ZGBriefs | December 19, 2019

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Featured Article

Undiscovered China: Zhangjiajie, the land of 'Avatar'  (December 17, 2019, USA Today)
The outstanding sandstone monoliths dressed in the green foliage of Zhangjiajie Forest Park's roving summits, known as the "'Avatar' Mountains," are the inspiration for the Pandora scenery and bewitching landscape of director James Cameron's mythical blockbuster film "Avatar." 

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China Under the Grid  (December 7, 2019, China Media Project)
What is “grid management”? In the simplest sense, it is the digitising (数字化) and informationalising (信息化) of city management at the neighbourhood and community levels.

From Tibet to Xinjiang, Beijing’s man for restive regions Chen Quanguo is the prime target of US sanctions  (December 13, 2019, South China Morning Post)
If Chen, 63, cares about the attention he gets in Washington, he doesn’t show it. As the Communist Party chief for Xinjiang he has faced criticism all year for being the architect of what the US, European Union and United Nations call a network of internment camps built to forcibly detain ethnic Muslim Uygur people in an attempt to wipe out their identity through systematic indoctrination.

China tightens up on info after Xinjiang leaks  (December 14, 2019, AP)
The Xinjiang regional government in China’s far west is deleting data, destroying documents, tightening controls on information and has held high-level meetings in response to leaks of classified papers on its mass detention camps for Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities, according to four people in contact with government employees there.

After A Period Of Calm, Hong Kong Protests Flared Again Sunday  (December 16, 2019, NPR)
Protesters have written hundreds of Christmas cards for people jailed during the six-month pro-democracy protests. Dozens of protesters denied bail could remain jailed during the holidays.

Beijing calls for Chinese journalists to 'arm their minds' with Xi Jinping Thought  (December 17, 2019, CNN)
China has issued an updated code of ethics for journalists that calls on reporters to uphold the authority of the Communist Party and be guided by the ideology of President Xi Jinping. Prescribed media guidelines are not unusual in China, where reporters operate within a heavily-censored environment that is tightly controlled by Communist authorities. However, the explicit reference to Xi is likely to sound alarm among freedom of speech advocates. 

Xi Jinping can blame his centralisation of power for a rotten 2019 – and maybe an even worse 2020  (December 17, 2019, South China Morning Post)
The trade war took a toll on the Chinese economy, Hong Kong revolted and the world stepped up scrutiny of Xinjiang. One-man rule and fear of Xi aggravated each of these situations, and may set China up for worse in the year to come.

First made-in-China aircraft carrier, the Shandong, officially enters service  (December 17, 2019, South China Morning Post)
China’s first home-built aircraft carrier was officially commissioned by President Xi Jinping on Tuesday as Beijing flexed its military muscles. The new warship will be called the Shandong and its formal entry into service is a significant milestone in the country’s efforts to build up its naval power.

In Macau, China Sees a Model for a Rebellious Hong Kong  (December 18, 2019, The New York Times)
Macau today, like Hong Kong, is a political experiment that began in the late 1990s, when China reclaimed both territories from Western colonial powers and promised that civil liberties could coexist with its brand of authoritarian rule. Now, as Hong Kong’s political unrest continues, China’s ruling Communist Party has become increasingly explicit about how much it will tolerate under that formula — and holds Macau up as a shining example of obedience.

Podcast: U.S. Response to Unrest in Hong Kong  (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
In this episode, Jude invites Ambassador Kurt Tong to discuss the U.S.’s response to the continued turmoil in Hong Kong, including the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.


Spreading the Gospel with Christian Propaganda Posters  (December 9, 2019, ChinaSource Quarterly)
Protestant Christian propaganda intentionally aimed to topple China’s other ideological systems.[3] Some images were explicitly produced to take the place of ancestral tablets or posters of the kitchen god. Others were crafted as substitute blessings to hang on doorposts.

Singing from Underground to the World: Listening to the Music of Contemporary Chinese Christianity  (December 9, 2019, ChinaSource Quarterly)
The contemporary Chinese church was formed in the later stages of the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s. Many underground meetings and house churches emerged in southeastern and central China. As part of these flourishing fellowships, many localized hymns were created, then shared and passed along by traveling pastors and evangelists. Studying these hymns and spiritual songs can shed light on the little-known history of contemporary Chinese Christianity, especially the development of the underground house church network.

When Will "Messiah" Return . . . to Beijing?  (December 9, 2019, ChinaSource Quarterly)
One of the more amazing manifestations of that openness was the performance of Handel’s Messiah in 2001. The chosen venue was not only in Beijing. It was actually inside one of China’s greatest cultural symbols—the Forbidden City. When Christian conductor Timothy Su Wenxing (苏文星) took the podium in the Forbidden City to conduct Messiah, he displayed a public manifestation of faith seldom seen in the People’s Republic of China.  Who was this bold young musician?

A troubling sign for the Vatican’s deal with China’s Communist Party  (December 10, 2019, New York Post)
Bishop Fang’s sentiments tend to vindicate the critics. Since the deal, moreover, authorities have destroyed two Marian shrines and “disappeared” an underground bishop. At least in the short term, it seems, the deal has been a win for Beijing’s godless apparatchiks and a loss for historic Christianity in the Middle Kingdom.

May There Be Revival Among the Churches  (December 14, 2019, China Partnership Blog)
We pray for the church in China, that through all the changes, good and bad, they will anchor their hope in Christ, our warrior. We pray that, in light of many uncertainties, they would know that you are good, that you are sovereign, that you are in control. We pray for your patience, perseverance, and even persistence in the gospel for them.

China is Complicated  (December 17, 2019, Outside-In)
Anyone who hangs around me even a little has heard me say, in response to almost any question about China, “It’s complicated.” This picture that I took outside the Haidian Church in Beijing last week illustrates my point.

Weathering the Storm of Persecution  (December 17, 2019, Chinese Church Voices)
In this article from Return to the Bible, Pastor Li Pumin reflects on this changing environment. He also gives suggestions for how Christians ought to respond in the face of trials.

A New Phase of Christianity in Hong Kong  (December 18, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
Pastors have become very aware that the agreement regarding the current governing system has a lifespan of only 50 years (up to 2047). It is increasingly apparent that in the next few decades, churches, seminaries, and Christian organizations in Hong Kong will gradually be subject to the same religious rules as in China.

Society / Life

Beijing’s Population Declines for Second Year in a Row  (December 16, 2019, Sixth Tone)
The permanent residential population in the Chinese capital reached 21.5 million last year, a 0.76% decline from 2017, when the city saw its number of inhabitants shrink for the first time in two decades, according to a blue paper by the Beijing Population and Social Development Research Center and the Social Sciences Academic Press. The city’s migrant population also saw a 3.74% year-on-year decline, falling to 7.65 million in 2018.

A Surveillance Net Blankets China’s Cities, Giving Police Vast Powers  (December 17, 2019, The New York Times)
The authorities can scan your phones, track your face and find out when you leave your home. One of the world’s biggest spying networks is aimed at regular people, and nobody can stop it.

Island in the Sand  (December 17, 2019, Sixth Tone)
In China’s arid Northwest, a county is locked in a battle for survival against encroaching deserts. Victory is still far from certain.

Why China’s Latest Class Indicator May Be the Two-Child Family  (December 17, 2019, Sixth Tone)
That is, the typical second-time mother is a member of the city’s upper middle class or higher. Although it’s not always true that higher educational levels correlate with a preference for smaller families, many scholars have found a negative association between educational attainment and fertility rates. So why is it that, in Shanghai, so many well-educated women are willing to have second children?

Chinese mines: At least 14 dead in latest disaster  (December 17, 2019, BBC)
The local authorities said two people were still trapped underground at the mine in Guizhou province. At least 37 people have died in five separate mining accidents in China since October.

Economics / Trade / Business

In Sri Lanka, China's Building Spree Is Raising Questions About Sovereignty  (December 13, 2019, NPR)
Beijing has bankrolled infrastructure projects in dozens of countries as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, one of the biggest construction efforts in human history. The difference in Hambantota is that the Chinese state-owned operator physically took control of the port in late 2017 — on a 99-year lease — after the Sri Lankan government defaulted on its loans.

Life Along Pakistan's Mountain Highway Where China Is Investing Billions Of Dollars  (December 14, 2019, NPR)
Much is expected of Karakoram Highway, which curls through the tall mountain ranges of northern Pakistan, reaching western China. Both countries are renovating it, seeing its potential as a trade route. Pakistan also views it as a way to consolidate control over territories contested with India.


Dozens of foreign students expelled from Chinese university amid national crackdown  (December 16, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Wuhan University in Wuhan, Hubei province, expelled 92 students from more than 10 countries for problems ranging from poor grades to discipline violations and failure to pay tuition fees, Changjiang Dailyreported on Monday. The expulsions followed warnings to the students a year earlier, the report said, quoting a staff member in the admissions office of the university’s School of International Education.

China cuts 'freedom of thought' from top university charters  (December 18, 2019, The Guardian)
Changes to the charter of one of China’s top universities, including dropping the phrase “freedom of thought” and the inclusion of a pledge to follow the Communist party’s leadership, has sparked fierce debate and a rare act of student defiance.

Health / Environment

Garbage as Value and Sorting as Labour in China’s New Waste Policy  (December 12, 2019, Made in China)
The controversy over the new rules is therefore not only about the state’s gaze extending into a new frontier of people’s private lives through an emergent ‘eco-dictatorship’, a term with Cold-War resonances emphasised in a recent analysis in The Guardian (Kuo 2019). Going beyond this narrow interpretation, we suggest that the controversy is also related to the redistribution of labour (Zhang 2019), especially if labour is viewed broadly to include unregulated and domestic forms.

Travel / Food

Around the world in a day, without leaving Shenzhen – a photo essay  (December 13, 2019, The Guardian)
More than 3 million visitors a year flock to the Window of the World theme park in the megacity of Shenzhen to see 130 copies of the world’s largest tourist sites gathered in a single place. For Chinese tourists who may not be able to travel out of the country this is their only chance of seeing the New York skyline, the pyramids of Giza or the Taj Mahal – or smaller replicas of them, at least.

Delta Air Lines to be first U.S. carrier at Beijing’s new airport  (December 17, 2019, The Points Guy)
Delta Air Lines will be the first U.S. carrier to land at the massive new Beijing Daxing airport, joining its partner China Eastern Airlines at the hub. The SkyTeam Alliance carrier will begin flying from Daxing (PKX) on March 28, according to Cirium schedules and confirmed by Delta. The airline’s last flights from Beijing Capital (PEK) will depart the day before. Delta will be the first carrier to connect Daxing and the U.S., the schedules show. 

China To Crack Down on Gangs Profiting From Diseased Pork  (December 18, 2019, Sixth Tone)
Criminal syndicates are reportedly spreading African swine fever at farms in order to buy sick hogs at a discount and sell their meat as having come from healthy animals.

Hong Kong Tourism Board Scraps Traditional New Year’s Eve Celebrations  (December 18, 2019, Skift)
Celebrations will be more subdued than normal in Hong Kong this New Year’s Eve, a fitting, if unfortunate, end to a year that has seen the tourism and retail sectors take a beating.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

China Tightens Grip Further on Internet Users, Mulls Livestreaming Ban  (December 11, 2019, Radio Free Asia)
The ruling Chinese Communist Party has taken further steps to tighten control over the country's internet with a proposed ban on livestreaming and orders to state-run organizations to replace foreign-branded computer equipment with domestic equivalents.

The Best Chinese Music of the Decade, Via Its Most Influential Record Labels  (December 12, 2019, Radii China)
The curators, self-publishers, cassette dubbers, taste-makers, scene-builders and community sustainers who gave underground Chinese music a whole 2010s vibe.

Why an Arsenal soccer game was yanked off the TV in China  (December 15, 2019, Christian Science Monitor)
Arsenal's Premier League match against Manchester City was pulled from TV in China after Mesut Ozil criticized Beijing's crackdown on Muslims.

My Dear Art: A Film Review  (December 16, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
My Dear Art is a fascinating documentary that broadly surveys the upper echelon of the Chinese contemporary art scene today. “Chinese,” in this case, is not limited to mainland China but includes Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Chinese diaspora around the world.

Language / Language Learning

Opposite Attractions  (December 14, 2019, The World of Chinese)
Chinese words work in mysterious ways—characters that have opposite meanings when used alone are sometimes placed together to form new words with their own meanings, often metaphorical. Here, we introduce six terms which combine opposite characters to create new meanings, proving that, when it comes Chinese characters at least, opposites do indeed attract.

Mandarin Monday: Phrases That Betray the Real Feelings of the Chinese People  (December 16, 2019, The Beijinger)
For that reason, we've decided to collect several phrases that give a glimpse into the hidden psyche of Chinese people.

‘Translating for myself’: Ann Scott Tyson on seeing China from the inside (audio)  (December 17, 2019, Christian Science Monitor)
How do you learn the language of a place? Ann’s expansive vocabulary, not just of words but of patterns of behavior and habits of thought, has allowed her to share a nuanced narrative about one of the world’s most influential countries. 

Pinyin to Hanzi Two Way Conversions  (December 17, 2019, Language Log)
Once Pinyin does become established as a viable alternative for the writing of Mandarin texts, then it's conceivable that software will become available for the translation of Pinyin texts to character texts, and vice versa, but that's quite a ways in the future. 

Links for Researchers

US-China Trade War Tariffs: An Up-to-Date Chart  (December 13, 2019, Peterson Institute for International Economics)


Using the Past in the Present to Pray for the Future  (December 13, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
China is in need of prayer now more than ever. “Intercessors for China” is pleased to announce our new illustrated prayer app: Pray for China: A Walk through History. Each day we have a prayer request for the people of China tied to a specific historical event. The requests cover people in all of China’s provinces and major cities, and each prayer item is also linked to a Bible reference.


China, Christianity, and the Dialogue of Civilizations
28th International Conference of the US-China Catholic Association
March 13-15, 2020
Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California, USA

Religions and Christianity in Today’s China (Zentrum)

Image credit: by Felix Lew, via Flickr
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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