison. Yet the officially atheist government, which once destroyed temples and jailed religious leaders, is promoting — and sometimes even funding — a resurgence of Chinese Buddhism.

Christians released after plea bargain agreement with Chinese court (March 27, 2015, Ecumenical News)
A Chinese court has released eight Christians who tried to stop authorities demolishing a church in Wenzhou last year, after they entered a plea bargain in which they owned up to the charges against them. The Christians pleaded guilty to the charge of assembling a crowd illegally at the Sanjiang Church, an act which could have been an outcome of coercion, a U.S.-based Christian rights group, China Aid, said.

China's stressed-out 'millenials' embrace Buddhism (March 29, 2015, CNN)
While Buddhism has a long history in China, entering via missionaries from India during the Han dynasty, it was repressed during the Maoist era — many monasteries and temples were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and monks actively punished for believing in "superstition." But now, a growing number of Chinese are rediscovering the country's dormant Buddhist traditions. Some, like Zhao, are looking for a spiritual anchor in a competitive, fast-changing society. Others take comfort in meditation and enjoy volunteering.

Xi’s “New Normal” and the Chinese Church (March 30, 2015, ChinaSource Blog)
In the larger context, several aspects of Xi’s “new normal” (新常态) do have potential negative implications for China’s Christians. While not specifically directed at the church, these measures could nonetheless serve to curtail Christian activity.

The Gospel And The Souls Of The Chinese People, Part 1 (March 30, 2015, China Partnership Blog)
This is the first post in a series by a house church pastor reflecting on the gospel and its impact on the Chinese people. The material was originally presented at the China Partnership annual conference in January 2015.

Cults and Christianity in China (March 31, 2015, Chinese Church Voices)
Particularly interesting is the acknowledgment that the removal of denominations in the 1950s contributed to the church’s vulnerability to cults and heresies. Rather than being the source of cults, the article contends, the house churches have become the victim. As the government is currently taking a tougher stance toward cults, the article’s suggestion that the government be more flexible in dealing with house churches in order to root out cults is especially timely.

Society / Life

China's dancing aunties fight back, government retreats (March 26, 2015, Shanghaiist)
Following public outcry and the realization that China's dancing aunties cannot and will not be tamed, Chinese sports officials have clarified what they meant about "regulating" square dancing, a widely popular and somewhat notorious hobby among elderly folk in the country.

China Is One of the Most Unequal Countries in the World, IMF Paper Says (March 26, 2015, China Real Time)
A widening gap between China’s rich and poor makes it “one of the most unequal countries in the world,” according to a new working paper published by the International Monetary Fund.

City to pilot policy allowing skilled foreigners to immigrate to China (March 27, 2015, People’s Daily)
Shanghai will test a new policy that allows skilled foreign professionals to immigrate to China in a trial that will eventually be adopted in other cities across the country. The policy is on a list of 15 new policies that Shanghai will pilot before they are adopted nationwide.

One-Child Policy Tweak Fails in China (March 31, 2015, Christianity Today)
Two years ago, China relaxed its controversial one-child policy, allowing up to 11 million couples have a second child. But only 470,000 babies were born as a result, representing just 10 percent of eligible couples.

China Leads Drop as Foreign Adoptions Plunge in U.S. (April 1, 2015, China Real Time)
Foreign adoptions have plummeted to their lowest level in more than three decades, according to State Department data to be released Wednesday—to 6,441 in the 2014 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. That’s down from 7,092 the previous year and about 23,000 in 2004. This year’s total is the lowest level since 1982, when there were 5,749 adoptions.


Nine Out of 10 Chinese Charities Fail Transparency Test, Report Finds (April 1, 2015, China Real Time)
China’s push for transparency is now focusing on charities. Only eight out of 93 charitable organizations in China passed transparency tests, according to a new report from researchers at Peking University’s Center for Participation Studies and Supports.

School develops handwriting input for Uygur, Tibetan languages (April 1, 2015, China Daily)
Xidian University in Shaanxi Province has developed handwriting input for the Uygur and Tibetan languages, which are used by millions of ethnic minorities in China, after seven years of research and development, according to an announcement on Tuesday. Lu Chaoyang, who is in charge of development, said the project is important for adapting technology for minority languages and for the protection of minority history and culture.

China's knock-off wonders (CBS News)
Laborers work on scaffolding near a full-scale replica of the Sphinx at an unfinished movie and animation tourism theme park, in Chuzhou, Anhui province.

Economics / Trade / Business

China pulls back tax breaks for foreign companies (March 27, 2015, CNN)
China is ordering local governments to roll back tax breaks promised to foreign businesses. Chinese cities have been offering incentives such as lower land prices and tax breaks in recent years to attract foreign investment. It worked: $120 billion poured into China in 2014, and giant multinational firms such as Starbucks and Intel have set up shop over the years.

China closes 66 'illegal' golf courses (March 31, 2015, AFP)
China's Communist rulers have turned against the exclusive sport of golf with the government saying nearly 70 "illegal" courses have been closed, seemingly enforcing a decade-old ban for the first time. The announcement by the ministry of land and resources comes amid a high-profile anti-graft campaign spearheaded by President Xi Jinping, which has seen crackdowns on banquets, lavish gift-giving and other official excesses.

Number of illegal foreign workers soars in Pearl River Delta (April 1, 2015, China Daily)
Law enforcement officers investigated more than 5,000 illegal foreign workers in Guangdong province last year. Most had no work and residence permits and were employed mainly in labor-intensive industries in the prosperous Pearl River Delta region, where there is a major shortage of workers, Guangzhou Daily reported. Most were born in the 1980s and 1990s and came mainly from neighboring Southeast Asian nations, the newspaper said.

GitHub Back to Normal After Attacks Blamed on China (April 1, 2015, China Real Time)
GitHub is back. The U.S. website heavily frequented by coders and other technorati reported on Wednesday that it was operating normally for the first time in several days. The report followed attacks on the website that began last week and that security researchers say was likely carried out by China. The attack – which GitHub said was the largest in its history — appeared to target two pages of GitHub linking to copies of websites banned in China.

Health / Environment

China aims to double doctor numbers as cure for healthcare woes (March 31, 2015, Reuters)
China will almost double the number of its general doctors by 2020, trim its public sector and improve technology as it seeks to fix a healthcare system plagued by snarling queues and poor rural services, its main administrative authority has said.

UK nurse recovers from Ebola after taking China-made drug (April 1, 2015, Shanghaiist)
A nurse in the UK who'd been infected with Ebola in West Africa became the first person in the world to take an experimental drug from China, which she gave credit to for helping her recover from the deadly virus. Corporal Anna Cross, a 25-year-old medical reservist in the British Army, was infected with Ebola after about a month of volunteering in Sierra Leone. She was evacuated to Britain on March 12 and taken to a high-level isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

Peking University Report Says Government is Lying about Air Pollution Problem (April 1, 2015, The Nanfang Insider)
An air quality report published by a Peking University research group has taken the government to task over its pollution data, saying the problem is worse than the government is admitting and that measures to clean up Beijing’s smoggy skies aren’t working. Titled “Air Quality Assessment Report”, the research group found that the average daily reading of PM 2.5 levels in Beijing last year was 98.57, 15 percent higher than the government statistics that say 85.9.

History / Culture

Author throws spotlight on China's 'hidden Holocaust (March 25, 2015, The Telegraph)
China must revisit the “unimaginable” horrors of its Great Famine or risk facing a similar calamity in the future, one of its most outspoken authors has warned. Yan Lianke, whose latest novel is set during the famine of the late 1950s when millions starved to death, said he had decided to address the period even though his book had no chance of being published in his native country where its discussion remains taboo.

China Is Urged to Confront Its Own History (March 30, 2015, Sinosphere)
As China prepares to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II with a military parade in Beijing in September, the state news media has been hammering away at a central theme underpinning the government’s narrative about the suffering China endured under Japanese occupation: Tokyo must “face history,” goes the storyline and reaffirm its admitted wrongdoings. But China’s insistence that Japan face history is raising uncomfortable questions about Beijing’s own practice of suppressing historical truths about trespasses domestic and abroad.

Science / Technology

The internet: Great walls of fire (April 4, 2015, The Economist)
The immediate aim of such attacks is to bring down the targeted website, depriving Chinese users of access to copies of blocked sites (at least until new ones are set up). In the longer term, it may be to discourage foreign internet firms from hosting such “mirror” sites.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

‘Blind Massage’ The Big Winner as China Dominates Asian Film Awards (March 26, 2015, China Real Time)
China triumphed at the 9th Asian Film Awards on Wednesday night, grabbing 10 prizes from 14 categories in a ceremony at the glitzy Venetian hotel in Macau. Director Lou Ye’s “Blind Massage,” about the lives and romantic yearnings of a group of blind massage therapists, won best film. Shot in semi-documentary style, the film also took home the award for best cinematographer.

Beyond Ai Weiwei: How China’s Artists Handle Politics (or Avoid Them) (March 27, 2015, The New Yorker)
Inside China, people have more complex views of Ai and of the relationship between politics and art.

Language / Language Learning

Literal Chinese Translations of Country Names (March 27, 2015, Live the Language)
Have you ever wondered what your country’s name looks like in Chinese and what its meaning is? The literal Chinese translations of country names often results in some funny interpretations.


The Confucian World (March 27, 2015, ChinaSource Blog)
Confucius is perhaps the most important philosopher in history. Today, his teachings shape the daily lives of more than 1.6 billion people. Throughout East Asia, Confucius’s influence can be seen in everything from business practices and family relationships to educational standards and government policies. Even as western ideas from Christianity to Communism have bombarded the region, Confucius’s doctrine has endured as the foundation of East Asian culture. It is impossible to understand East Asia, journalist Michael Schuman demonstrates, without first engaging with Confucius and his vast legacy.

Huan Hsu’s The Porcelain Thief – A China Antiques Adventure Story (April 1, 2015, China Rhyming)
Huan Hsu’s newly published The Porcelain Thief looks interesting, a sort of Hare With Amber Eyes for Nanking? On my reading list anyway…

Writing China: David Mulroney, ‘Middle Power, Middle Kingdom’ (April 1, 2015, China Real Time)
David Mulroney served as Canadian ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, during a period of improving relations between the two countries. But in his book published this month, “Middle Power, Middle Kingdom,” he argues that Canada has missed some opportunities to capitalize on a better relationship with China.


Teaching About Easter (April 1, 2015, ChinaSource Blog)
Whether you are in the US or working in China, Holy Week offers a great opportunity to introduce Chinese friends to the gospel. Some friends of ChinaSource have produced a 9-minute video called “Easter: History and Culture” which depicts the events of Holy Week and shows how Easter is celebrated today.”


Women, sexuality, and social change in China (April 3, 2015, Brookings)
On April 3, the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution seeks to explore the policy implications of China’s sexual revolution through the perspectives and voices of practitioners and academics.

Register a Business in Yunnan Province
Would you like to have a legal presence in Yunnan Province of China? Come to a one-day seminar on registering a business and financial reporting responsibilities. Learn the most up-to-date government policies and expectations for foreigners operating businesses in Yunnan. This seminar will be hosted by Gao Jie Consulting (GJC) from 9 AM to 4 PM in Kunming, China on April 14, 2015.

Called & Gifted Workshop – Hong Kong 2015 (St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary  Society)
The Called & Gifted workshop is a special program of the Catherine of Siena Institute that teaches Christians how to discover their unique spiritual gifts – gifts that God gives us all to share with our family, friends, workplace and community. April 30, 7-9pm & May 1, 9-4:30pm. @ St. Anne's Church, 1 Tung Tau Wan Road, Stanley, Hong Kong

Image Credit: Waiting (Suzhou, China) 02-2015 by Vlad Meytin, on 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