ZGBriefs | April 25, 2019

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Featured Article

For China’s Abandoned Children, Acrobatics Is a Harsh Last Hope (April 16, 2019, Sixth Tone)
Li argues that acrobatic training can offer children like Ruibing discipline and focus, while also equipping them with skills that guarantee employment. Besides that, he also sees himself as carrying on a cultural tradition that has fewer and fewer inheritors.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

The Belt and Road: The Good, the Bad, and the Mixed (April 15, 2019, The Diplomat)
Demystifying China’s Belt and Road Initiative through 3 case studies.

How Chinese internet trolls go after Beijing's critics overseas (April 18, 2019, CNN)
Arslan Hidayat was at work when the trolls attacked. "My phone was going 'bring, bring, bring,'" said the 31-year-old English teacher. "I was like, What the hell's going on?" A Facebook page he helps run which focuses on the Uyghur ethnic minority was being flooded by thousands of comments in a targeted attack by nationalist Chinese trolls.

How China Is Defending Its Detention of Muslims to the World (April 19, 2019, Bloomberg)
After first denying the existence of the camps, China is now doubling down on the need for them, and beginning to defend them as a vital weapon against terrorism.

People’s Daily Details Cases of Foreign NGOs ‘Endangering Political Security’ (April 19, 2019, The China NGO Project)
The article, entitled “National Security Entities Make Public Three Cases of Endangering Political Security,” outlines the NGOs’ alleged violations and the ways in which the groups posed a threat to the P.R.C. A third case in the article is related to the banned spiritual group Falun Gong, which it does not directly link to the two foreign NGO cases.

Podcast: China's Got a Trust Problem in Africa  (April 20, 2019, The China in Africa Podcast)
This week, Eric & Cobus discuss the issue of trust in the China-Africa relationship and why it's critical the Chinese figure out a way to build stronger ties beyond just political elites or else potentially be in the same situation they're in the United States where trust between those two countries has effectively disappeared.

How China is replacing America as Asia’s military titan (April 23, 3029, Reuters)
Chinese leader Xi Jinping has refashioned the People's Liberation Army into a force that's rapidly closing the gap on U.S. firepower – and in some vital areas has surpassed it. American victory over China in a regional war is no longer assured.

China's Secret Internment Camps with Rian Thum (April 23, 2019, What’s Happening Podcast)
Rian Thum, who has spent his career studying the Uyghurs, joins us to explain everything we know about the camps and how they came to be – including the prison-like surveillance state that Uyghurs outside of the camps are forced to live in.

Hong Kong Jails Four of Nine Occupy Central Activists For 'Inciting' Movement (April 24, 2019, Radio Free Asia)
A court in Hong Kong has handed down jail terms to four pro-democracy activists accused of "inciting" the 2014 Occupy Central movement, after finding them guilty of public order charges earlier this month.

Made in China, Exported to the World: The Surveillance State (April 24, 2019, The New York Times)
Today, 18 countries — including Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates and Germany — are using Chinese-made intelligent monitoring systems, and 36 have received training in topics like “public opinion guidance,” which is typically a euphemism for censorship, according to an October report from Freedom House, a pro-democracy research group.

China and Latin America 2.0: What the Next Phase Will Look Like (April 2019, Americas Quarterly)
Many Latin Americans are delighted by China’s growing presence — and largesse. But there is a clear need for change.


China's favourite Bible turns 100 (April 18, 2019, Eternity News)
Enduring the test of time, the CUV remains today the predominant translation used by most Chinese Christians. This is not only in China but also in Chinese-speaking churches the world over.

Joyful News of the Resurrection (April 19, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
For most of my time in China, I attended local Three-self churches in the cities where I lived. Especially as my language improved and I could understand what was going on, I particularly enjoyed going to church on Easter Sunday. To sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” with hundreds of Chinese brothers and sisters was a tiny glimpse of heaven.

‘Spiritually Speaking, I am Free’ (April 19, 2019, The New York Times)
Of the 500 or so converting in New York last weekend, about a third were Chinese immigrants, some of whom are seeking asylum based on religious persecution in China. Most of the Chinese immigrants live in Brooklyn and Queens, and they are having a transformative effect on local Catholic churches.

Power Structures in the Church (April 19, 2019, Do Justice)
There is a distinct difference between the level of authority enjoyed by pastors in mainland China and North American Chinese churches. Given the general authoritarian political culture in mainland China, churches grant more authority to their leaders. Believers tend to revere the servants of God in their midst. So power abuses in this scenario are really hard to expose and counter, because the congregants are generally trusting and submissive to church authorities.

Chinese Christians in Minnesota pray for Easter rebirth (April 22, 2019, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
On a recent Sunday, about 70 Chinese faithful gathered in the pews of the sunny chapel of the Minnesota Mandarin Christian Church, one of at least six Chinese Christian churches in the Twin Cities. Nearly all the members are from mainland China and never set foot in a church until they came to this country.

10 Quotes about the Chinese Bible (April 22, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
According to Jost Oliver Zetzsche, author of The Bible in China: The History of the Union Version or the Culmination of Protestant Missionary Bible Translation in China, "the first edition of the completed Mandarin Union Version was received from the printer on April 22, 1919." (p. 328) That is 100 years ago today! In honor of this important anniversary, here is a collection of quotes from last year’s ChinaSource Quarterly on the topic of the Chinese Bible.

Easter—the Way Out from Qingming (April 23, 2019, Chinese Church Voices)
In this article from Territory, Yan Xing writes about the hope that Christians find in Easter through Jesus’ resurrection. Yan remarks that, while the Qingming Festival leaves observers with only death, Easter opens the way for life through the work of Jesus Christ.

The Growth Of The Urban “Teenage” House Church (April 23, 2019, China Partnership Blog)
Three years ago, I began asking pastors in a network I work with a questionI asked them to apply a human growth phase (infant, toddler, child, teenager, adult, senior) to the describe the church in China. As a result, I kept hearing the word qing shao nian or teenager. One pastor was very specific and answered that “the church is an 18-year-old.”

A Remembrance of Things Past (April 24, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
Christianity was officially welcomed into China in 635, and was officially asked to leave in 845. Without this official recognition, the church in the Tang would not have existed at all. The sources also indicate that a form of détente was worked out between the church and the Chinese state—one was not to interfere with the other in doing what it did best.

Photos: Easter Service Across China (April 24, 2019, China Christian Daily)

Society / Life

Cultural differences between Kiwi son-in-law and Chinese mother-in-law amuse thousands of viewers in China  (April 20, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Yang Yang, originally from Beijing, has been uploading videos to the streaming app Kuaishou since the middle of last year. They range from Yang learning about life in Australia to her husband Peter trying Chinese foods made by mother-in-law Li Jinshan.

The Messy Truth About Social Credit (April 22, 2019, China File)
The social credit system is routinely described as issuing “citizen scores” to create a “digital dictatorship” where “big data meets Big Brother.” These descriptions are wildly off-base. Foreign media has distorted the social credit system into a technological dystopia far removed from what is actually happening in China. 

Economics / Trade / Business

Amazon plans to shut online store in China (April 18, 2019, BBC)
Amazon plans to shut its online store in China that allows shoppers to buy from local sellers as it downsizes operations in the country. The firm said it would no longer run the domestic marketplace from July, but Chinese shoppers will still be able to order goods from Amazon's global store. It will also continue to operate its cloud business in China.

If China thinks it’s overtaking the US any time soon, here’s a wake-up call (April 21, 2019, South China Morning Post)
The perception that China is the No 2 global power and on the path to become No 1 is based on two questionable assumptions – that China’s stellar growth levels, which outpace those of its main competitors, will continue on the same path, and that gross domestic product or the size of the economy equates to national power.

Who Owns Huawei? (April 23, 2019, China File)
The question of who owns Huawei is key. If the Chinese state owns Huawei, then not only has the company been lying for years, but it means that the Party has more control over Huawei than previously thought. 

New China Foreign Investment Law: Not Good News (April 23, 2019, China Law Blog)
The intent and the reality of the FIL is to pull down foreign investors to the status of privately owned Chinese companies. At that level, foreign invested companies will be firmly under CCP control and they will operate at a permanent economic disadvantage to PRC state owned enterprises. 

American oil is flowing freely to China again, after slowing to a trickle (April 24, 2019, South China Morning Post)
While refiners in China shunned US oil imports as the nations imposed tit-for-tat tariffs in an escalating trade war, buying interest has resurfaced on optimism that the world’s top two economies are nearing a resolution to their dispute.


Censorship in a China Studies Journal (April 19, 2019, Inside Higher Education)
Yet another account of censorship involving a China studies journal has come to light. And the scholars involved say this case involves an insidious “blurring of boundaries” where they were misled into thinking Western publishing standards would apply when in fact the journal in question was subject to Chinese government censorship.

Drastic Slowdown in the Number of International Students Choosing China (April 23, 2019, The Beijinger Blog)
Almost half a million international students studied in China in 2018, according to an Apr 18 report from China's Ministry of Education. Yet that sizeable figure only represents a 0.62 percent increase on 2017 enrolment numbers, pointing towards a significant slowdown overall when compared to consistent double-digit growth figures that were seen throughout the previous decade.

Health / Environment

A Vicious, Untreatable Killer Leaves China Guessing (April 22, 2019, The New York Times)
By China’s official estimates, the present outbreak of African swine fever, which affects pigs but is harmless to humans, has already been catastrophic. More than a million pigs have been culled, according to the Chinese government. A billion-plus pork-loving people are facing much tighter supplies. The need to fill the gap is influencing meat markets worldwide.

Science / Technology

'Uncharted territory': WeChat's new role in Australian public life raises difficult questions (April 18, 2019, ABC (Australia))
As more Australian politicians and media organisations sign up to the Chinese social media mega-app WeChat, questions are being raised about its new place within Australia's democracy.

History / Culture

Cities of Ice: A dispatch from frozen Harbin, where Jews once flourished—and melted away

 (April 19, 2019, Tablet Magazine)
Jews have lived in China for more than 1,000 years, which is as long as they have lived in Poland. But Harbin is a special case. The story of the Jews of Harbin, and of Harbin itself, begins with the railroad. Before the railroad, Harbin did not exist.

The Peking Aesthetes (April 19, 2019, China Channel)
Long before anyone had coined the term “Hutong Hipster,” Kates and a group of like-minded cultural enthusiasts – dubbed the Peking Aesthetes – were learning Chinese, raising crickets, studying painting from elderly neighbors, and shunning the distractions of the city’s international community. Interwar Peking was a city divided along lines that would not be unfamiliar to foreign residents of Peking almost a century later. 

30 Years Ago: Violent Protests Reported in China (April 23, 2019, China Digital Times)
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the nationwide, student-led democracy movement in China, and the subsequent military crackdown in Beijing. To mark the occasion, CDT is posting a series of original news articles from that year, beginning with the death of Hu Yaobang on April 15 and continuing through the tumultuous spring.

Protesting In The Name Of Science: The Legacy Of China’s May Fourth Movement (April 24, 2019, Sup China)
A hundred years after the rally for “Mr. Science” and “Mr. Democracy,” can the pursuit of scientific truth bring political freedom?

Travel / Food

Taishan: Summit of the Gods (April 20, 2019, The World of Chinese)
Ascending a mountain on the mainland is generally quite a different experience to the rugged hike you might imagine. And once you’ve done one, you can relax if you don’t want to climb them all. As an ancient saying attest, “You will have no wish to visit any other mountains after viewing the Five Mountains.”

Arts / Entertainment / Media

The special flavour of rock’n’roll Beijing (April 20, 2019, BBC)
The indie bands of the Chinese capital, Beijing, have their own raw, distinctive sound, says the BBC's Stephen McDonell - partly because they are so isolated from the rest of the rock'n'roll world.

The Unique Sichuan Art Form that Refuses to Die (April 21, 2019, Radii China)
I’m with a team that’s shooting a local promotional video, and I’m lucky enough to sit in on a performance by Lu Jinxin, a face-changer who’s been practicing for nearly half his life.

China’s Hottest New Song is a Rap About Noodles (April 22, 2019, Sixth Tone)
One food-delivery app has reported thousands of noodle orders featuring pop idol Kris Wu’s favorite buzzword — ‘skr’ — as an added note from customers.

'She is back!' Fan Bingbing reappears after nearly a year in wilderness (April 24, 2019, The Guardian)
Fan, who is one of China’s highest-profile actors, appeared at a Beijing gala on Monday night in honour of iQiyi, a popular video-streaming platform. This is the first sighting of the 37-year-old actor since July 2018, when she visited a children’s hospital. She stopped posting on all social media accounts around the same time.


Making China Modern: From the Great Qing to Xi Jinping (April 11, 2019, China File)
It is tempting to attribute China’s recent ascendance to changes in political leadership and economic policy. Making China Modern teaches otherwise. Moving beyond the standard framework of Cold War competition and national resurgence, Klaus Mühlhahn situates 21st-century China in the nation’s long history of creative adaptation.

Links for Researchers

The Professor, a University & the Rule of Law (April 22, 2019, China Heritage)
Zhang Qianfan presents his views in a measured, reasonable and legally punctilious fashion. Here is a voice of moderate reason, one of a kind that is all too readily silenced by the bumptious fury of official China, not to mention by the sonorous bleating of aggrieved advocates of extremism, be they on the left or the right. Zhang’s is also a voice of caution of a kind that is increasingly rare on the global stage itself. Should one take heed of Professor Zhang in a mood of wistful nostalgia for a future that never was, or as a prescient augury that tells of a more hopeful tomorrow?

Diplomacy And Persecution In China (May 2019, First Things)
How China handles its internal religious matters is of greater importance than our foreign policy establishment at present recognizes. The United States should make religious liberty central to its relationship with this rising power. 

NPCSC Revises Judicial Personnel Laws, Amends Trademark and Unfair Competition Laws  (April 24, 2019, NPC Observer)
The 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) concluded its 10th session on Tuesday. It adopted comprehensive changes to the two laws governing judges and procurators and approved relatively minor amendments to eight other laws, three of which aim to enhance intellectual property protections. Below we summarize each in turn.

Image credit: by Michael Robertson, 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