ZGBriefs — December 24, 2015

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Featured Article

China’s Reckoning: The Economic Miracle Hits Troubled Times (December 22, 2015, Wall Street Journal)
China's Communist Party promised to transform people's lives after decades of chaos. Higher living standards underpin the party’s rule, making limits on personal freedoms worthwhile for many. As the economy slows, that social compact is fraying.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China accuses US of B-52 'provocation' over Spratly Islands (December 19, 2015, BBC)
China has accused the US of "serious provocation" after it flew B-52 bombers near one of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Chinese military personnel were put on "high alert" during the incident on 10 December, and issued warnings to leave.

China tightens its security screws (December 22, 2015, East Asia Forum)
Yet behind the headlines and the official pomp and ceremony, Xi and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continue to tighten the screws on a high-tech system of mass surveillance and thought reform aimed at eliminating any critical voices and views. If state controls are like a ‘giant cage’ in China, the bars are closing in under the CCP’s new strongman.

Video: China lawyer given suspended sentence for online comments (December 22, 2015, BBC)
A Chinese human rights lawyer has been given a three-year suspended prison sentence for comments he made online. Pu Zhiqiang has been found guilty of "inciting ethnic hatred" and "picking quarrels" on his social media posts.

Conviction of Pu Zhiqiang Affirms China’s Resolve to Muzzle Rights Lawyers (December 22, 2015, The New York Times)
In convicting one of China’s most prominent rights lawyers, the Chinese government has struck a body blow at an independent legal movement that until recently had managed to take root despite numerous obstacles, legal rights advocates say.

China Detains Grassroots Labor Activists as Disputes Rise (December 22, 2015, AP)
Police in the southern province of Guangdong have detained seven labor activists, including three leading members of China's nascent grassroots labor movement, on charges they improperly intervened in labor disputes, the official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday.

China in 2016: A ChinaFile Conversation (December 23, 2015, ChinaFile)
What should China watchers be watching most closely in China in 2016? What developments would be the most meaningful? What predictions can be made sensibly?

Toxic Tasks: Mobilising The “50-Cent Army” (December 23, 2015, Medium)
This week, a propaganda directive on the trial and sentencing of rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was issued (by exactly which agency we know not) to paid “Internet commentators,” known in Chinese internet jargon as the “50-cent Party,” or wumaodang (五毛党).

Beijing lays claim to South Korean waters (December 23, 2015, The Telegraph)
China is demanding that South Korea cede a large portion of its exclusive economic zone in the Yellow Sea to Beijing, including a submerged sea mount named Ieo that hosts a Korean marine research facility.


Andrew Palau Continues Outreach to China Through What is Christmas? (December 17, 2015, NRB)
This past Sunday, evangelist Andrew Palau shared the Gospel at three church services at Haidan Church, the largest church in Beijing, with overflowing crowds and many responses to the Good News. […]  Following each service, the Palau team distributed copies of What is Christmas? – an evangelistic book in both English and Chinese that presents the significance of the birth and story of Christ. Many extra copies were given to those who wanted to get them for family members and friends.

Filling a Gap (December 18, 2015, From the West Courtyard)
Are there other options for providing help and direction for Chinese cross-cultural workers once they arrive on the field? Is it reasonable for western workers who have been serving in China long-term to fill this gap?

Religious venue list completed (December 19, 2015, ecns.cn)
China has publicized basic information on all Buddhist monasteries and Taoist temples nationwide to enable public supervision of religious activities and prevent fraud perpetrated in the name of religion.

Living Stone: A Portrait of a House Church in China (December 21, 2015, China Change)
The Living Stone house church sits in the highlands of China’s southwest Guizhou Province, in the capital, Guiyang. Protestant and non-denominational, it is the largest house church in the area. Over the past year the church has been subject to all manner of government repression, and since the beginning of this month a number of its pastors and parishioners have been arrested.

Waiting Is Better Than Trying to Jump over a Wall (December 22, Chinese Church Voices)
In this revealing article, published in the online magazine Territory, one millennial shares how a broken relationship led to a revelation of something much deeper that was amiss in her own life, and how things began to change once her eyes were opened.

Christmas season in North China’s Catholic village (December 22, 2015, Global Times)
When one enters Liuhe village in Taiyuan, North China's Shanxi Province at this time of year, one can immediately hear the sound of Christmas carols echoing through the streets.

4 Reasons to Consider Joining a Sending Agency: And 3 Reasons Not to (December 23, 2015, From the West Courtyard)
Through our years spent preparing to come to and now living in China, my husband and I have met countless others like us who feel called in some capacity to work for God’s kingdom in the Middle Kingdom.

Society / Life

A Showcase of Tibetan Culture Serves Chinese Political Goals (December 19, 2015, The New York Times)
These days, horse festivals on the Tibetan plateau are not just about equestrian prowess. They are political affairs with a propaganda goal — Chinese officials hold them to signal to people here and abroad that traditional Tibetan culture is thriving, contrary to what the Dalai Lama and other critics say.

Graphics: Retirement Worries (December 21, 2015, Caixin Online)
Researchers say Chinese workers are not saving enough for their retirements and older people have a hard time putting money away.

Photos: A Massive Landslide of Mud and Construction Waste Strikes Shenzhen, China (December 21, 2015, The Atlantic)

Shenzhen: The City Where China’s Transformation Began (December 21, 2015, The New York Times)
But Shenzhen’s explosive growth, fueled by Mr. Deng’s designation of the area as China’s first so-called Special Economic Zone, which gives preferential treatment to foreign investment, also symbolizes many of China’s most acute problems — overcrowding, corruption, pollution and the stark absence of accountability.

Words of the Year: These Characters Tell the Stories of 2015 in Strokes (December 22, 2015, China Real Time)
In mainland China, President Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign is stretching into its third year. That’s helped propel the word “廉,” or “incorrupt,” to be named the country’s Chinese character of 2015.

China landslide: Stories of survival in Shenzhen (December 22, 2015, BBC)
More than 70 people remain missing in the deadly Shenzhen landslide that took place in China on Sunday while more than 900 were evacuated. A number of survivors have related accounts of their brushes with death to local media. These are some of their stories.

Shenzhen landslide: survivor found after 67 hours buried under rubble (December 22, 2015, The Guardian)
Almost three days after a cascade of mud and debris engulfed an industrial estate in southern China, leaving at least 75 missing and two dead, rescuers have pulled a survivor from the debris. Tian Zeming, a 19-year-old migrant worker from Sichuan province, was found at about 3.30am on Wednesday, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency.

Before Shenzhen Landslide, Many Saw Warning Signs as Debris Swelled (December 22, 2015, The New York Times)
As the mountain of debris grew, so did the warnings. The construction dump on the outskirts of Shenzhen was prone to dangerous erosion, an environmental impact report said. The expanding piles of waste presented a “crisis,” a Shenzhen newspaper wrote. Even truck drivers who dumped tons of debris and displaced earth there each day recalled a pang of anxiety as they watched the pile swell.

Shrinking Spaces, Rising Costs: Hong Kong Residents Feel the Crunch (December 22, 2015, China Real Time)
With the city’s real estate among the most expensive in the world, many low-income Hong Kong residents — sometimes entire families — have been forced to live in so-called subdivided units. These apartments have been modified by landlords to fit multiple tenants and aren’t strictly illegal, but are subject to different structural and fire-safety requirements.

Hainan Airlines flight attendant feeds elderly disabled passenger, brings tears to netizens' eyes (December 22, 2015, Shanghaiist)
Fan Xuesong of Hainan Airlines has been praised as the “most beautiful flight attendant” in China after feeding a partially paralyzed 71-year old passenger and moving him to tears.

Who will take care of China's elderly people? (December 23, 2015, BBC)
China has the fastest-ageing population in human history but the state provides very little support for elderly people. Ageing parents have traditionally been looked after by their children – but in today's China that is not always the case.

A Peek Into the Mind of China’s Internet Users (December 23, 2015, The New York Times)
In 2015, China’s citizens wanted to find out about health, money, the law and love — or marriage, at least. And they were preoccupied with deadly explosions, the erratic stock market, second children and a very public sex act in a dressing room.

Migrant Workers in Shenzhen Bear Brunt of Landslide (December 23, 2015, The New York Times)
The story of migration, hardscrabble survival and hopes for a brighter future in a city — now shattered by a calamity — is common among the casualties of the massive debris spill on Sunday morning in the Guangming New district of Shenzhen. As in a number of China’s recent urban disasters, many of the victims were migrant workers.

China: Top officials' festive dinners go on sale (December 23, 2015, BBC)
The historic Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing normally entertains visiting foreign dignitaries and provincial officials with lavish banquets, but has now taken its services online to offer sumptuous meals to ordinary Chinese.

Economics / Trade / Business

Apple Pay to launch in China from 2016 (December 18, 2015, BBC)
China's state-owned bankcard association, China UnionPay, has joined forces with Apple to bring the US giant's electronic payment system, Apple Pay, to the mainland.

Student Interns in China: The China Employment Law Issues (December 20, 2015, China Law Blog)
A domestic or a foreign company in China may not legally “employ” student interns and student interns that “work” for a company in China are not in a labor relationship under China’s labor laws.

The Future of China’s Economy: Yuppies (December 21, 2015, China Real Time)
According to a new study from the consultancy the Boston Consulting Group and Alibaba’s Aliresearch, richer, younger and tech-savvier Chinese will be the main drivers of growth in the country’s consumer economy going forward.

World’s Largest Pork Producer Brings the Bacon Back to China (December 22, 2015, China Real Time)
The world’s largest pork producer, WH Group, is now opening the doors of new factories that will produce American-style sausage, ham and, yes, bacon in China, the company said in a recent statement.


Chinese K-12 Student Population in U.S. Has Quadrupled in Five Years (December 18, 2015, China Real Time)
A record number of Chinese students are enrolling in American primary and secondary schools, public and private, according to new figures from the Department of Homeland Security, many with the goal of getting an edge in U.S. college admissions.

Health / Environment

Smog shrouds Beijing and Shanghai – video (December 21, 2015, The Guardian)
Smog continues to cover Beijing and Shanghai on Monday, as China’s government issues a ‘red alert’ for the capital. Factories were ordered to cut back or suspend production as levels of harmful particles hit seven times their safe limits. It is the third consecutive day Beijing has been under a toxic haze

China Begins to Bring Mentally Ill ‘Back to Society’ (December 21, 2015, Tea Leaf Nation)
Mental illness has long been stigmatized there. Now a new law is helping patients and families seek treatment

Women Fuel China’s Fitness Craze (December 22, 2015, China Real Time)
“Crazy gym devils,” as gym rats are called in China, are generating big sales for the likes of Nike Inc. and Adidas AG. These companies are increasingly focusing their marketing on young women, many of whom now reject the waifish look in favor of toned, strong silhouettes.

Companies in South China See Opportunity in Beijing’s Smog (December 22, 2015, The New York Times)
As Beijing residents endured heavy smog on Tuesday, the last day of a four-day red alert for hazardous air pollution, companies in southern China have been advertising the attractions of their sun-filled, tree-lined cities, all in a bid to lure smart, educated and ambitious employees from the north.

Science / Technology

What does 'freedom' mean? 6 takeaways from China's Wuzhen Internet conference (December 16, 2015, Los Angeles Times)
The word “freedom” means different things to different people. That’s perhaps the greatest takeaway from China’s second World Internet Conference, which began Wednesday morning in Wuzhen, a historical village near Shanghai.

History / Culture

The Comeback of Calligraphy in China (December 17, 2015, What’s on Weibo?)
In the digital age, calligraphy has not just maintained its relevancy in China; it has made a comeback. Calligraphy researcher Laura Vermeeren talks about the power of calligraphy and the status quo of this ancient art in modern China.

Friday Photo: Free Market (December 18, 2015, Outside-In)
Prior to this, goods were only sold in state-run department stores and grocery stores. But here at the “free market” goods were being sold directly to the people. It felt mildly subversive!

Wuhan sent-down youth arrive in Hongan County in 1974 (December 23, 2015, Everyday Life in Mao’s China)

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Beijing Opera – Unmasking Five of its Biggest Myths (December 17, 2015, China Simplified)
Let’s remove the common misperceptions surrounding Beijing Opera as a Chinese art form to better understand its unique and multifaceted storytelling approach.

‘New Yorker’ Writers Reflect on ‘Extreme’ Reporting About China (December 22, 2015, ChinaFile)
While international reporting on China has improved by leaps and bounds since foreign journalists first started trickling into the country in the 1970s, major challenges remain in giving readers back home a balanced image.

Cui Jian Releases 14-Minute Video for "Outside Girl" (December 23, 2015, The Beijinger)
China's Godfather of Rock, Cui Jian, has released a 14-minute music video for his English-language song "Outside Girl," first performed in 2007.

Stephon Marbury Gains Museum, and Green Card, in China (December 23, 2015, The New York Times)
“I’m so blessed and thankful to receive my Chinese green card,” he wrote last week on his Weibo microblog after his application was approved. “I feel like my love for China is being shown in the same way. Being the first foreign basketball player to receive a green card means a lot in making history in China. Thank you so much!”

Travel / Food

A journey down the Amur between Russia and China (December 16, 2015, The Economist)
Dominic Ziegler, The Economist’s Asia editor, transports us to the borderlands of empires while exploring the world’s ninth-longest river.

The Importance of Food in Chinese Traditional Medicine (December 17, 2015, Sapore di Cina)
Oriental medicine puts a large amount of emphasis on diet and nutrition. However, beyond the well-known proverb you are what you eat, Oriental medicine claims that a balanced diet – on top of being necessary – is itself one of the pillars that sustains a healthy life.

12 Ways the Tianjin Food Scene Has Changed During My 12+ Years Here (December 19, 2015, Wick I Am)

China Adds 5 More Tourists to Its Bad Behavior List (December 20, 2015, Skift)
China’s tourism authority named and shamed another five tourists for bad behavior and says it is working with airlines on a possible flying ban. Those added to the list of “uncivilized behavior” by tourists include two women and a man who brawled after one woman’s seat was bumped during boarding of a flight from Cambodia to the western city of Chengdu.

Chengdu! (December 21, 2015, From the West Courtyard)
As a result of the “Develop the West” campaign launched by the government 20 years ago, Chengdu has become one of China’s major urban centers.

2015 Year in Review: Official Cuisine at Beijing's Provincial Government Restaurants (December 21, 2015, The Beijinger)
This year I started on a mission to try all of Beijing's provincial government restaurants, not just the much-loved Sichuan provincial government restaurant out near Jianguomen.

2015 Year in Review: Our Best Discoveries from Exploring Beijing (December 22, 2015, The Beijinger)
As every year, we partook in plenty of exploring of Beijing and whether it was seeking out historical or cultural pockets, different restaurants and dishes we hadn't thought of trying, or simply the nightlife, and in doing so we discovered even more to love about the city. Take a look at what we found in 2015 below.

Language / Language Learning

Youdao – An excellent free online Chinese dictionary (About.com)

Are there any shortcuts for learning Chinese? (December 21, 2015, Hacking Chinese)
It’s simply not true that all methods will take you to your goal equally fast. Some ways are better than others and will help you improve more quickly. These can be considered shortcuts.

Articles for Researchers

China’s Draft Cybersecurity Law (December 21, 2015, China Brief)
it is important to take a careful look at the legislative background and the text of the draft law to understand China’s views of the risks posed by cyberspace and the policies it will implement to cope with these risks.

Image credit: Canyon, by Jonathan Kos-Read, 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