ZGBriefs | December 20, 2018

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Featured Article

China's staggering 40 years of change in pictures (December 18, 2018, BBC)
Forty years ago, China introduced major economic reforms – lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and leading to it becoming the second-largest economy in the world. Here's the story of how China changed – in pictures.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China’s Economy Slows Sharply, in Challenge for Xi Jinping (December 14, 2018, The New York Times)
China’s consumers and businesses are losing confidence. Car sales have plunged. The housing market is stumbling. Some factories are letting workers off for the big Lunar New Year holiday two months early.

4 Takeaways from Xi Jinping’s Speech Defending Communist Party Control (December 18, 2018, The New York Times)
Some economists and investors had hoped that Mr. Xi would embrace and improve on Deng’s historical legacy as an economic liberalizer. Instead, Mr. Xi used the speech to defend policies that he had forged over the past six years to make the Communist Party even more powerful, strengthen the state-run sector of the economy while allowing private business to grow, and put China’s stamp on international affairs.

Xi Jinping’s Story of Reform  (December 18, 2018, China Media Project)
The 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee was not of course just about economics. It was a commitment to a more open China, and it was a repudiation of the path the Party had previously taken, marked by the tragedies of the Cultural Revolution.

Sino-Swedish relations: The ambitious ambassador (December 18, 2018, Asia Dialogue)
Around the world, Chinese embassies are growing increasingly active and assertive. However, in few places is this as obvious as in Sweden, where the ambitious ambassador Gui Congyou assumed his post in August last year. 

Graphic Truth: China's Growing Clout In Latin America (December 19, 2018, GZero Media)
While foreign aid is a key tool in America's foreign policy tool kit, China tends to extend its global economic influence through foreign investment. Here's a look at the US and Chinese governments' financial commitments in Latin America, which offers a rough snapshot of their relative clout in the region.

China’s Growing Footprint in Latin America – a ChinaFile Conversation (December 19, 2018, China File)
How are relations evolving between China and Latin America, and between China and individual countries in the region? And how do China’s interests and relations in the region differ from those of the United States?

China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Plan in Pakistan Takes a Military Turn (December 19, 2018, The New York Times)
Chinese officials have repeatedly said the Belt and Road is purely an economic project with peaceful intent. But with its plan for Pakistan, China is for the first time explicitly tying a Belt and Road proposal to its military ambitions — and confirming the concerns of a host of nations who suspect the infrastructure initiative is really about helping China project armed might.

A 3rd Canadian Has Been Detained In China As Diplomatic Rancor Rises (December 19, 2018, NPR)
A third Canadian citizen has been detained in China, according to Global Affairs Canada, the country's foreign ministry. A ministry spokesperson declined to identify the citizen, citing provisions of Canada's Privacy Act.


The Challenge of Being the Church in China (December 17, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
So how does the church function in an increasingly hostile environment? Is it, in fact, increasingly hostile for registered churches? What follows is a decidedly un-scientific case study of the ways in which three different registered churches answer those questions. How do they go about “being the church” in their unique environments?

China Closes Megachurches Before Christmas (December 17, 2018, Christianity Today)
A week after a prominent pastor in China released his viral letter on faithful disobedience amid a government raid on his church, Communist authorities once again shut down worshipers from Chengdu’s Early Rain Covenant Church—one of the most prominent unregistered churches in the country—as well as Guangzhou’s Rongguili Church, one of its first underground Christian communities.

The Way of the Cross (December 18, 2018, Chinese Church Voices)
In the short term, persecution has been a fact of life for many Christians, and in other cases, challenges that simply cannot be avoided. Jesus was persecuted by the scribes and Pharisees when he walked the face of earth. […]  The two thousand years since are a history of the persecution and revival of the church.

Chinese City Bans Christmas Displays Amid Religious Crackdown (December 19, 2018, The New York Times)
The Global Times, a paper run by the Communist Party, reported that Langfang’s efforts were not so much a Christmas ban but an effort to score points in the “National Civilized Cities” ratings, a yearly campaign organized by the propaganda department of the Chinese Communist Party.

Who Will Be China’s Issachar Tribe? (December 19, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
Missionaries from China need to have a creative platform before they are sent out and have a bona fide status that is consistent with their roles both in China and in the field. This requires a totally new paradigm but also opens up new applications.

Second Chinese underground Catholic bishop steps aside to be succeeded by party-approved clergyman (December 19, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Zhuang Jianjian, bishop of the Shantou diocese in Guangdong province, will retire and be succeeded by Huang Bingzhang, deputy chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the Global Times reported. A Vatican-issued mandate was given to Huang last week by a delegation that met several Chinese bishops, the state-linked paper reported.

Society / Life

Listen: China's Big Social Experiment (December 14, 2018, BBC)
What are the costs and benefits of a social credit system?

The price of progress in China: 'We traded our lives for development' (December 14, 2018, Reuters)
Even as hundreds of millions of people have left poverty, Wang and others like him are reminders of the heavy human toll of China’s development, and authorities have sought to censor information and suppress protests.

In Chongqing, Skyline-Defining Towers Find Opposition (December 14, 2018, Sixth Tone)
To proponents, the cutting-edge complex, developed by Singaporean companies CapitaLand and Ascendas-Singbridge, will be a new landmark, an architectural feat that finally puts Chongqing on the map. Yet, to a vocal part of the population, the building is an affront to local culture — and ugly to boot.

This Was Trending in China in 2018: The 18 Biggest Weibo Hashtags of the Year (December 16, 2018, What’s on Weibo)
It’s been an eventful 2018 on Chinese social media. What’s on Weibo lists the 18 topics that have generated the most views and discussions on Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo over the past year.

2018 Year in Review: Beijing's Top Viral Blogs (December 17, 2018, The Beijinger)
While looking back at the year in terms of viral blogs, which in fairness is totally unscientific and probably doesn't teach us much at all, it does make for a fun read, a time to remember some of the biggest and weirdest stories of 2018.

China produces Karl Marx cartoon series to mark 200th anniversary of his birth (December 19, 2018, South China Morning Post)
The animation, co-produced by central government’s Marxism office, will be shown by video streaming website Bilibili.com It will tell the story of philosopher’s life, including his marriage to Jenny von Westphalen and friendship with Friedrich Engels.

China’s Bizarre Program to Keep Activists in Check (December 24 and 31 issue, The New Yorker)
Recently, the Beijing police took my brother sightseeing again. Nine days, two guards, chauffeured tours through a national park that’s a World Heritage site, visits to Taoist temples and to the Three Gorges, expenses fully covered, all courtesy of the Ministry of Public Security. The point was to get him out of town during the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, held in early September. 

Economics / Trade / Business

China buys US soybeans for first time since trade war (December 14, 2018, BBC)
The country's finance ministry also confirmed it would temporarily reduce tariffs on US car imports from 40% to 15%, beginning on 1 January. The much anticipated moves follow a truce reached after Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping met in December.

Boeing delivers first 737 from new Chinese factory (December 15, 2018, CNN)
The 100-acre completion site in in Zhoushan, where workers install interiors to 737s built in Seattle for sale in the Chinese market, is part of the US aerospace company's plan to strengthen ties to what will soon be the world's largest aviation market.

Why China still needs Silicon Valley (December 16, 2018, CNN)
"US tech companies are still way ahead of Chinese companies," said James Lewis, director of the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "Not to say Chinese companies aren't strong in innovation, but it's still the case that if you want the best stuff, you have to go to the United States," he said.

How China is Fighting the Trade War (December 17, 2018, China Briefing)
Rather than pour in billions in financial stimulus, as it did a decade ago, the government has introduced several targeted measures to reduce costs for businesses and consumers, and, more crucially, advance and expedite its broader reform agenda.

Hundreds Queue for Refunds at Ofo’s Beijing Headquarters (December 17, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Reports of users not getting their deposits returned in a timely manner have led to a bank run-like scene at the bike-sharing company’s office in the capital.

China’s art copy capital struggles to change its reputation (December 17, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Dafen, a tiny but densely populated district in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, was once an obscure village of 300 rice growers. But a few short years after former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping opened up China’s economy in 1978, it became an international hub, at one time accounting for 75 per cent of the world’s oil painting reproductions.

China's manufacturing powerhouse Guangdong suspends PMI data release as numbers slide (December 18, 2018, Reuters)
Chinese export hub Guangdong has stopped publishing a monthly economic indicator that gauges growth momentum in its massive manufacturing sector after central authorities claimed local surveying and publication of the data to be “illegal”.

Connection or control? On the new Silk Road, two tales of China compete (December 18, 2018, Christian Science Monitor)
“You can’t have true connectivity and leadership on global trade when domestically your key driver is stability maintenance and locking down people.”

How Southeast Asian Companies are Learning From China (December 18, 2018, Sixth Tone)
It’s more apt to say that these startups are learning from successful Chinese companies and working to localize their ideas before China’s much larger tech companies get a foothold in Southeast Asia.

U.S. Reviews Report of Imports From China Forced Labor Camp (December 19, 2018, TIME)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that reporting by The Associated Press and other media “for the first time appears to link the internment camps identified in Western China to the importation of goods produced by forced labor by a U.S. company.”


A Chinese Perspective on Expatriate Teachers — Interview and Commentary (December 10, 2018, ChinaSource Quarterly)
How do Chinese university leaders feel about the role of expatriate teachers, and particularly about the part played by Christians? Professor Wang Wanxin, leader of an English department at a major university in China, herself a Christian, gave written answers to a series of questions exploring these issues.

Teaching in China—the Early Years (December 10, 2018, ChinaSource Quarterly)
What was it like to teach English in China in the early 1980s? One person’s observations, mainly in one city, can give some insight into the situation back then.

Health / Environment

China issues standards for cutting delivery waste amid e-commerce boom (December 17, 2018, The Beijinger)
The Chinese government has issued a set of standards to promote the use of sustainable packaging materials in the logistics industry, where companies including Alibaba-backed Cainiao, JD.com, and SF Express serve millions of online shoppers every day.

The Good News (And Not So Good News) About China's Smoggy Air (December 18, 2018, NPR)
Since 2017 the Chinese government says around 4 million homes in the country's north have been converted to natural gas. Forcing households to make the switch from dirty-burning fuel sources such as coal, wood or corn stalks, to cleaner energy sources such as gas and electricity, is just one of the Communist Party's strategies in its long-running war against air pollution.

Science / Technology

Google’s Secret China Project “Effectively Ended” After Internal Confrontation  (December 17, 2018, Intercept)
Google has been forced to shut down a data analysis system it was using to develop a censored search engine for China after members of the company’s privacy team raised internal complaints that it had been kept secret from them,The Intercepthas learned.

The Fate of Huawei Foreshadows the Fate of China (December 18, 2018, The Atlantic)
One of Beijing’s top goals is transforming China into a technology powerhouse, so what happens to Huawei matters beyond China’s own borders.

U.S. Aims To Stall China's Efforts To Be The Global Leader In The Race For 5G  (December 19, 2018, NPR)
The Trump administration is expected to crack down on Chinese hacking in a bid to curb Beijing's effort to be a world leader in advanced technologies by 2025.

History / Culture

3 Questions: Julia Grosser: 20 Years of CSQ (December 14, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
Meet Julia Grosser, who has been part of the editorial team for the ChinaSource Quarterly (originally called the ChinaSource Journal) for every issue since it began in 1999.

Building China: How “Big Hats” Came to Dominate Chinese Architecture (December 16, 2018, Radii China)
As it turns out, the idea of combining traditional Chinese building features with newfangled Western-style architecture goes back to the very dawn of Chinese modernity in the late Qing and early Republic. 

China in rare prints: The Grandeur of the Gorges, by MENNIE, Donald, 50 photogravure plates of China's Great Waterway, the Yangtze (December 16, 2018,Tong Bingxue, via Twitter)

Past & Present in photographs of Foochow(Fuzhou), in SE China’s Fujian province (December 16, 2018, Tong Bingxue, via Twitter)

Macao in 1930s, a Portuguese colony at the time. (December 17, 2018, Tong Bingxue, via Twitter)

Travel / Food

Video: How The Chili Pepper Took Over Chinese Cuisine (December 13, 2018, Radii China)
In our first China Explained video, we break down how the chili came to China, how early Chinese traders in the Americas subsequently influenced Mexican cuisine, and why the chili pepper can be seen as an early icon of globalized cultural (and culinary) exchange.

This Is Cangzhou’s Hot Pot Chicken(沧州火锅鸡)  (December 18, 2018, Hot Pot Ambassador)
With so many different styles of hotpot around, there is always a new type to discover. Hotpot fanatic Jeremy Bai tries out Cangzhou’s ‘hot pot chicken.’


Teaching with Christian Values (December 10, 2018, ChinaSource Quarterly)
Review of Professional Guidelines for Christian English Teachers: How to Be a Teacher with Convictions while Respecting Those of Your Students by Kitty Barnhouse Purgason. 

More Blessed to Receive (December 10, 2018, ChinaSource Quarterly)
Those who come not only to give, but also to take what China has to offer, are the ones who will likely excel both in and outside the classroom.


Resources about Teaching in China (December 10, 2018, ChinaSource Quarterly)
The following resources deal with the theology and practice of teaching in the context of Christian mission and are intended to provoke further discussion and reflection. Authors represent a variety of viewpoints (including one atheistic researcher). There is a preponderance of works from a language teaching context.

Updated on December 20, 2018 to remove duplicate item. 

Image credit: Changan Avenue in Beijing, 1984, by Joann Pittman, 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