ZGBriefs | August 31, 2023

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Measuring Religion in China: Christianity (August 30, 2023, Pew Research Center)
There is a range of estimates for the number of Christians in China, partly because different researchers use varying sources and methods, and partly because some analyses make adjustments to account for limitations in survey and government data.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China Mobilizes BRICS Media In Praise Of Xi (August 24, 2023, China Digital Times)

In only his second trip abroad this year, Xi Jinping attended this week’s BRICS summit in South Africa in the hope of scoring a major political victory. The five-member group—comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—announced at the end of the summit on Thursday that it would add six new members as of January 2024: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Xi argued that the “historic” membership expansion “shows the determination of BRICS countries for unity and cooperation with the broader developing countries.”

China’s post-reform era has arrived — and its future is unclear (August 29, 2023, Axios)
The period of economic and political opening that transformed China over the past 50 years is now over, a growing number of experts say. What the next 50 years will look like isn’t yet clear. Instead of reforming China to fit Western-led global institutions, Chinese leaders now aim to reshape the world in Beijing’s image, forcing the U.S. and other countries to scramble to reassert influence.

China’s many projects in Zimbabwe, its ‘all-weather friend’ (August 29, 2023, The China Project)
Zimbabwe is one of only 14 countries China considers an “all-weather friend.” Former president Robert Mugabe went further, describing China in 2006 as “our second home…a part of us.”

What Does Xi Jinping Mean by Forever? (August 30, 2023, China Media Project)
During a dialogue with African leaders and ministers on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg on Thursday last week, Xi Jinping to support local industrialization in developing nations in Africa. As this news was reported in party-state media back home, the stress was on the Chinese leader’s language about China’s “developing nation” status. “China has always shared the fate of developing nations,” said Xi. “It has been, is now, and will forever be a member of the developing world!”

China ‘proactively building’ image as Central Asian media bosses taken on Xinjiang tour  (August 30, 2023, South China Morning Post)
China is “proactively building” the image of Xinjiang in Central Asia, an observer said, as authorities in the western Chinese region hosted media bosses from four former Soviet republics with deep cultural and historical connections to it. The heads of 21 media organisations from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan arrived in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi on Thursday for a week-long visit organised by regional authorities, Chinese state media reported over the weekend.

The London art student whose Chinese political slogan mural caused a storm (August 30, 2023, The Guardian)
The artwork – which spelled out the Chinese government’s “socialist core values”, including the words prosperity, democracy and freedom – was designed to be a “silent reminder of the oppression of thought, press freedom and free speech that is still rampant in China in 2023”, the artists said.

Who Wants to Talk? Communication Difficulties Constrain Japan-China Relations (August 30, 2023, The Diplomat)
In the face of increasing Chinese and Russian airspace incursions, Tokyo needs to find a way to communicate its concern both assertively and effectively.


A Taiwanese Chip Maker Came to Phoenix. A Chinese Church Saw an Opportunity. (August 24, 2023, Christianity Today) (subscription required)
n 2020, Michael Lin learned that the world’s largest contract manufacturer of semiconductor chips was building a massive production hub nine miles north of his church. As the pastor of a Chinese church in Phoenix, he saw the arrival of the Taiwanese multinational as God “dropping a harvest field right at our front door.” He just hoped they would be ready.

Love In Action (August 28, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Living out 1 John 3:18, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (NIV) can bear peacemaking fruit in our relationships. Thankfully, God loves us with actions and in truth whether we are at odds with him or not. Investing in a relationship with someone we are at odds with, assuming it is not an abusive relationship, can reflect that same type of love and have significant impact.

The Chinese Church Does Missions (2): Beyond China (August 30, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
In this fifth and final session of ChinaSource summer school, we turn toward the Chinese believers who are called to go out and share the gospel cross-culturally. While they may draw on the methods and missiology of Western workers, they also must face unique challenges and develop unique answers and methods to their circumstances. 

Have China’s Christians Peaked? Pew Researches the Data Debate (August 30, 2023, Christianity Today) (subscription required)
Christianity’s growth in China has stalled since 2010. That’s according to a new Pew Research Center report measuring religion in China published today. In 2010, approximately 23.2 million adults in China self-identified as Christian. In 2018, 19.9 million adults did so, which Pew researchers say is not a “statistically significant gap.”

The Hungry Dead and the Envoys of Hell: China’s Ghost Festival (August 30, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Costumed parades in the street, spectral drawings, and religious ceremonies illustrate how the Chinese celebrate Ghost Festival.

As Ghost Month starts in China, officials ban burnt offerings (August 30, 2023, Radio Free Asia)
Local governments across China have been clamping down on the country’s folk religion, issuing bans on the burning of spirit money and other offerings during the Hungry Ghost Festival, and calling the practice “uncivilized.”

Disengaging with China not credible, says James Cleverly (August 30, 2023, BBC)
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has defended talks with Chinese officials in Beijing, telling the BBC it would not be “credible” to disengage. After meeting China’s vice president, Mr Cleverly said the trip, the first by such a senior UK figure in five years, would help avoid “mistrust and errors”. But ahead of his visit, some UK MPs attacked the government’s approach to China as “incoherent”. In recent years, UK-China relations have deteriorated.

Society / Life

What Exactly Is the ‘Dongbei Renaissance’? (August 26, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Four commentators on how — and why — the country’s northeastern rust belt reached the forefront of Chinese pop culture.

Chinese county offers ‘cash reward’ for couples if bride is aged 25 or younger (August 28, 2023, Reuters)
A county in eastern China is offering couples a “reward” of 1,000 yuan ($137) if the bride is aged 25 or younger, the latest measure to incentivise young people to get married amid rising concern over a declining birth rate. The notice, which was published on Changshan county’s official Wechat account last week, said the reward was to promote “age-appropriate marriage and childbearing” for first marriages. It also included a series of childcare, fertility and education subsidies for couples who have children.

China Is Closing in on Itself (August 30, 2023, Foreign Policy)
The absence of foreigners in the country is a symptom of China’s restrictive, security-driven view of the world.

Economics / Trade / Business

US companies in China struggle with raids, slow deal approvals, anti-espionage law (August 29, 2023, Reuters)
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Tuesday that U.S. companies have complained to her that China has become “uninvestible,” pointing to fines, raids and other actions that have made it risky to do business in the world’s second-largest economy.

Chinese banks to cut existing mortgage rates as property crisis deepens (August 29, 2023, Reuters)
 Some Chinese state-owned banks will soon lower interest rates on existing mortgages, three sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday, as Beijing ramps up efforts to revive the debt crisis-hit property sector and bolster a sputtering economy. The quantum of the cut on existing mortgages, which, if implemented, will be the first such move in China since the global financial crisis, would be different for different types of clients and in different cities, said the sources.


Why fewer university students are studying Mandarin (August 24, 2023, The Economist) (subscription required)
Good numbers are tough to come by in some countries, but the trend is clear among university students in the English-speaking world. In America, for example, the number taking Mandarin courses peaked around 2013. From 2016 to 2020 enrolment in such courses fell by 21%, according to the Modern Language Association, which promotes language study.

China Mulls Revoking Degrees of Students Caught Using AI (August 29, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Authorities in China are proposing to revoke students’ diplomas if they use artificial intelligence tools to help write their dissertations, in response to growing concerns over academic fraud as AI becomes more popular in the country. The move is the latest regulatory effort to rein in the emerging technology, after China’s first-ever rules governing generative AI came into effect earlier this month. 

Travel / Food

A Journey to Kaifeng: China’s Other Ancient Capital (August 26, 2023, The Beijinger)
Today, home to just over 1 million people, this city in China’s central Henan province was once the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). Thanks to it being situated near the Yellow River and four major canal systems, Kaifeng was a successful commercial metropolis during the Song, home to a great many diverse communities, including China’s only ethnic Chinese Jewish community.

Pray for China

September 1 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Sept. 1, 1901, Norwegian missionary Marie Monsen (孟玛丽) first arrived in China. In 1927, she was leading a Bible class for sixteen Chinese women, and the teaching led to unprecedented confessions about female infanticide. From this experience, God used Marie as a catalyst for a revival largely led by Chinese lay leaders that swept through Shandong in the early 1930s. Pray for Christians burdened by unconfessed abortions to repent and see the Lord use their healing to bring revival. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23:28-31

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Image credit: Joann Pittman
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