ZGBriefs | December 14, 2023

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Podcast: Full time children or half dead: China’s Gen Z goes to ground (December 13, 2023, Little Red Podcast
Every generation in modern China has been richer and more ambitious than the one before—until Gen Z. With youth unemployment so high that the government has simply stopped reporting the figures, many are opting to lie flat, slump down dead, or even become full-time children. The Party frets that despite the best efforts of the propaganda organs to get them excited about a tech-driven utopian future, China’s young people seem to have lost their work ethic. 

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Podcast: Politico’s Rendering of a Xi ‘Purge’; Finance with Chinese Characteristics; Moody’s Works from Home; Secretary Raimondo Warns Chip Companies (December 8, 2023, Sharp China)
On today’s show Andrew and Bill begin by parsing the claims contained in a controversial piece from Politico, including thoughts on the spectrum of rumors surrounding this year’s disappearing cabinet members, the smaller-than-ever circle of true insiders in Xi’s China, and certain details of present-day CPC politics and that are beyond dispute. 

How much trouble is Xi really in? Outgunned Taiwan may be about to find out (December 9, 2023, The Guardian)
Cracks are appearing in China’s monolithic regime – and its leader might decide a military adventure will strengthen his grip on power.

Hong Kong’s ‘patriots only’ elections record lowest-ever turnout (December 10, 2023, Radio Free Asia)
As many voters rejected what was perceived as an undemocratic poll, voter turnout in a “patriots only” district election in Hong Kong, which excluded democratic opposition from the ballot in the midst of a national security crackdown, reached an all-time low.

South China Sea: Philippine and Chinese vessels collide in contested waters (December 10, 2023, BBC)
A Philippine boat and Chinese ship have collided near a contested reef, in the latest territorial dispute between the two countries in the South China Sea. The Philippines said China had “harassed, blocked, and executed dangerous manoeuvres”. It comes a day after the Philippines accused China of using water cannons to obstruct three of its vessels.

China’s Xi visits Vietnam weeks after it strengthened ties with the US and Japan (December 12, 2023, AP)
At the meeting with Vietnam’s Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Xi announced that the countries would work together to create a “China-Vietnam community with a shared future of strategic significance.”

Securitization of Everything (December 13, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
At the national level, China’s leaders have articulated a doctrine of comprehensive national security that has been elevated above other priorities such as economic development. Local government officials are now evaluated on their implementation of security concerns. When school children started their classes in the autumn, they had an orientation on state security and their roles and responsibilities. China is increasingly moving to the securitization of everything.1


Witness in Persecution: I Am Grateful (December 7, 2023, China Partnership Blog)
In the last several years, more churches in China have experienced persecution and/or pressure. This is still not the only story that is true of the Chinese house church, but more and more pastors and laypeople are preparing themselves to stand firm when they are pressured to betray God and their fellow church members.

Nobody (December 8, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
The Chinese phrase “Humans head for higher positions, water flows to lower places” (人往高处走,水往低处流) speaks of a natural human tendency to climb upwards to a higher social or economic status, in contrast to the natural flow of water downwards. While Confucian spirituality encourages human flourishing and progress with positivity, Daoism advocates a peaceful flow amidst a negative outlook. 

Hudson Taylor’s Wish for a ‘Thousand Lives’ for China’s Millions Has Become a Reality (December 11, 2023, Christianity Today) (subscription required)
For Chinese Christians in China, Taiwan, and overseas, Taylor remains a peerless figure. He is loved and admired, and many Chinese Christians can still recite his best-known words: “If I had a thousand pounds, China should have it. If I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ.”

Chinese Lessons in Apologetics: Learning from a church under pressure. (Comment)
When I realized that 2023 marks these two anniversaries in the history of political dissent, religious freedom, and apologetics, I decided to revisit some of the questions Bonhoeffer asked at the end of his life about the nature of the church, and to consider the answers being given by a Chinese pastor who is more truly continuing his legacy than anyone in the Western world can claim today.

Society / Life

The young Chinese who stood up against Xi’s Covid rules (December 6, December 6, 2023, BBC)
One year on, those who took part in the protests, which hastened the end of China’s harsh zero-Covid rules, are living between hope and fear. The BBC spoke to four protesters who say they had hoped for a bigger political awakening. But, as the crackdown unfolded, they left the country – and some continue to keep a low profile, fearing for the safety of their families and friends back home.

Haven of Humor: How Chinese Migrants Find Comfort in Comedy (December 8, 2023, The World of Chinese)
In times of rising anti-migrant sentiment in the Netherlands, Chinese comedy clubs provide community and an outlet for reflections on diaspora life.

Sister Yu: The Wonder Woman of Northeast China (December 9, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Online influencer Sister Yu has earned millions of fans for her videos highlighting the charming yet harsh reality of a female farmer’s life in China.

Where Did All the Hong Kong Neon Go? (December 9, 2023, The New York Times) (subscription required)
A government crackdown on neon signs stems from safety and environmental concerns, but the campaign evokes the fading of the city itself.

Snow blankets northern China, closing roads and schools and suspending train service (December 10, 2023, AP)
Overnight snowfall across much of northern China prompted road closures and the suspension of classes and train service on Monday. A red alert for a blizzard was in effect until mid-morning in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, and schools were closed there and in two other cities in Henan, state broadcaster CCTV reported. The Zhengzhou airport was also closed until 11 a.m.

China’s Video Platforms Under Scrutiny Amid New Gov’t Campaign (December 13, 2023, Sixth Tone)
The monthlong drive targets fake news and inappropriate content. Accounts or platforms found in violation will face closure and penalties, says the country’s top internet watchdog.

Economics / Trade / Business

China has another massive headache now: It can’t stem deflation (December 11, 2023, CNN)
While many central banks around the world are still trying to cool inflation, China is grappling with falling prices. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) dropped 0.5% in November on an annual basis, the biggest fall since the depths of the pandemic three years ago, according to data released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics on Saturday.

China Says It Will Step Up Policy Adjustments to Spur Recovery in 2024 (December 12, 2023, VOA News)
China will step up policy adjustments to support an economic recovery in 2024, state media said on Tuesday, following an agenda-setting meeting of the country’s top leaders. Investors are closely watching for clues on next year’s policy and reform agenda as Beijing has been struggling to spur a post-pandemic economic recovery amid a deepening housing crisis and mounting local government debt.


How Social Media Is Propelling Students to Stardom (December 13, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Chinese “study bloggers” like Liu Jianing have attracted large online followings for their tales of academic excellence and lessons in how to handle the pressures of college.

Amid US-China rivalry, Chinese parents’ dragon dreams for their children need an adjustment (December 13, 2023, South China Morning Post)
By directing more young people to vocational schools, China is trying to meet future labour needs, particularly in industries where competition with the US is intense. Parents, however, will have to recalibrate their hopes for their children and how they define success.

Health / Environment

Gao Yaojie, a pioneering activist who exposed China’s AIDS epidemic, dies at 95 (December 11, 2023, NPR)
In the 1990s, entire villages across central China had alarming numbers of people were testing positive for HIV. Many of these villages were in Henan province, where Gao had spent much of her childhood. Gao, who had by then retired, began investigating how the virus had entered China’s countryside. She discovered that AIDS was spreading through ramshackle blood transfusion centers set up with official government backing. 

Science / Technology

China’s reusable rocket race heats up with new hop test (December 11, 2023, Space News)
Launch startup iSpace has successfully launched and landed a test article, a month after a first hop test, as Chinese reusable rocket efforts intensify.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

What Americans Need to Understand Chinese Art (National Committee on U.S.-China Relations)
Stephen Little, art curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), touches on the important subjects and topics that Americans should understand to be able to appreciate Chinese art. 

Language / Language Learning

Why flashcards are terrible for learning Chinese (December 11, 2023, Hacking Chinese)
Flashcards are often viewed as a silver bullet, promising swift mastery of characters, words and more, but relying on flashcards too much has serious drawbacks, and if you’re not careful, they can hinder more than they help.


Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion (1) – Book Review (Revisited) (December 6, 2023, Global China Center)
Students of Chinese Christianity need this book for at least two reasons: First, to counter the common misconception that Christianity is a Western religion that has been imposed on China by foreign imperialists. Second, to help us see that the rapid growth of Christianity in China in the past century is part of a worldwide expansion that has made Christians a major presence in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

The Best China Books of 2023 (Five Books)
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a professor of Chinese history at UC Irvine, talks us through his favourite books of 2023, from painful historical episodes to the harsh policies targeting a largely Muslim ethnic group in Xinjiang today—by way of two lighter books that focus on food and cooking.

Links for Researchers

China Unofficial Archives
This site is dedicated to making accessible the key documents, movies, blogs, and publications of a movement of Chinese people seeking to reclaim their country’s history.


Thrive Globally (December 11, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Thriving Leaders, an innovative learning solution focused on empowering Chinese pastors and church leaders, has been making remarkable strides since its launch in 2022. This resource is dedicated to nurturing and inspiring both young and experienced leaders within the local Chinese church community. 

Pray for China

December 16 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Dec. 16, 1832, Zhu Qing (朱清老师) was baptized by Robert Morrison (马礼逊). Zhu was one of the first Chinese scholars to come to Christ, and he was the last of the four persons baptized by Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China. Zhu Qing was around 42 at the time and had been working for over a decade as a Chinese teacher to missionary colleagues of Morrison in Malaysia. Though he had been reading the Bible and hearing the gospel during that time, he had not become a Christian. However, during a severe storm on the voyage back to China, he gave his life to Christ. When the boat landed in China, all the passengers except Zhu Qing offered sacrifices at the local temple. He instead sought baptism from Morrison. After Morrison’s death in 1834, Zhu Qing worked at various times for other missionaries as a Chinese teacher and cultural mentor, providing invaluable help for them in understanding Chinese culture and customs. Pray for those now far from God to be brought near by the blood of Christ. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13

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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