ZGBriefs | August 23, 2018

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Featured Article

The Farmer Who Changed China Forever (August 21, 2018, Sixth Tone)
In 1978, Yan Hongchang was 29 years old and the father of four hungry children. He knew that the system wasn’t working. If Xiaogang’s residents were going to get out of poverty, he thought, they couldn’t rely on state planning to achieve it. They had to do it themselves.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China has a new message for the U.S.: Don’t be alarmed, we’re not that great. (August 16, 2018, The Washington Post)
In the past several months, Beijing has urged its officials and party outlets to tamp down the swagger about China’s economic strength. Rather than behemoth, Beijing has begun to pitch itself as a humble helper, an aide to countries in need.

How To Fight China’s Sharp Power -- A ChinaFile Conversation (August 20, 2018, China File)
There is a debate raging about China’s “sharp power” and how to defend against it, whether it’s investment screening, shuttering Confucius institutes, or forcing visa reciprocity for journalists. But how does a fractious, divided world not only resist Beijing’s sharp power but also find ways to constructively engage with China?

United States ‘plays Taiwan card’ with Tsai Ing-wen’s trip to Nasa’s mission control centre (August 20, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Tsai became the first Taiwanese president to visit the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, on Sunday, touring a facility off limits to a series of leading space scientists from mainland China because of espionage fears.

Video: Palau Caught up in China-Taiwan Tug-of-War(August 20, Reuters TV)

Taiwan vows to stand up to China after El Salvador cuts ties (August 21, 2018, The Guardian)
The latest diplomatic switch leaves Taiwan further isolated on the international stage. Beijing claims that Taiwan, which operates under its own government, currency, and military, is an inseparable part of China and says it will not maintain ties with any country that has formal diplomatic ties with Taipei.

‘Unify minds’: President Xi Jinping makes ideological rallying call to China’s Communist Party propaganda cadres (August 22, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Chinese President Xi Jinping has issued a rallying call for Communist Party cadres in charge of propaganda and ideology to close ranks around the “party core” as Beijing faces an escalating trade war with the United States and clearer pushback at home.


In 35 years, this pastor has never had a day off (August 16, 2018, Eternity News)
While Houston’s Hillsong network sees about 40,000 people attend one of the 82 weekly church services across 30 locations in Australia, Liu cares for close to 45,000 Christians worshipping in 40 churches across the Jiangsu province.

ISM in Reverse in China? (August 17, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
So what is “ISM in reverse?” We know of “ministry to international students.” But what if international students themselves were the ones sharing with their fellow students, many from unreached cultures? This is “ISM in reverse” – international students doing this ministry to reach the nations.

‘Foreign forces’ can’t control religion, Chinese official says amid Vatican talks (August 18, 2018, South China Morning Post)
After Pope Francis voiced optimism over improving ties in June, top official writes in party journal that China must remain in charge on religious matters.

The Gospel for This Generation (August 21, 2018, Chinese Church Voices)
This past June, Chinese social media erupted with coverage on the disturbing suicide of a 19-year-old girl in Gansu province. What made the incident even more tragic is that while she was still standing on the building, onlookers below urged her to jump. Social media was awash with assessments of how this tragic incident could occur in Chinese society today. 

Society / Life

The Shopping App That Unveiled China’s Social Divisions (August 16, 2018, Sixth Tone)
For people like Zhang and her husband, time is in abundance, but money is in short supply. And that’s where Pinduoduo comes in.

China’s ‘post-millennial’ generation is different. Here’s how (August 17, 2018, South China Morning Post)
The generation driving the explosive growth in short-video and live-streaming apps is more willing to pay for online content and services, and more open to making a living off the internet.

China’s Proposed ‘No Child Tax’ Stirs Controversy: “First Forced Abortions, Now Pressured Into Pregnancy” (August 18, 2018, What’s on Weibo)
A recent article, in which two Chinese academics propose the implementation of some sort of ‘tax’ for people under 40 who have no second child, has sparked outrage on social media. 

How China’s Middle-Class Moms Became Their Kids’ ‘Agents’ (August 21, 2018, Sixth Tone)
For many middle-class moms, their responsibilities have expanded so rapidly that they have more or less become their children’s agents, representing their kids’ educational interests in a hyper-competitive world.

(Op-Ed) Not All About the Money: Why the One Child Generation Aren’t Keen on Having More Babies  (August 21, 2018, What’s on Weibo)
China’s quest for more babies is a hot topic in the media recently. News reports generally explain the country’s declining birth rates through an economic lens. But by ignoring the social and historical background that has shaped the ways Chinese young parents think about family life today, they miss the essential point.

Six Stereotypes by Country (August 21, 2018, The World of Chinese)
Often stereotyping themselves by region, Chinese are also adept at forming dubiously sourced, insulting, or just plain bizarre impressions across national borders.

China's Xi says internet must be 'clean and righteous' (August 22, 2018, Reuters)
Speaking at a two-day meeting, attended by officials from major state media outlets and the internet regulator, Xi said propaganda efforts needed to be put front and center, the official Xinhua news agency said. “Uphold a clean and righteous internet space,” the report cited Xi as saying.

China now has 802 million Internet users: report (August 22, 2018, Asia Times)
As of June 2018, the number of Internet users in China reached 802 million, with a penetration rate of 57.7%, Economic Dailyreported. The number of mobile Internet users in China reached 788 million, and the proportion of Internet users accessing the Internet through mobile phones was as high as 98.3%.

Economics / Trade / Business

China Trademark Theft. It’s Baaaaaack in a Big Way (August 16, 2018, China Law Blog)
Our China trademark lawyers have been getting so many trademark theft calls of late that they now have a somewhat formulaic email response to those. 

Two U.S. airlines cut China routes as state-backed rivals turn up heat (August 21, 2018, Reuters)
American Airlines,the largest U.S. carrier by passengers, said it would drop a route between Chicago and Shanghai, canceling the second direct flight from the U.S. city to China in four months. 

China’s global currency aspirations are falling fast (August 22, 2018, East Asia Forum)
Over the past few months, the Chinese renminbi has been on a constant downward spiral, falling to a 13-month low against the US dollar. The ongoing dip is causing considerable concern among China’s leaders against the backdrop of a worsening tariff dispute between China and the United States.

Health / Environment

China Fires 10 Officials Over Bad Vaccines as Anger Mounts (August 17, 2018, The New York Times)
he Chinese leadership, bowing to immense public pressure, has fired 10 officials and punished dozens more in connection with a scandal over faulty vaccines that has undermined President Xi Jinping and fueled parent protests.

China hit by third Africa swine fever outbreak this month (August 19, 2018, South China Morning Post)
China’s Ministry of Agriculture said on Sunday 88 pigs had died from African swine fever in the eastern city of Lianyungang, the third outbreak this month, as the highly contagious disease threatened to spread through the world’s largest pork producer.

Science / Technology

How WeChat became China’s everyday mobile app (August 16, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Tencent has frequently added innovations to WeChat, designed to drive growth and loyalty, the latest being mini programs.

Google staff protest against plan for censored Chinese search engine (August 16, 2018, The Guardian)
More than 1,000 Google employees have signed a letter protesting against the company’s secretive plan to build a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship.

Who needs democracy when you have data? (August 20, 2018, Technology Review)
Instead, his strategy for understanding and responding to what is going on in a nation of 1.4 billion relies on a combination of surveillance, AI, and big data to monitor people’s lives and behavior in minute detail.

History / Culture

The Last Guardians of China’s Women-Only Script (April 22, 2018, Sixth Tone)
In remote Jiangyong County, the script has been passed down from mother to daughter, elder to younger, for hundreds of years.

First Foreign Students Join Peking Opera ‘Immersion Program’ (August 22, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Princeton University undergraduate Kathy Zhang has spent three years poring over classics textbooks, but on Monday morning, she started a class of a different kind: Peking opera.

Photo: Young girls with bound feet in 1930s China.(August 22, 2018, Manya Koetse, via Twitter)

Travel / Food

The Chinese-Born Doctor Who Brought Tofu to America (August 13, 2018, Smithsonian)
The particular lab McDougal was visiting focused on a promising meat alternative—tofu—and was overseen by a scientist named Dr. Yamei Kin, dressed that day in a blue kimono and white apron.

How to travel by bicycle in China: The complete guide (August 17, 2018, Sapore di Cina)

Meet the Foodies Changing the Way Foreigners See Chinese Food (August 20, 2018, Sixth Tone)
When Chinese food first appeared in the U.S. centuries ago, it was forced to adapt to survive — losing much of its unique and traditional flavor in the process. But things are finally starting to change.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Three stories, one film and a big picture of the class divide in China (August 17, 2018, South China Morning Post)
The wide-ranging attitudes to a university education are just one of a series of differences exposed in a new cinematic examination of China’s social class system by documentary director Cherelle Zheng Qiong.

What Do “Low-Quality People” Watch on Tv? (August 20, 2018, China Media Project)“Those who don’t watch Xinwen Lianbo are generally low-quality people. They don’t need to know the major things happening in the country, and they aren’t capable of doing great things. People in China who do great things must watch Xinwen Lianbo.”

An Asian American in the Diaspora in an age of Crazy Rich Asians (August 21, 2018, Alexander Chow)
Yet I find myself in an odd position given that I am an Asian American in the diaspora. I cannot partake in the same way in the excitement and the debates and the healing. I can only watch and wonder from the distance.

Here are the Chinese Projects That Made the World Architecture Festival 2018 Shortlist (August 21, 2018, Radii China)
There’s also a whole load of China-related entries — both projects by Chinese firms and initiatives built/being built in the country. 

BuzzFeed’s Megha Rajagopalan Denied Visa (August 22, 2018, China Digital Times)
American journalist Megha Rajagopalan—who has been a China-based correspondent for the past six years, formerly for Reuters News Agency and since 2016 for BuzzFeed—announced yesterday on Twitter that she would no longer be reporting from China, as the Foreign Ministry declined to issue her a new visa.


12 Best Chinese Contemporary Fiction Books (August 16, 2018, LA Times China Channel)
We begin with the fiction, focusing on contemporary fare from the last decades, to better give a feel for modern China through its novels. The list is selective and subjective, and partly determined by what is available in translation.

Links for Researchers

“Thugs-for-Hire”: Subcontracting of State Coercion and State Capacity in China (April 6, 2018, Cambridge University Press)
Using violence or threat of violence, “thugs-for-hire” (TFH) is a form of privatized coercion that helps states subjugate a recalcitrant population.

Image credit: by foxjfj, 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