ZGBriefs | April 6, 2023

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Featured Article

Chinese Christians Adapt Under New Restrictions (March 30, 2023, The Gospel Coalition)
The Gospel Coalition asked Chinese pastor, Reformed theologian, and church network leader Zhang San about increasing restrictions, ways he’s seen God at work, and what worries pastors even more than registration apps or closing churches.

Sponsored Link

Public Lecture | Spreading the Gospel: Christian Posters in Early 20th Century China (ChinaSource)
Between 1919 and 1949, posters were the most common Christian visual imagery in China. They were printed by the millions and hung in tea rooms, on city walls, and on temple gates. Posters were put up in houses and churches; they were unfolded for street evangelism. They were extremely popular because they were aesthetically pleasing and symbolically rich, yet easy to understand. Unlike theological treatises written by Chinese theologians, these images were designed by laypeople and intended for popular consumption. In this lecture, Daryl Ireland of Boston University will showcase some of the 700 Chinese Protestant and Catholic posters he has located and explain why they are changing the way we think about Chinese Christianity.
April 26, 2023, 7:00pm
Barrows Auditorium – Billy Graham Hall
Wheaton College
here to register for this free event 

(in-person or to receive link to post-event recording)

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China deletes Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, other ideologies from government rulebook (March 29, 2023, Radio Free Asia)
China has rewritten its political rulebook to delete references to all ideology but that of supreme party leader Xi Jinping, forcing its cabinet, the State Council, to defer to highest-ranking Communist Party leaders on all “major decisions.”

Political Counting (March 31, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
An interesting feature of Chinese social and political discourse is propensity to label institutions or political campaigns using numbers. The One this. The Two That. They are catchy and thus relatively easy to remember. Here are some of my favorites.

Chinese spy balloon gathered intelligence from sensitive U.S. military sites, despite U.S. efforts to block it (April 3, 2023, NBC News)
The Chinese spy balloon that flew across the U.S. was able to gather intelligence from several sensitive American military sites, despite the Biden administration’s efforts to block it from doing so, according to two current senior U.S. officials and one former senior administration official.

Taiwan’s President Tsai meets Kevin McCarthy despite China’s warnings (April 5, 2023, NPR)
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen vowed Wednesday to “defend the peaceful status quo” in which the people of Taiwan can continue to thrive in a free and open society. Her remarks came after a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that Beijing had warned against. Speaking in a joint appearance with McCarthy before a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library outside Los Angeles, the Taiwanese leader also thanked the U.S. for its support to Taiwan.

China is ghosting the United States (April 5, 2023, Politico)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken wants to reschedule his date with China. Beijing is giving him the cold shoulder.

Macron arrives in China hoping to talk Xi into changing stance on Ukraine (April 5, 2023, The Guardian)
Emmanuel Macron has arrived in China for a three-day state visit during which he hopes to dissuade Xi Jinping from supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while also developing European trade ties with Beijing. Shortly after arriving in the Chinese capital, Macron said he wanted to push back against the idea that there was an “inescapable spiral of mounting tensions” between China and the west.

Why Xi Jinping is not another Chairman Mao (April 5, 2023, The Economist)
To call Mr Xi a second Mao is misleading. Mao was a radical, willing to blow up an establishment he distrusted. […]  In contrast, Mr Xi is a career politician who calls on party members to self-purify, under the supervision of fearsome internal-discipline inspectors.


Opening the Door to Reconciliation (April 3, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
“I’m right,” “I’m a good person,” and “I didn’t make a mistake.” These three mindsets regularly keep people from addressing conflict issues. Those I interviewed in China for my dissertation research expressed repeatedly that holding tight to these unexamined views of themselves and their positions was a big hindrance in reconciling relationships. Yet, as their mindsets shifted, a door to potential reconciliation opened.

Our Home Is In Heaven: To Run Or Not? (April 3, 2023, China Partnership Blog)
Here, the pastor reminds Christians that hard times only point out the truth of the Bible and humanity’s need for rescue. He also reminds them that it is foolish to believe any country or system can save them, as all are marred by the effects of sin. Finally, he asks Christians to think carefully, pray deeply, and seek wise advice from other believers before they decide their course.

Thai officials say Chinese church members to be deported soon (April 5, 2023, Al Jazeera)
More than 60 self-exiled members of a Chinese Christian church who were detained in Thailand after receiving UN refugee status will be deported by next week, probably to a third country, according to officials. 

Lecture Video: New Civil Religion in China—Opportunity for Engagement? (April 5, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Drawing on the research for his book, Johnson talked about how China is using civil religion, which he defines as the government using religion and religious images to legitimize its rule. He argued that this has been most visible in the government’s more tolerant attitude towards what it considers to be indigenized religions—Buddhism and Daoism—as well as Chinese folk religions.

Vatican says China has unilaterally appointed bishop to Shanghai (April 4, 2023, Reuters)
Chinese authorities have appointed a new bishop to Shanghai, the largest Roman Catholic diocese in China, the Vatican said on Tuesday, in an apparent violation of a bilateral pact between the two states. The Holy See was informed “a few days ago” of the decision by China to transfer Bishop Shen Bin from Haimen, in Jiangsu province, to the diocese of Shanghai, the Vatican said. It added that it had learned of his official instalment earlier on Tuesday from the media.

Society / Life

Death in the Modern City (April 4, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Over time, Chinese funerals have gradually been made to adapt to the constraints of contemporary life. In Shanghai, for example, municipal regulations stipulate that relatives must notify a funeral home within 24 hours of the deceased’s passing; after which the body must be transported away within 12 hours.

Writings on the Wall: Removing China’s One-Child Policy Propaganda (April 5, 2023, Whats on Weibo) (registration required)
While there are more efforts to erase old propaganda slogans, some people don’t understand the rush: “It’s ingrained in our memories already.”

For China’s Urban Residents, the Party-State Is Closer than Ever (March 30, 2023, China File)
In a recent working paper, scholars Yutian An and Taisu Zhang argue that local urban governments in China emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic with far more muscle and clout than they have ever had before. Unlike in the past several decades, the sub-district (jiedao, 街道, the lowest formal level of government) and the neighborhood community (shequ, 社区, technically self-governing entities below even the sub-district) now function as robust units of social control.

Why China’s Truckers See Power in Numbers (March 30, 2023, Sixth Tone)
New freight platforms pitted drivers against each other and squeezed their margins. Now, some drivers are teaming up and fighting back.

Economics / Trade / Business

Podcast: The Maoist legacy in Chinese private enterprise (March 30, Sinica Podcast)
The Maoist legacy in Chinese private enterprise is the subject of the latest Sinica Podcast interview with Chris Marquis, professor at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School. He talks about the book he co-authored with Kunyuan Qiao, Mao and Markets: The Communist Roots of Chinese Enterprise.

Health / Environment

Loss of Himalayan Glaciers ‘Larger Than Thought,’ Study Finds (April 4, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Chinese scientists said the loss of glaciers terminating into lakes in the greater Himalaya between 2000 and 2020 was underestimated by 6.5%.

History / Culture

The Tiananmen protests officially called a ‘revolutionary movement’ (April 5, 2023, The China Project)
When a million people converged on Tiananmen Square on April 4-5, 1976, to mourn Zhou Enlai, authorities used violence to disperse the gathering. Two years later, the central government reassessed the events of those days.

How Ancient Chinese Poets Celebrated Qingming Festival (April 5, 2023, The World of Chinese)
Four ancient Chinese poems on Qingming Festival show that the day was always about more than just tomb sweeping.


From Brush Strokes to Unicode—How China Became Modern: A Book Review of Kingdom of Characters (March 29, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
In her excellent book Kingdom of Characters, Jing Tsu traces the modern development of the written Chinese language from a system of complicated hand-written characters mastered primarily by the elites of Chinese society to a broadly accessible digital format employed by Asian-language speakers around the world. More than just a fascinating historical tale of linguistic and technological innovation—which it certainly is—Tsu’s book is an exploration of the role language has played in China’s nation-defining pursuit of modernization.

Pray for China

April 6 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
George Candidius (干治士) was the first Protestant missionary to reside on Taiwan. He came to Taiwan in 1627 as a missionary of the Dutch Reformed Church and served there for 10 years. Robert Junius (尤纽斯) followed him two years later and baptized thousands of aboriginals as Christians in his 14 years of service. Candidius was working at a school in Batavia (now Jakarta) when he went to be with the Lord on Apr. 30, 1647. Pray for aboriginal Christians to be nourished by God’s Word and to reach out to the largely unreached blue-collar Taiwanese. Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

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Image credit: Erdenebeyer, via Pixabay
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