ZGBriefs | December 29, 2016

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Featured Article

Weibo From A to Z: A Look Back at the Biggest Trending Topics of 2016 (December 27, 2016, What’s on Weibo)
As we are getting ready for a new year, What’s on Weibo reflects on the most popular trending stories on Chinese social media in 2016. It was a year where many things happened, from political controversies to online scandals and social hypes. Sometimes the most trivial things got big, while the biggest things remained trivial. 

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

The Overseas NGO Law for Dummies (December 15, 2016, China Development Brief)
While the government is expected to release detailed rules guiding implementation, we thought it would be helpful to provide our readers with a simplified and streamlined version of the law to act as a quick reference guide.

What China Didn’t Learn From the Collapse of the Soviet Union (December 24, 2016, Foreign Policy)
Xi Jinping sees the Soviet Union as a cautionary tale. But Beijing is learning all the wrong lessons.

Xi’s Power Play Foreshadows Historic Transformation of How China Is Ruled (December 26, 2016, The Wall Street Journal)
Now, as he nears the end of his first five-year term, many party insiders say Mr. Xi is trying to block promotion of a potential successor next year, suggesting he wants to remain in office after his second term expires in 2022, when he would be 69 years old. Mr. Xi, who is president, party chief and military commander, “wants to keep going” after 2022 and to explore a leadership structure “just like the Putin model,” says one party official who meets regularly with top leaders.

Chinese warships enter South China Sea near Taiwan in show of force (December 26, 2016, The Guardian)
A group of Chinese warships led by the country’s sole aircraft carrier entered the South China Sea on Monday after passing south of Taiwan, the self-ruled island’s defence ministry said. The ministry said the carrier, accompanied by five vessels, passed south-east of the Pratas Islands, which are controlled by Taiwan, heading south-west. The carrier group earlier passed 90 nautical miles (167km) south of Taiwan’s southernmost point via the Bashi channel, between Taiwan and the Philippines.

China upset at name change of de facto Japan embassy in Taiwan (December 28, 2016, Reuters)
China expressed dissatisfaction on Wednesday after Japan's de facto embassy in self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province, said it would change its name to include the word Taiwan. Japan, like most countries in the world, maintains only informal relations with Taiwan while it has diplomatic ties with Beijing. From Jan. 1, the Interchange Association, Japan, will become the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, according to a notice on its website.


In China's Tiny Catholic Community, Hopes Rise For Beijing-Vatican Ties (December 23, 2016, NPR)
There are around 12 million Catholics in China, less than 1 percent of China's population. It's a number that's felt at a weekday morning mass inside Shanghai's St. Peter's Church, where a small percentage of pew space is occupied by a few, mostly elderly loyal parishioners.

Chinese try out Christianity, queue up for festive feasts at Christmas (December 25, 2016, Global Times)
An increasing number of curious Chinese people are embracing Christmas, buying presents, dining out and this year, as Christmas Day fell on Sunday, attending a church service, even if they're not religious. "God belongs to the whole world, regardless of nationality and ethnicity. Every mass is full of people who seek blessings during Christmas," a staff member at Beijing Chaoyang Church surnamed Sun told the Global Times on Sunday.

The Shepherds of Living Stone Church (December 25, 2016, China Change)
The two descriptions I kept hearing about the two pastors of the Living Stone church were, firstly, that they were from the poorest parts of Guizhou (Guizhou itself is one of the poorest provinces in China), and secondly that they were both very young. Pastor Su Tianfu was born in 1975, while Pastor Yang Hua was born in 1976; they come from the neighbouring counties of Qianxi (黔西) and Nayong (纳雍) respectively.

Does a Story Go with This? (December 26, 2016, From the West Courtyard)
Celebrating Christmas as an English teacher in China was the gift of a lifetime. This may sound confusing as it falls amidst final exams and semester deadlines. I did wish for more hours in December. Yet, since that first year of teaching my job gave me the amazing opportunity to share the historical account of this amazing event.

A rare glimpse into how an ‘underground’ Chinese Catholic church celebrates Christmas (December 26, 2016, South China Morning Post)
But despite the humble setting of the mass compared to the cathedrals endorsed by the government, there was a sense of peace and joy in the air. The congregation shared home-made soup to warm themselves before the midnight mass while many chatted and caught up with each other as they live in different parts of Guangdong. Some only see each other at important festivals like Easter and Christmas.

China calls on Vatican to be flexible amid decades-old rift (December 27, 2016, Reuters)
The Vatican should take steps to improve relations with China, the Chinese head of religious affairs said on Tuesday, a week after the Roman Catholic Church said it was hoping for "positive signals" from Beijing.

Why Don’t Chinese Pastors Write Books? (December 27, 2016, Chinese Church Voices)
Theological books and resources from the West are widely available in China today and have become increasingly popular. What the Chinese church lacks, however, are books written by Chinese pastors and theologians. In the article below, originally published in Gospel Times, a pastor gives his thoughts on why Chinese pastors don’t write books.

Recovering an Asian Perspective of Grace (December 28, 2016, Jackson Wu)
Yong intends to dissuade us that Asian notions of reciprocity apply to us as recipients of God’s grace. However, it is precisely at this point that we should embrace the insight of Asian culture. Yong, like others, seems to reject East Asian reciprocity based on a faulty view of grace that stems from Western Christianity, not the Bible. In other words, Yong’s comments reflect Western and not necessarily Eastern or biblical thinking.

The Challenges of Localization (4) – Money (December 28, 2016, From the West Courtyard)
Where does the money come from? Who or what makes it financially possible for your organization or project to operate in China? While cultural shifts require a dying to self, and shifts in authority challenge us to greater levels of humility, no aspect of the transition to local leadership is potentially more painful than matters related to money. 

Society / Life

Half of one-child families do not want second child: survey (December 22, 2016, Xinhua)
The key factor for most parents considering a second child is quality of public services, including kindergartens and schools, quality of baby products, living environment and access to medical treatment, the survey said.

The words that ruled the Chinese internet in 2016 (December 26, 2016, BBC)
Chinese netizens are known for coming up with quirky and creative terms for people and things making the news… and they spread like wildfire. From "skinny blue mushrooms" to "melon-eating masses", the BBC's Tessa Wong takes a look at what has captured their imaginations this year.

Meet the black Americans going home to China (December 27, 2016, CNN)
Paula Madison grew up knowing she was different. Born in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Harlem, New York, she was raised by a single mother who looked Chinese.


Exclusive: Chinese education giant helps its students game the SAT (December 23, 2016, Reuters)
When the new SAT was given for the first time in March, the owner of the test took unprecedented steps to stop “bad actors” from collecting and circulating material from the all-important college entrance exam. But in the months since, China’s largest private education company has been subverting efforts to prevent cheating, Reuters found.

Economics / Trade / Business

Yiwu: The Chinese city where it's Christmas every day (December 19, 2016, Al Jazeera)
Around 60 percent of the world's Christmas decorations come from factories surrounding Yiwu, in Zhejiang Province, a little more than an hour from Shanghai on the country's high-speed rail. In the Festival Arts subdivision of the Yiwu International Trade Market, every day feels like Christmas.

Consumptionomics: China’s Dilemma on Moderate Prosperity (December 23, 2016, China Real Time)
This will be the ideological clash in China between neoliberal economists and more rational development people. [China President] Xi Jinping belongs to the school of thought that we can’t go on like this. His crackdown on corruption is part of that because corruption is a manifestation of everything goes. And that is the tension. If China goes on as it does, it will be catastrophic for humanity.

President Xi Open to Growth in China Falling Below 6.5% (December 23, 2016, Bloomberg)
Xi told a meeting of the Communist Party’s financial and economic leading group this week that China doesn’t need to meet the objective if doing so creates too much risk, said the person, who asked not to be named because the discussions were private. 

China pushes plans to bottle and ship Tibet’s clean water (December 26, 2016, Globe and Mail)
Using tax breaks and other forms of government encouragement, the country wants its companies to bottle five million tonnes a year of Tibet water by 2020 – equivalent to just over 10 per cent of bottled water consumed in the United States last year – and double that by 2025. That’s a 65-fold increase from 2014.

China to rein in outward investment as domestic growth stalls (November 26, 2016, The Guardian)
While foreign investment has soared, the amount of money flowing into the country is set to remain broadly flat at £92bn. This means the difference between investments abroad and those coming into China has reached an unprecedented £39bn. The widening gap has triggered concerns about capital flight, where investors send their money out of the country rather than investing it to spur domestic growth.

U.S. companies want to play China's game. They just can't win it (December 26, 2016, The Los Angeles Times)
For some high-flying U.S. Internet businesses, the China dream is fading; for others, it looks radically different from what they had hoped. California's Internet companies once dreamed of liberating China with technology, thinking that the system of censorship known as the Great Firewall would inevitably crumble, paving the way for their advance in the world's most populous nation.

Now China's Wuxi to suspend poultry trade amid bird flu fears (December 28, 2016, Reuters)
The eastern Chinese city of Wuxi will suspend poultry trade from Thursday amid fears about bird flu, becoming the second city in Jiangsu province to halt live poultry markets, it said. The city will close live poultry wholesale markets, restrict vehicles carrying live poultry from entering Wuxi markets and temporarily ban the entry of outside poultry, the city's information office said on Wednesday on its official microblog.

Zhengzhou, Wuhan Selected to Become Additional National Hubs (December 27, 2016, Caixin)
China’s State Council has picked Zhengzhou and Wuhan to be two economic, culture and transportation hubs — an initiative aimed at further lifting the cities’ statuses as regional centers and helping bolster a slower-growing national economy. The decision is part of five-year plan to improve the development of regions in central China from 2016 to 2020.

Science / Technology

China: We will be on Mars by the end of 2020 (December 28,2016, CNN)
The country's space agency held a press conference on Tuesday to mark the release of a policy paper, and outlined the government's goals for exploring deep space. Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the National Space Administration, said Beijing aims to launch its first Mars probe around 2020 to carry out orbiting and roving exploration, followed by a second mission that would include collection of surface samples from the red planet.

History / Culture

How George Michael’s Wham! baffled Communist China and inspired its youth (December 26, 2016, The Washington Post)
It was a culture shock to rival the best of them. The bouffant, coiffured hair, exuberant dancing and extravagant image of Britain’s leading pop band, and the Communist Party’s dour insistence on uniformity. When George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley undertook a historic tour of China in 1985, they may have baffled many of the locals, but they may also have had a lasting influence on a country still emerging from the trauma of the Cultural Revolution.

Hong Kong, where history has become a battleground for Beijing (November 26, 2016, The Guardian)
History is increasingly a battleground for that sense of belonging, where the Chinese government hopes to instill patriotism while younger people identify with a Hong Kong identity that’s separate from China.

Planned Hong Kong Museum Will Showcase China’s Imperial Relics (December 27, 2016, The New York Times)
In a sign of growing cultural ties between mainland China and Hong Kong, officials in Hong Kong have announced plans to build a museum to serve as a permanent display space for objects from Beijing’s Palace Museum, home to some of China’s most treasured imperial artifacts.

Inside 404: Video footage reveals abandoned buildings inside once-busy nuclear city (December 28, 2016, The Age)
Chilling footage has emerged showing the abandoned remains of a Chinese city used to build nuclear bombs known only as ‘404’. The video shows buildings which have fallen into disrepair with whole streets remaining empty and overgrown by weeds in the town that was built in 1958. The secret location in northwestern China’s Gansu province near the Gobi desert is reportedly missing from any map, with the facility established to become China’s base for building nuclear bombs.

Exorcism Complete at Chaonei 81: Beijing’s Spookiest House is No Longer Haunted (December 28, 2016, The Beijinger)
For those unfamiliar with this notorious hotspot of paranormal activity, here’s a quick catch-up: the complex, made up of two French Baroque-style mansions, was built in 1910 by the American Catholic Church and was later used as a Chinese language school to train foreign missionaries. 

Travel / Food

Chinese culinary culture (December 22, 2016, Sapore di Cina)
Chinese culinary culture (饮食文化, yinshi wenhua) is an indispensable aspect of Chinese life. As Confucius said: “food is the very first necessity of man”. Not to mention that, in China, it’s around the lunch table that business takes place.

Chinese History FAQs: “What was Mao’s Deal?” (December 27, 2016, Jottings from the Granite Studio)
Mao had a vision for China, and he wasn’t going to let little things like details or human lives get in the way. He took China into his pudgy hands like a souvenir snow globe. Every time the snow settled imperfectly he would shake it up again with another political campaign. It didn’t matter that inside his little globe there wasn’t snow but a billion lives being turned upside down with each new shake.

Local Journo Documents Extensive Fake Taxis Preying on Arrivals to Beijing's Terminal 2 (December 27, 2016, The Beijinger)
Beijing's airport is rife with fake taxis that pay a gang boss RMB 1,200 a month to jump the normal queue and are equipped with sophisticated meters that generate receipts for any amount you want, an undercover report by Beijing News has revealed.

China to build major visitor centre on Mount Everest (December 28, 2016, news.com.au)
Everest straddles the border of Nepal and Tibet, and local media reports the Chinese government has plans to build a huge visitor centre on their side of the mountain. China Today reports the $20.4 million dollar development will include a museum and hotel, as well as shops for mountaineers to buy supplies and repair equipment. Construction will begin in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2019.

Just Eat Jiaozi (July 28, 2016, The World of Chinese)
How do Chinese people celebrate festivals? Even if you are not a “China expert,” you might have been able to guess this one: eating 饺子 (jiǎozi), thin pieces of dough with ground meat or vegetable filling, steamed or boiled (also known as dumplings). In a country with a history of thousands of years and a diverse culinary culture, it’s hard to imagine that such a commonplace item can be regarded as one of the country’s most representative dishes.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Christmas in the People’s Daily (December 20, 2016, Medium)
A bumpy sleigh ride through the history of Christmas in China’s pre-reform period as reflected in the pages of the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper.

Video: Stephon Marbury: Remade in China (ESPN)
How the former hoops star went from NBA outcast to international trailblazer.


China Etiquette: THE Guide (December 22, 2016, China Law Blog)
Though the book obviously calls itself an etiquette guide, I view it as more a cultural guide and because so much of it dealt with China business culture, I found it very helpful. This is a great book (indeed, an almost necessary book) for anyone new or relatively new to doing business in China. It also makes for an excellent refresher for China veterans.

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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