ZGBriefs

ZGBriefs | April 9, 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 

Ancient Chinese Community Celebrates Its Jewish Roots, and Passover (April 6, 2015, Sinosphere) 
In a hotel dining room festooned with purple garlands for a coming wedding, Chinese of Jewish descent in the central city of Kaifeng came together on Friday night for a Seder, the traditional Passover meal over which the Exodus story is recounted. Just two days before Qingming, the “tomb-sweeping” festival when Chinese traditionally pay their respects at family graves, they had gathered to recall ancestors even more ancient and a world away.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs 

China’s Government Is Serious About Fundamentally Reshaping Itself (April 1, 2015, China File)
The Chinese government has just announced significant economic and political reforms that indicate it is serious about fundamentally reshaping itself. After years of caution and conservatism that seemed to suggest a lack of stomach for critical reforms, the CCP has taken meaningful steps toward putting in place a government that is more decentralized and flexible, and yet also more disciplined and accountable to Party leadership. 

Xi Jinping Forever (April 1, 2015, Foreign Policy)
According to three sources close to top CCP officials, Xi and several top aides are making plans to ensure that the strongman will rule until at least 2027, when he will still be a relatively sprightly 74 years old. 

China, the economy and Xi Jinping's strategy (April 2, 2015, Marketplace)
While many people who watch China from the outside see an economic force and growth, Jinping sees a serious corruption problem, environmental pollution and unrest — a series of threats to the Communist Party.  

Zhou Yongkang, Former Security Chief in China, Faces Corruption Trial (April 2, 2015, The New York Times) 
The former head of China’s law-and-order apparatus, Zhou Yongkang, will stand trial on charges of bribery, abusing power and disclosing state secrets, the country’s top prosecution office announced on Friday, making Mr. Zhou the highest-ranked Communist Party official to be indicted on graft charges. 

China Protests Emergency Landing Of U.S. Warplanes In Taiwan (April 2, 2015, NPR)
China is strongly protesting the apparent emergency landing of two U.S. Navy F-18 fighters at an airbase in Taiwan — the first time such an incident has occurred in three decades. 

The World According To Xi Jinping (Or At Least His App) (April 3, 2015, NPR)
President Xi Jinping is sometimes described in foreign media as China's most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong. Mao may have had a cult of personality, but he didn't have his own app. Xi does. 

Four Views on Activism in China (April 3, 2015, China Digital Times)
A series of recent posts at the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute Blog describes various aspects of Chinese activism and official responses. 

China evacuates foreigners from Yemen in first such operation (April 3, 2015, AFP)
China evacuated 225 people from 10 different countries from war-ravaged Yemen, Beijing said Friday, an unprecedented move underscoring the country's growing global reach. The Chinese missile frigate Linyi brought them to Djibouti after two weeks of fighting between rebel forces and a Saudi-led coalition that has seen hundreds killed. The evacuees included 176 people from Pakistan, said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, with the remainder from Ethiopia, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Britain, Canada and Yemen. 

US geologist Xue Feng 'released from prison in China' (April 3, 2015, The Guardian) 
A US geologist convicted on state secrets charges and imprisoned in China has been released and returned to America, a human rights group said. Xue Feng, who had been serving an eight-year sentence in Beijing No 2 prison, was immediately deported upon leaving jail, the US-based Dui Hua Foundation said in a release dated Friday. 

Chinese President's war on corruption finds its way to Brighton (April 6, 2015, The Age)
President Xi Jinping's "You Die, I Live" war against corruption seems a long way from the beachside cul-de-sacs of Brighton. But it has come right to the doorstep of Zheng Jiefu, an Australian resident property developer, who has been trapped in a mafia-style shakedown involving China's former deputy spy chief and the country's most wanted man. Mr Zheng's quandary is that he doesn't know whether the Mitsubishi four-wheel-drive that parked in front of his mansion last Wednesday night, and tailed him around Melbourne's bayside suburbs for two hours, was working for President Xi's corruption fighters or against them. 

What Did China’s First Daughter Find in America? (April 6, 2015, The New Yorker) 
For Chinese citizens, the effects of studying in the United States are rarely as simple as the cliché of coming home with wildly different ideas. Analyses of foreign students have found that Chinese citizens are more likely than others to stay in America.

Detained Chinese feminists now under investigation for rights campaigns (April 8, 2015, The Guardian) 
Chinese police are broadening their investigation into five detained women activists to focus on their campaigns against domestic violence and for more public toilets for women, their lawyers have said. The women were taken into custody just before International Women’s Day on March 8, and later detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, their lawyers said on Wednesday, a charge that carries a jail term of up to five years. 

Religion 

Tibet party boss says temples must be propaganda centers (April 3, 2015, Reuters) 
Buddhist temples and monasteries in Tibet must become propaganda centers for the ruling Communist Party, where monks and nuns learn to "revere" science and appreciate the party's love, the troubled region's top Chinese appointed official said. Rights groups and exiles say the officially atheist party tramples on Tibetans' religious and cultural traditions and seeks to co-opt religious figures for its own ends. 

The Spiritual Discipline of Perseverance (April 3, 2015, ChinaSource Blog)
Every spring, foreign English teachers across China wonder: should I switch schools and find a Foreign Affairs Officer who will be more supportive? Those directly involved with local Christian communities face similar choices: if no one here wants my training, then maybe I should move to a different city where Chinese believers will appreciate what I am offering. 

Easter in China: rebirth in a Tibetan Catholic village (April 5, 2015, South China Morning Post)
The Western image of Tibet is largely one of a vast plateau cradled between snow-capped mountains where peaceful Buddhists devote their lives to prayer and meditation. Yet this vision of the region does not do justice to the rich, diverse cultures of those who live there. This week as the Christian world celebrates Easter, a sizeable Tibetan community in China's far-flung west is also celebrating the resurrection of Christ. 

Space, Place, and Face: The Transformation of China’s Church (April 6, 2015, ChinaSource Blog)
As urbanization has redrawn the landscape of China, its effects have been far reaching, altering not only the physical geography but also the social fabric in multiple dimensions. China’s church is no exception. The same forces of urbanization that have driven widespread economic, cultural and demographic change have also left an indelible mark on Christianity in China. 

Chinese Government Should Protect Religious Liberty to Promote Desire for Social Peace (April 7, 2015, Huffington Post)
The PRC doesn't easily fit into the Western experience. However, one lesson clearly applies. The best way to minimize political confrontations between church and state is to reduce government restraints on religion. Christians have no unified view of politics, and that is as true in China as in America. But believers everywhere agree on the importance of being allowed to worship God. 

Is the Year of the Sheep Really Unlucky? (April 7, 2015, Chinese Church Voices) 
One of the superstitious beliefs about the Year of the Sheep is that it is an unlucky year, which means among other things, that it is best not to give birth to a child during this year. In this article from the online journal Territory, the writer delves into the history of this belief and how it is harmful to society. He also contrasts it with what the Bible says about the source of blessings in life, notions of child-rearing, and the nature of sheep. 

Society / Life 

For Chinese Migrant Workers, It Is Possible To Go Home Again (March 3, 2015, NPR) 
Over the past couple of decades, a river of labor poured out of China's interior to its coasts as hundreds of millions of people traded farm for factory. Most improved their lives, but they paid for it in other ways, leaving behind families for a sometimes lonely existence. These days, though, more and more factories are moving from the coast into China's countryside, creating an opportunity for more workers to come home — workers like Zhang Zhaojun, who left the mountains of Hubei province in central China in 2009. 

Chinese Taxi Drivers Drink Pesticide in Beijing Protest (April 4, 2015, The New York Times)
A group of taxi drivers drank from bottles of pesticide in central Beijing on Saturday to protest what they said was poor treatment by their taxi companies, state and social media outlets reported. At least 10 men, some of them frothing from the mouth, fell to the ground on a busy sidewalk at the Wangfujing shopping center about 11 a.m. after drinking the pesticide, according to the Beijing police force’s official microblog account. The men were rushed to nearby hospitals and all survived, the police said. 

China to step up urbanisation along Yangtze River (April 5, 2015, Reuters)
China's government released on Sunday a framework to develop sprawling urban areas along the Yangtze River as it moves forward with a decade-long ambition to turn the Chinese heartland into a major economic belt. Although no specific investment details were released, the State Council, China's cabinet, said on its website it would designate 317,000 square kilometres along the river to become urban areas, hosting transportation and energy projects. 

Killing in the heartland; heartbreak in China (April 6, 2015, CNN)
Like so many of today's Chinese youth, Tong was the product of Beijing's one-child policy. She had grown up the only child in a coastal city in northeastern China. Her mother and father were sold on the idea of sending their daughter to a bucolic setting in rural America. In central Iowa, they believed she would be safe. But last September, the 20-year-old college junior was found stuffed in the trunk of her car. Killed more than 6,500 miles from her home. Her body rotted in the heat for three weeks before the gruesome discovery. 

In China’s Inner Mongolia, mining spells misery for traditional herders (April 7, 2015, The Washington Post)
The vast, wind-swept grasslands of Inner Mongolia have been home to nomadic pastoralists for thousands of years, but the rich resources that lie under these rolling prairies have proved a curse to the people who have long called this land their home. A boom in mining and mineral industries has polluted the grasslands, marginalized herders and pushed them from their homes. Now, a fall in coal and gas prices could spell more pressure on government spending and more misery for herders. 

Broken Dreams: Ikea Bans Customers from In-Store Sleeping (April 8, 2015, The Beijinger) 
It is the end of an era; Ikea is finally fed up of scroungers coming to hang out at its stores and taking to napping wherever they bloody well please. According to the Beijing Youth Daily, Ikea is banning sleeping across the country's various stores. 

Thousands evacuated as China chemical fire reignites (April 8, 20145, BBC)
Thousands have been evacuated in the southern Chinese province of Fujian as a massive chemical oil fire reignited. At least 800 firefighters and 170 fire engines are at a chemical plant in the city of Zhangzhou. Firemen are battling the third in a series of blazes that began on Monday, when an oil leak caught fire and spread to nearby tanks. 

Sinica Podcast: Cyber Leninism and the political culture of the Chinese Internet (April 8, 2015, Pop-up Chinese)
Yesterday evening, Kaiser Kuo and David Moser were delighted to be joined in Popup Towers by Rogier Creemers, post-doctoral fellow at Oxford, author of the fantastic China copyright and media blog, and one of the most informed academics working on Chinese Internet governance. We've always enjoyed our previous chances to grill Rogier on his thoughts, and our discussion this week didn't disappoint either. 

Education 

Search for justice after China school abuse (April 6, 2015, BBC) 
Last December, a teacher at the school – a man named Li Jian – was sent to prison. For years, he had abused the Zhangs' son and several other teenage boys. We've changed the family's name to protect the boy's identity. 

China’s Dickensian Boarding Schools (April 6, 2015, Bloomberg) 
At a rural elementary school in a poor, mountainous region of Shaanxi province in China’s northwest, the 60-odd students, age 5 to 14, sit for their lessons in dirty, concrete-walled classrooms. Meals, cooked on wood-fired stoves, are spare; meat is a once-a-week extravagance. Eighteen boarders sleep in bunks in unheated rooms. 

Chinese Students in the U.S. (April 8, 2015, ChinaSource Blog)
The folks at Channel C have produced an interesting short film titled My “Foreign” Roommate: Muge and Katherine, about two roommates, one from China and one from the US, trying to figure each other out. 

Pleasing the emperor (April 8, 2015, Inside Story)
Chinese education, he argues, is authoritarian, measures success on the narrowest and most contentious of bases, and even in its own terms is a poor performer. “Only 10 per cent of [China’s] college graduates are deemed employable by multinational businesses,” he writes. Chinese students who come through this system “are good at solving existing problems in predictable ways, but not at coming up with radical new solutions or inventing new problems to solve.” 

Health / Environment 

China’s Healthcare System Plagued By ‘Unprofessional’ Doctors, Researchers Say (April 2, 2015, China Real Time) 
As China tries to overhaul its healthcare system, one issue that could undermine the process is its doctors’ lack of professionalism, according to an article published Wednesday in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.“There seems little question that the lack of a widely shared traditional of professionalism has complicated China’s efforts to create a healthcare workforce that its leaders and the public trust to do the right thing,” write the authors, David Blumenthal of the Commonwealth Fund and William Hsiao of Harvard University. 

History / Culture 

Ahead of Asia Society Texas Center Exhibition, a Brief History of Chinese American Immigration (March 26, 2015, Asia Society) 
This weekend marks the opening of The Other Side: Chinese and Mexican Immigration to America at Asia Society Texas Center. Through the works of six contemporary artists, the exhibition explores the complex issues of immigration through common threads of memory, history, identity, and humanity. For historical context in anticipation of the opening, here’s a look at the history and journey of Chinese immigration to the United States. 

WW1 Centenary – China on the Western Front Documentary (April 6, 2015, China Rhyming)
To chime with the ongoing remembrances of the centenary of the First World War here’s a link to a short documentary from the screenwriter and documentary maker Helen Fitzwilliam regarding Chinese labours (the Chinese Labour Corps) on the Western Front. 

Economics / Trade / Business 

Top 10 Jobs In China Besides Teaching English (April 2, 2015, The World of Chinese) 
Tired of not putting that hard-earned degree to some good use while drilling those little, snot-nosed 5-year-olds in the ABCs for the umpteenth time? You’ve learned enough Mandarin to be dangerous, and now you’re ready to play with the big kids in China, but you only have a liberal arts major with little in the way of work experience? Shelve that dream of being a high net worth expat or bigwig diplomat for now, such jobs are rare indeed, and require a lot of real work experience. The good news is that nowadays there are a ton of opportunities for Westerners in China, if you just learn to think out of the box a bit. 

China's War on Golf Courses (April 6, 2015, Bloomberg)
Last week, the Chinese government quietly went to war against golf — or, to be more specific, against golf courses. Two-thirds of the country's approximately 600 fairways were allegedly built in violation of a 2004 national moratorium, and Beijing is no longer willing to look the other way. On Wednesday, China's Ministry of Land and Resources shut down 66 illegally built courses nationwide, including three in Beijing. More closures could happen anytime. 

Wuhan’s drive to become China’s car city (April 6, 2015, The Guardian)
Wuhan, population 10 million, is a transport hub, and dreams of becoming the car city of the People’s Republic. The automobile industry represents 20% of the city’s economy, with 200,000 direct jobs and more than a million indirectly. 

From Pig Farmer to Math Teacher: Chasing Jobs in China (April 7, 2015, China Real Time) 
Foreigners continue to head to China in search of work. It may not be as easy as is used to be, say some foreigners, citing tighter visa policies, a rising class of well-trained local workers and a less-welcoming vibe in general. Still, hundreds of curious toe-dippers practiced their schmoozing skills at a job market for foreigners this weekend held at a posh hotel in Beijing. 

China Aims to Soothe Labor Unrest (April 8, 2015, China Real Time) 
As slowing growth fuels labor unrest in the world’s second-largest economy, China’s top leadership is pushing for greater efforts to foster harmony across its increasingly agitated workforce. 

Chinese Executives Start Taking Stands on Social Issues (April 8, 2015, China Real Time)
A handful of Chinese executives are raising their voices on social and political issues to burnish their reputations, an unusual move in a country that has long been hostile toward public debate. 

China to open 10 new air corridors to ease congestion -China Daily (April 8, 2015, Reuters) 
China plans to open 10 new air corridors to help ease chronic air traffic congestion and address the problem of frequent flight delays, the official China Daily said on Wednesday, citing a senior aviation official. 

Science / Technology 

Qinghai-Tibet railway to reach Nepal in 2020 (April 7, 2015, China Daily) 
China has announced that it will extend the Qinghai-Tibet railway to the border areas with Nepal within the next five years. The railway will stretch out for another 540 kilometers from Xigaze to Jilong county which sits on the border of China and Nepal. The announcement was made earlier this month during Neapalese President Ram Baran Yadav's visit to China. 

Entertainment / Sports 

China Escalates Hollywood Partnerships, Aiming to Compete One Day (April 5, 2015, The New York Times) 
No longer content simply to build movie sets and provide extras in Hollywood films, Chinese studios are moving up the value chain, helping to develop, design and produce world-class films and animated features. They want a bigger role in the creative process, one that will allow them to reap more rewards, financially and artistically. 

Liu Xiang: China's former Olympic 110m hurdles champion retires (April 7, 2015, BBC)
China's Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Liu Xiang, one of the country's biggest sports stars, has retired. The 31-year-old won the country's first Olympic men's athletics gold in the 110m hurdles in Athens in 2004 and added a world title in 2007. He also held the world record in 2006 with a time of 12.88 seconds. 

Travel / Food 

China for beginners: 7 first-timer fails to avoid on your trip to Beijing (March 25, 2015, Lonely Planet)
In a city as deafening as it is beguiling, it's all too easy to get frazzled on your first visit. Avoiding these seven common pitfalls will enhance your first Beijing experience no end. 

China to Start Keeping a List of Badly Behaved Tourists (April 8, 2015, China Real Time)
Chinese tourists behaving badly abroad are in for a shock when they return to the motherland. New measures announced this week by China’s national tourism authority mean that misdeeds by wayward Chinese vacationers will now be kept on record for a period of up to two years. According to the announcement, “tourist uncivilized behavior records” will be compiled for those travelers that behave in an unseemly manner—including getting into fights, defacing public property or historical relics, disrespecting social norms of the host nation, gambling or whoring. 

Language / Language Learning 

Podcast Ep. #9: Documenting An Endangered Language (April 6, 2015, Chengdu Living) 
John Van Way, a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii, sat down with Chengdu Living to talk about Nyarong Minyag, the endangered language he has spent the last year researching and documenting. 

The new paperless revolution in Chinese reading (April 8, 2015, Hacking Chinese)
The Chinese may have invented Chinese characters and paper, but it’s time to separate the two. Don’t get me wrong; I have a deep nostalgic love for ink on paper, but who has a leisurely hour to devote to one lousy page of text? There’s an amazing arsenal of new Chinese character processing technology out there, and it’s time we made full use it. The plethora of smart phone apps, web browser extensions, digital dictionaries and Chinese character processing devices that students are now using – or should be using – every day have totally revolutionized the previously Sisyphean task of reading in Chinese. By abandoning paper, the new digital technology finally makes it possible for the student to jump into the ocean of Chinese characters without the risk of drowning.

Books 

Q. and A.: Michael Schuman on the Return of Confucianism in China (April 2, 2015, The New York Times) 
Yet writing “Confucius and the World He Created” was somewhat of a departure for Mr. Schuman, who has spent most of his journalism career reporting on business and economics. In an interview, he explained why he wrote his book, his ideas about Confucius and how those relate to the Communist Party: 

Muslim, Trader, Nomad, Spy: China’s Cold War and the People of the Tibetan Borderlands (April 2, 2015, China File)
In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Lhasa, leaving the People's Republic of China with a crisis on its Tibetan frontier. Sulmaan Wasif Khan tells the story of the PRC's response to that crisis and, in doing so, brings to life an extraordinary cast of characters: Chinese diplomats appalled by sky burials, Guomindang spies working with Tibetans in Nepal, traders carrying salt across the Himalayas, and Tibetan Muslims rioting in Lhasa.  

Q. and A.: Ha Jin on Patriotism, Exile and ‘A Map of Betrayal’ (April 3, 2015, Sinosphere)
Ha Jin‘s latest novel, “A Map of Betrayal,” tells the story of Shang Weimin, a Chinese mole within the C.I.A. He adopts the name Gary, becomes a United States citizen and, unable to return to his wife in China, starts a family with an American woman. When his identity is finally uncovered, China does nothing to save him. Gary takes his own life in his prison cell. 

A Review: The Politics Of Law And Stability In China (April 7, 2015, Contemporary China)
Not all of the editors and authors are trained lawyers or legal academics, but the stance of the book is consistent: as a whole, it suggests that stronger enforcement of existing Chinese law, and a greater emphasis on legal principles (not only the elusive “rule of law”, but also more rigorous training and supervision of legal professionals) would benefit Chinese citizens. 

Review: China's ghost towns (April 2015, Chatham House) 
In contrast to common doom-and-gloom portrayals, Shepard argues in his book that China’s new and empty cities are only temporary phenomena: they are built from scratch and are frequently still under construction when identified as ‘ghost cities’ by the West; they await occupation. Because of a number of China-specific processes of finance, building and development, China’s ghost cities are places that can sit idle for up to a decade.  

Articles for Researchers 

The Trouble with Factions (March 19, 2015, China Leadership Monitor) 
Recent Politburo discussion of the problem of factions in the Chinese Communist Party prompts assessment of the characteristics and conduct of factionalism in contemporary PRC leadership politics. This article offers a critique of how factional politics has been portrayed in analysis of leadership politics under Xi Jinping. 

Articles in Chinese 

中国基督教:以国家主权与宗教信仰自由权作为理解的框架 (April 3, 2015, Pacific Institute for Social Sciences) 

Image credit: Harbin Synagogue, by Ross Pollack, 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