ZGBriefs | April 5, 2018

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Featured Article

China’s online retailers pull Bible from shelves as Beijing gets strict on sale of holy text (April 5, 2018, South China Morning Post)
On JD.com, searches for “the Bible” in Chinese yielded no results, while on Taobao, Amazon.cn and Dang Dang, they led to other Christian publications, such as storybooks and Bible study aids. […]  While the Bible has long been categorised in China as a publication “for internal distribution” – meaning that, officially at least, it can be sold only by government-sanctioned bodies that oversee Christian churches – the authorities have tended to look the other way.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

What we know—and don’t—about the meeting between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping (March 28, 2018, Brookings)
Many questions remain unanswered about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s visit to China from March 25 to 28. For example, did Xi Jinping and Kim reach any private understandings on loosening pressure and supporting North Korea’s economic development?

Beijing's message for young Taiwanese: We mean business (March 29, 2018, Christian Science Monitor)
China's effort to bring Taiwan under mainland control uses plenty of sticks, like the fear of military force. But it's also using carrots – like financial incentives to woo young Taiwanese people fed up with their island's sluggish economy.

Long Arm of Chinese Law May Reach into U.S. (March 29, 2018, China Digital Times)
As part of Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crackdown, authorities have launched a campaign to return corrupt officials and wealthy businesspeople to China after they flee abroad. But sometimes similar tactics are used against political dissidents or their relatives.

A deepening dictatorship promises a grim future for China (April 2, 2018, East Asia Forum)
The Party clearly wants further control over the state (which it already completely controls), wants further control over a society (within which it already exercises absolute power) and even seems increasingly intent on expanding this control beyond its borders. 

China’s Campaign Against Uighur Diaspora Ramps Up (April 3, 2018, Foreign Policy)
As Beijing continues its clampdown on Xinjiang, the state is using overseas Uighurs’ families in China as a way to pressure them.

The Case of Hong Kong’s Missing Booksellers (April 3, 2018, The New York Times)
As China’s Xi Jinping consolidates power, owners of Hong Kong bookstores trafficking in banned books find themselves playing a very dangerous game.

Why do we keep turning a blind eye to Chinese political interference? (April 3, 2018, The Conversation)
Scholars who work on China know that continued access to the country requires them to play by Beijing’s rules, which for most means self-censorship – the dirty secret of China studies in Australia.

Xi Jinping: Statesman, strongman, philosopher, autocrat (April 3, 2018, China Policy Institute)
What kind of leader is Xi Jinping, who became general secretary of China’s Communist Party in November 2012 and China’s president in March 2013? Specialists are giving very different answers to this question now than they did five years ago.

The CCP is eating the state (April 4, 2018, East Asia Forum)
Increasing central power, especially a reorientation toward top-level design, decreases local discretion and damages problem solving ability. This move weakens the state, and in doing so it weakens the economic and political benefits of a strong state for Chinese citizens.


Union with Christ and Contextualization in China: Theological Contextualization in China (March 19, 2018, ChinaSource Quarterly)
In what follows, I first briefly show the importance of “union with Christ” in the New Testament, especially in Paul’s letters. Second, I show some of its connections to Chinese culture.

Might Christians and Confucians Actually Agree About Human Nature?: Theological Contextualization in China (March 19, 2018, ChinaSource Quarterly)
It is commonly thought that Christians should be wary of the influence of Confucian ideas on the grounds that Confucianism is too optimistic about human nature and inconsistent with the Christian understanding of sin. What follows is a reflection on that worry.

China tightens grip on religion in bureaucratic overhaul (March 23, 2018, UCA News)
China's ruling Communist Party has further stepped up control over all religions, dissolving its longstanding State Administration for Religious Affairs bureau and handing its functions to the party's feared United Front Work Department (UFWD).

Contextualization—A Necessity, Not an Option (March 30, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
Whether you are learning about China from afar, newly arrived in country, or an old China hand, all who work cross-culturally require constant encouragement to persevere in the never-ending task of contextualization. 

Vatican and Beijing near deal on bishop appointments after 67-year rift (March 31, 2018, The Guardian)
Under landmark accord, Chinese government would recognise pope’s authority but would retain sway over choosing clergy.

Interview With a Beijing Pastor - Every Disciple is an Individual Case (March 31, 2018, China Partnership Blog)
One of the biggest challenges to discipleship training in China is being too formulaic. We could easily assume that we are done with discipleship training once we’ve completed some classes. But discipleship is far from being done.

China Insists on Control of Religion, Dimming Hope of Imminent Vatican Deal (April 3, 2018, The New York Times)
Mr. Chen, introducing a government white paper on religious rights and practices, said that as a matter of policy there were “no underground churches or house churches” in China. The country has seen a broad religious revival since the repression wrought by the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, but the government has recently tightened its controls over many aspects of faith, including finances and properties.

China protects freedom of religious belief: white paper (April 3, 2018, Xinhua)
China Tuesday issued a white paper noting that the country adopts policies on freedom of religious belief, and that such freedom is protected under the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics. The white paper, titled "China's Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief," was issued by the State Council Information Office.

Being the Chinese Church in the Face of Growing Political Uncertainty (April 3, 2018, Chinese Church Voices)
This article provides a framework of sorts on how Christians should respond to the changing environment in the wake of the “Regulations on Religious Affairs.” Because of the significance of the regulations and the extent to which Christians are already influenced by them, we have translated and published the article with only minor edits for brevity. 

Society / Life

Chinese Dissident Finds Struggles, Independence In America After Immigrating (March 29, 2018, NPR)
The Flushing neighborhood of New York's Queens borough is home to the largest population of Chinese immigrants in any city outside Asia. Zhuang Liehong is one of those immigrants. He arrived in 2014 from Wukan, a small village in the Guangdong province of southern China.

Monster-in-Law No More: Wives and Mothers Find Common Ground (March 29, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Families in which one party dominates while the other is subordinate are gradually giving way to more equitable structures.

China’s Second-Tier Cities Battle for Bright Minds (March 29, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Brain drain and fierce competition for fresh graduates have led provincial capitals to offer increasingly generous policies to attract and retain talent.

Hubei Family Reflects on Generations of Relocation (March 29, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Communities in central China have long been at the mercy of government resettlement campaigns to make way for major infrastructure projects.

The Fake Cars of Beijing (March 30, 2018, Outside-In)
Someone is making serious money converting these 3-wheeled motorcycles into vehicles that look like they want to be cars when they grow up.

Trafficking for forced marriage from Vietnam to China (April 3, 2018, China Policy Institute)
Young men in rural China encounter strong social pressures to marry and start a family. Young men who are unable to produce a child and continue the family lineage are called ‘bare branches’. Still, being forced to buy a wife is also a stigma for those young men, as they are considered too poor or bear mental or physical health issues that make them unattractive for the available women. 

Dealing With Death, China’s Biggest Taboo (April 3, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Death is the biggest taboo topic among Chinese people. Merely mentioning mortality is believed to beget bad fortune, bringing the inevitability closer than it perhaps already is.

Tearful reunion for Chinese couple and their daughter missing for 24 years (April 4, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Wang Mingqing and his wife Liu Chengying shed tears of joy on Tuesday when their daughter arrived at their home in Chengdu in Sichuan province. Kang Ying, 27, went missing as a child in 1994 after wandering off from the couple’s fruit stall in the city.

Economics / Trade / Business

US and China playing a gigantic game of chicken over trade (April 4, 2018, The Guardian)
For the moment, this is simply a gigantic game of chicken. If Trump withdraws his threatened tariffs, the Chinese have said they will do the same. A trade war is not inevitable, but the risk of sleepwalking into a damaging conflict that nobody really wants is there.


How America's Ivory Towers Flunked at Chinese Democracy (March 29, 2018, Real Clear Investigations)
But American officials had a not-so-secret ulterior motive too: Their expectation was that by studying in America, Chinese students, future leaders of their country, would become a powerful force for democratic political change in China.

African Students in China: the intersection of educational and trading-led migration (April 1, 2018, China Policy Institute)
This commentary focuses on racialised attitudes towards Africans in China, brought on by the reach of Chinese politics and economics into African countries, which has in turn triggered immigration to China. The commentary concludes by contextualising the topic of Africans in China in the wider multi-directional migration patterns that characterise contemporary China.

New Private University Breaks China’s Mold (April 2, 2018, Sixth Tone)
China’s Ministry of Education has officially approved Westlake University, a private institute that is something of an anomaly in the country’s tertiary education sector.

Chinese students’ first taste of democracy marred by corruption (April 3, 2018, Global Times)
In a school district of Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province, several elementary students were seen standing around holding 10 yuan ($1.59) or 20 yuan banknotes. One boy foisted the cash into a passing girl's hands, but she refused it. "Sorry, I already got 20 yuan from Hao, so I can't vote for anyone else."

Health / Environment

A Novel Virus Killed 24,000 Piglets in China. Where Did It Come From? (April 4, 2018, NPR)
Once researchers got this new virus under the microscope, they confirmed that it was a virus in the same family as both PEDV and SARS — but it wasn't one they'd seen before. It was a brand-new disease. 

Science / Technology

Life Inside China’s Social Credit Laboratory (April 3, 2018, Foreign Policy)
Rongcheng is one place where that future is visible. Three dozen pilot systems have been rolled out in cities across the country, and Rongcheng is one of them. According to Chinese officials and researchers, it’s the best example of the system working as intended. But it also illustrates those intentions may not be as straightforward as they like to claim.

Facial Recognition in China Is Big Business As Local Governments Boost Surveillance (April 3, 2018, NPR)
Dozens of cameras meet visitors to the Beijing headquarters of SenseTime, China's largest artificial intelligence company. One of them determines whether the door will open for you; another tracks your movements.

History / Culture

Army of Darkness (March 29, 2018, The World of Chinese)
It’s a classic tale: Farmer digs well, discovers priceless terracotta army, is relentlessly persecuted until he commits suicide.

Watch: 9,000 Years of Chinese Musical History at an Arizona Museum (April 2, 2018, Radii China)
If you find yourself in Phoenix, pop in to MIM before May 6 to check out exhibit highlights such as a 9,000-year-old bird bone flute and a 2,500-year-old “divine beast” drum stand (pictured up top). Otherwise, check out this short video just released by Voice of America

You Can’t Escape Bureaucracy, Even in Death (April 3, 2018, Sixth Tone)
The bureaucracy of the Chinese underworld offers subtle insights into our own society. The realm of the dead is ruled by a system of collective leadership. There are 10 Yama-governed halls in the underworld, and each Yama has a particular set of duties, with no one subordinate to any other.

Qingming Festival: What It is and How to Celebrate It (April 3, 2018, The Beijinger)
Qingming Festival entails many rituals, chief among them is usually a day out spent visiting and tidying ancestors’ graves (hence the name Tomb Sweeping Day) as well as placing lilies and chrysanthemums, flowers usually associated with death. 

Video: Air View of the Forbidden City, 1933 (Tong Bingxue, via Twitter)

Travel / Food

Your Guide to Sichuan Cuisine (March 28, 2018, Explore Parts Unknown)
In China, Sichuan food is known for its complex and sophisticated canon of tastes. In the West, it’s invariably known for only a few dishes and face-melting heat and spice—a reputation that grossly underestimates the cuisine. To understand Sichuan food one must understand its history and geography.

Traveling to Chongqing, the “spicy” city (March 30, 2018, Sapore di Cina)
Chongqing is a hot and spicy city in all senses: high temperatures, spicy food and, especially, hot people! The lifestyle is different than any other city in China, full of energy and life in all aspects, maintaining its uniqueness. It’s an unforgettable city that leaves a beautiful memory in the hearts of those who visit.

We tasted McDonald’s ‘SzeChuan Sauce’ so you never have to (April 3, 2018, The World of Chinese)
Tastes like disappointment. It’s not spicy (or Sichuanese) in the least. The taste is more like a sweet soy sauce, with a touch of plum. A generous soul would compare it unfavorably to the “hoisin” glazed dip that accompanies a good Peking Duck, only milder and more saccharine. It’s fine. But not worth fighting over, driving 60 miles, or paying ludicrous sums on eBay for.

China’s ancient Cold Food Festival is not too hot (April 4, 2018, The World of Chinese)
The origins can be traced back about 2,600 years to the Spring and Autumn Period. The legend here concerns a model of self-sacrifice and loyalty in ancient history, one Jie Zitui. Jie was serving Prince Chong’er, heir to the throne of the State of Jin, when Chong’er was framed for revolting against the king, and forced to flee for his life. The prince took just 15 men with him in exile, and Jie was one of them.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Dancing Grannies Share Stories From Their Past (March 29, 2018, Sixth Tone)
There’s more to China’s elderly square dancers than fast footwork and synchronized moves: Some have fascinating stories to share. In her recent documentary “Chinese Grandmothers,” filmmaker Tan Jiaying brings these vibrant stories to a wider audience.

A Hong Kong Newspaper on a Mission to Promote China’s Soft Power (March 31, 2018, The New York Times)
In effect, Alibaba has taken Hong Kong’s English-language paper of record since the days of British rule and put it on the leading edge of China’s efforts to project soft power abroad. 

Rana Mitter’s Chinese Characters Starts on BBC Radio 4 April 9th (April 4, 2018, China Rhyming)
Chinese Characters is a series of 20 essays exploring Chinese history through the life stories of key personalities. In this first episode Rana Mitter tells the story of Wu Zetian, the only woman ever to rule as China’s emperor in her own right, in two thousand years of dynastic history. Even more remarkably, she did it during one of the finest moments of China’s cultural history – the medieval Tang dynasty.


Invisible Planets (March 19, 2018, ChinaSource Quarterly)
Why review a science fiction (SF) book in a journal about contextualization? Contextualization is partnered with worldview. The stories in Invisible Planets uncover the dreams and realities of the Chinese that are not often expressed in everyday life. We need to listen as the authors present Chinese worldviews through science fiction.

The U.S.-Made Chinese Future That Wasn’t (March 31, 2018, China File)
An Excerpt from ‘The China Mission: George Marshall’s Unfinished War, 1945-1947’

Misunderstood Goes a Long Way in Helping TCKs be Understood (April 3, 2018, Small Town Laowai)
In Misunderstood: The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century, Tanya Crossman seeks to explain TCK life, acting “as translator between TCKs and those who care for them.”

7 Trends: Why You Need to Pay Attention (April 4, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
ChinaSource has released a new ebook, 7 Trends Impacting Foreigners in China. Based on a series of blog posts I wrote earlier on this topic, the ebook looks at how changes in China’s church, in the expat Christian community, and in China itself are forcing a rethink about the role of foreign workers.

Links for Researchers

China's Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief (State Council Research Office, via china.org.cn)

From Cooperation to Resistance: Christian Responses to Intensified Suppression in China Today (March 28, 2018, The Review of Faith and International Affairs)

China's 2018 Two Sessions: Implications for MNCs Operating in China (March 28, 2018, APCO Worldwide)