ZGBriefs | August 1, 2019

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Featured Article

Redeeming China’s sweatshops: Christianity and migrant factory workers in Shenzhen (July 31, 2019, Asia Dialogue)
The culture of Christianity, such as fellowships, Bible study classes, choir and Christmas celebrations, is increasingly popular among rural migrant workers, as it not only fulfils their spiritual needs but also provides an opportunity for leisure, relaxation and entertainment beyond the highly exploitative labour regime.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Australia warns diplomats after China praises 'patriotic' clashes with pro-Hong Kong protesters (July 26, 2019, The Guardian)
It came after a Chinese diplomat backed the “patriotic behaviour” of Chinese students who clashed with pro-Hong Kong protesters at the University of Queensland this week. Payne said the right to free speech and to peaceful and lawful protest was protected in Australia, even on contentious and sensitive issues.

China’s first ‘cyber-dissident’ jailed for 12 years (July 29, 2019, The Guardian)
China’s first “cyber-dissident”, whose website reported on sensitive topics including human rights, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for leaking state secrets. Huang Qi ran a website called 64 Tianwang – named after the bloody 4 June 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protesters.

Beijing Calls on Hong Kong to Punish 'Radical' Anti-Government Protesters (July 29, 2019, Radio Free Asia)
He said the ruling Chinese Communist Party wouldn't tolerate any actions that threatened China's sovereignty, including "foreign forces" who tried to use Hong Kong as a way to interfere in China's internal affairs.

How China Lost Hong Kong (July 29, 2019, Foreign Policy)
Hong Kong has been stuck in an ongoing stalemate with Beijing’s attempts to stifle dissent and suppress the city, followed by outbursts of popular protest in a seemingly endless cycle. It is a status quo that pleases nobody. 

Doubt Greets China’s Claim That Muslims Have Been Released From Camps (July 30, 2019, The New York Times)
Chinese officials said Tuesday that most of the inmates in re-education camps for Muslim minorities — a vast network of detention centers estimated to have held one million people or more — have been released. But the United States, experts on Chinese policies, and ethnic Uighur Muslims abroad quickly contested the claim.

Taiwan responds to Beijing’s military exercises with drill of its own (July 30, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Taiwan responded to Beijing’s military drill targeting the self-ruled island by deploying its most advanced fighter jets and firing 117 medium and long-range missiles on Monday and Tuesday. Defence ministry spokesman Lee Chao-ming said the missiles were fired from the Jiupeng military base to waters off eastern Taiwan, with a range of 250km (155 miles), in an exercise covering five types of training for the island’s forces.

Hong Kong Charges Dozens Of Protesters With Rioting (July 31, 2019, NPR)
Hong Kong is charging 44 protesters with rioting in connection with a demonstration that turned violent on Sunday. If found guilty, they reportedly could face up to 10 years in jail. Demonstrators marched from a park in Hong Kong's central business district to the Chinese government's Liaison Office, where the peaceful protest turned into a confrontation between demonstrators and the police.

Hong Kong protesters hurt in drive-by fireworks attack (July 31, 2019, BBC)
At least 10 people were injured when fireworks were shot from a moving car into a crowd of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. Video on social media showed people running for cover as fiery trails were shot towards them outside a police station in Tin Shui Wai district.

Hong Kong protests: 'I'm in Australia but I feel censored by Chinese students' (July 31, 2019, BBC)
At the University of Queensland, the tensions spilled over into violent clashes last week, when a group staging a support rally for the Hong Kong demonstrators were confronted by pro-Beijing protesters. Hundreds of protesters faced off against each other, yelling insults and abuse as the Chinese national anthem was blasted from a speaker.

Mike Pompeo rebukes China’s ‘ludicrous’ claim US is behind Hong Kong protests (July 31, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Pompeo rebuked Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, who had claimed violent clashes in the city prompted by opposition to the Hong Kong government’s controversial extradition bill were “the work of the US”. “I think the protests are solely the responsibility of the people of Hong Kong, and I think they are the ones that are demanding that their government listen to them and hear their voices,” Pompeo said late on Tuesday.

‘Communism Is A Faith’ (July 31, 2019, Sup China)
90 million people are officially members of the Chinese Communist Party. Why have they chosen to take the pledge? And what about those who don’t?

The Asian Century Is Over (July 31, 2019, Foreign Policy)
U.S. policymakers bet that China’s economic modernization and peaceful rise would lead to an era of global prosperity and cooperation. That was wrong.

China to stop issuing individual travel permits to Taiwan (July 31, 2019, BBC)
The country's tourism ministry said its decision, in effect from Thursday, was spurred by "the current cross-strait situation".Solo travellers from 47 cities - including Beijing and Shanghai - have been able to visit since 2011.

China mobilises 190,000 police officers to prepare for 70th anniversary celebrations (July 31, 2019, South China Morning Post)
The exercise was staged in Guangdong province and involved armoured vehicles and helicopters, state news agency Xinhua reported. […]  The location and scale of the exercise led to concerns that Beijing was preparing for action in Hong Kong, after opposition to a now suspended extradition bill led to violent protests.

Hong Kong protests: China military breaks silence to warn unrest should not be tolerated (July 31, 2019, The Guardian)
The head of the Chinese army in Hong Kong has spoken on the protests for the first time, saying the unrest has “seriously threatened the life and safety” of the people and should not be tolerated. The commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) garrison in Hong Kong warned it was “determined to protect national sovereignty, security, stability and the prosperity of Hong Kong”.


Chinese Church Music: Holy, Holy, Holy (July 26, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
During the eight years that I lived in Changchun, every single Sunday morning the first hymn we sang was hymn #1 in the hymnal: “Holy, Holy, Holy! The Lord God Almighty.” In the Three-self churches that I attended in Beijing, it was also sung a lot, although not every Sunday. It remains one of the most well-known and well-loved hymns in China.

Large-Scale Demolition Begins at Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist Center (July 27, 2019, Radio Free Asia)
Authorities in western China’s Sichuan province have begun a campaign of large-scale demolition at the Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist center, with Chinese work crews tearing down over a hundred dwellings of nuns evicted from the complex in recent weeks, Tibetan sources say.

Media coverage of gods in China under an atheist regime (July 29, 2019, Asia Dialogue)
In general, the CCP and the government treat religion as a sensitive issue in relation to social stability, and multiple orders have been issued to prohibit the publication of any content that hurts the feelings of followers of different religions.

China's Earliest Known Hymn (July 30, 2019, Chinese Church Voices)
Hymns and Christian worship have a long and rich history in China. This article from Gospel Times details the first known hymn in China, dating from Nestorian missionaries during the Tang dynasty. 

Chinese Muslims in Dubai and the ‘Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation’ (July30, 2019, Religion and Global Society)
In a time of rising Chinese influence in the Gulf, and mass persecution of Muslims in China, this community is simultaneously precarious and of huge strategic importance to Beijing.

Shrewd as Serpents amid Sinicization (July 31, 2019, Jackson Wu)
This post gives a few miscellaneous updates concerning the government’s efforts to “sinicize” the Chinese church. As I’ve noted before […] “sinicization” is a communist code word for propagating socialism in and through the church. I then highlight how one church responded with godly discernment to official edicts that would compromise their Christian witness.

Sign of the times: China's capital orders Arabic, Muslim symbols taken down (July 31, 2019, Reuters)
Authorities in the Chinese capital have ordered halal restaurants and food stalls to remove Arabic script and symbols associated with Islam from their signs, part of an expanding national effort to “Sinicize” its Muslim population.

Society / Life

Something Old, Something New in China’s ‘Pre-Wedding Photos’ (July 25, 2019, Sixth Tone)
Australian filmmaker Olivia Martin-McGuire shares her thoughts on love and marriage in a country saying “I do” to lavish photoshoots.

China’s growth being held back by restrictive resident registration system, urbanisation expert says (July 25, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Shanghai’s disappointing economic growth at the start of 2019 is a warning to other large Chinese cities that they need to rethink their population control mechanisms and speed up the liberalisation of labour movement, said Lu Ming, a prominent Chinese professor of urbanisation.

The Fast and Frustrating Lives of China’s Food Delivery Drivers (July 25, 2019, Sixth Tone)
When asked what attracted them to the delivery industry, nearly half of the drivers answered “freedom” — the ability to set their own schedules. But it’s unclear whether the gig economy is truly freeing, or whether it simply replaces one form of exploitation with another. 

What Role Will Intellectuals Play in China’s Future? (July 31, 2019, China File)
As we commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of China’s 1989 democracy movement, it is hard to imagine students and intellectuals playing a similar role today. In China’s highly marketized and politically controlled society, the space for intellectual inquiry and public intervention seems to have dwindled almost to the point of disappearing.

Economics / Trade / Business

How the state runs business in China (July 25, 2019, The Guardian)
Much of modern China’s epic growth was driven by private enterprise – but under Xi Jinping, the Communist party has returned to being the ultimate authority in business as well as politics. 

China Needs New Places to Sell Its Mountain of Stuff (July 26, 2019, The New York Times)
China has too many factories making too many goods. Thanks to its punishing trade war with the United States, its biggest overseas customer isn’t buying like before. So China is seeking new customers. They could prove to be a hard sell.

Is China putting Africa on the debt-trap express? (July 30, 2019, Inkstone News)
Critics say African countries are being burdened with unrealistic levels of debt for unviable projects backed and built by China without adequate transparency and scrutiny. But Chinese observers say the West must take some of the blame for debt problems in African countries in the first place and that the help China offers will pay off in the long run.

U.S., China to keep talking on trade after little progress in Shanghai (July 30, 2019, Reuters)
U.S. and Chinese negotiators ended a brief round of trade talks on Wednesday with little sign of progress and agreed to meet again in September, prolonging an uneasy truce in a year-long trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

'We may lose Christmas': escalating Hong Kong protests taking bigger toll on shops, economy (July 30, 2019, Reuters)
Months of increasingly violent protests in Hong Kong are taking a growing toll on the city’s economy, weighing on confidence and scaring away tourists from one of the world’s most vibrant shopping destinations.


Government to assess regulation of Chinese influence at universities (July 25, 2019, The Guardian)
The attorney-general’s department will probe whether Confucius Institutes at Australian universities require registration as a source of foreign influence after revelations about the extent of Chinese control of teaching standards.

My Kafkaesque Experience as an International Student in China (July 27, 2019, Sixth Tone)
Despite a push to create an ‘international brand for Chinese education,’ the country’s universities remain a bureaucratic nightmare for international students.

China Bans Irrelevant ‘Internships’ To Curb Student Exploitation (July 31, 2019, Sixth Tone)
In a bid to end exploitation by employers, a new guideline prohibits schools from assigning internships that are unrelated to students’ majors.

Health / Environment

Shedding Light on China’s Patients With Rare Diseases  (July 26, 2019, Sixth Tone)
The country has expanded its list of recognized rare conditions. But the struggle for proper care remains untreated.

Science / Technology

How The West Got China's Social Credit System Wrong (July 28, 2019, Wired)
With just over a year to go until the government’s self-imposed deadline for establishing the laws and regulations governing social credit, Chinese legal researchers say the system is far from the cutting-edge, Big Brother apparatus portrayed in the West’s popular imagination.

History / Culture

How An 8th-Century Jewish Text Ended Up In A Buddhist Cave Temple In China (July 9, 2019, Forward)
Hebrew was just one of the many languages and scripts used by those who passed through the area that ended up preserved in the nearby religious complex.

Travel / Food

The Hutong of Beijing: Ancient Places Tied to Chinese Tradition (July 26, 2019, Sapore di Cina)
If it’s your first time in Beijing and you’ve never heard of the Hutong, or are familiar with them but only from what you’ve heard, you need to take a pen and paper and write down which are the top 5 Hutong in Beijing that you can’t miss.

Things to do in Suzhou, China - The Venice of the East(July 28, 2019, Planet D, via YouTube)
The very best things to do in Suzhou China. Known as the Venice of the East, Suzhou is more than just a day trip from Shanghai or Beijing. Dave and Deb of The Planet D spent 6 days exploring the city. 

Beyond spicy: the little-known side of Sichuan cuisine (July 30, 2019, Inkstone News)
Sichuan cuisine is one of the eight great cuisines of China and is famous for its fiery dishes. But Dunlop says it’s a common misconception that the cuisine focuses only on heat.

The world's first cross-border cable car will travel from Russia to China in under 8 minutes (July 30, 2019, CNN)
Traveling between Russia and China is about to get a lot more scenic. The world's first cross-border cable car is coming, giving passengers a unique perspective of the two countries below. The cable car will run between Heihe in northeast China and Blagoveshchensk in Russia, carrying passengers over the Amur River to give them a birds eye view of the water -- often frozen over during winter -- and the cities on either side.

Language / Language Learning

Study Chinese in Chengdu – Best Private Schools and Universities (August 1, 2019, Sapore di Cina)
Tuition fees are also lower. Sure, Chengdu doesn’t have as many top schools compared to the biggest cities, but that’s not really a problem if you study Chinese.

Living Cross-culturally

Challenged by Different Ways of Seeing (July 29, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
Online virtual meetings are especially difficult in cross-cultural settings, as it’s harder to see how others respond—what they expect and react to. Much depends on personality and the issues at hand, but in general Asian coworkers are often quieter.

How Foreigners Can Claim Social Insurance Payments When Leaving China (July 30, 2019, China Briefing)
Foreigners can participate in China’s social insurance scheme. China Briefing explains how foreigners can claim their social insurance payments when they leave the country.


From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao: A Book Review (July 31, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
Christian ministers to Chinese ought to reflectively consider how they present the Christian deity when sharing the gospel. 

Image credit: by Steve Jurvetson, 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