ZGBriefs | December 7, 2017

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Featured Article

For Decades, China's Laborers Moved To Cities. Now They're Being Forced Out (December 6, 2017, NPR)
Even though they're Chinese, they're considered migrants because of the country's household registration system, known as hukou. Residency is determined by one's birthplace. The government's grand plan is to cap Beijing's population at 23 million — roughly a million more than now — and move non-essential, labor-intensive industries such as manufacturing and wholesaling out of the city.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

The Death of Zhang Yang and China's Military Purge (December 2, 2017, The Diplomat)
Zhang’s death puts to focus Xi Jinping’s quest for total control over China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). It is a viseral reminder of the high stakes at the top of Chinese politics and the Xi’s ongoing purging of the military.

China Gets 300 Political Parties to Endorse Xi as Peacemaker (December 3, 2017, Bloomberg)
The signatures of almost 300 foreign political leaders on a document praising Chinese President Xi Jinping’s contribution to world peace has provided him valuable ammunition to counter arguments by those who fear the country’s rising international clout.

Hong Kong must accept it is part of ‘red China’ and led by Communist Party, liaison office legal head says (December 4, 2017, South China Morning Post)
Hongkongers cannot cherry-pick their national identity and say they accept the city is part of China but reject the Chinese Communist Party leadership as such a stance is against the country’s constitution, the legal head of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong argued on Monday.

Xi Jinping: Strongman Among Rivals (December 5, 2017, China Policy Institute)
What this seems to mean is that while Xi Jinping is without doubt the strongman of China, he is not empowered such that he can be a totalitarian dictator in any sense. 

The Unprecedented Reach of China’s Surveillance State (December 5, 2017, China Policy Institute)
The Chinese Party-state is building a social credit system for collecting information about all of its citizens by police, courts, and other institutions. This enables the government to reach into society to a degree unprecedented in history.

More Performance Evaluations for Beijing’s Civil Servants (December 6, 2017, Sixth Tone)
In an effort to root out laziness, corruption, and dereliction of duty, Beijing’s Party committee and human resources bureau announced Monday that civil servants in three districts will be subject to more frequent performance evaluations.


The Sinicization of Religion (December 5, 2017, Chinese Church Voices)
This article from Christian Times reports on one Chinese scholar’s proposal for how to “Sinofy” Christianity. Professor Zhang Zhigang from Peking University gives three propositions for how to adapt religion to Chinese socialist society. This article has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Persevering saints (December 9, 2017, World Magazine)
When sociology professor Fenggang Yang, who directs Purdue University’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society, said China will be the most Christian nation in the world by 2030, major Western newspapers headlined that hope. China’s Global Times scoffed, though, and new regulations are making life harder for Chinese Christians. I asked Yang about his expectations now.

Ritual Groups of Suburban Beijing (Stephen Jones: A Blog)
In the 1990s, ritual activity in the southern rural areas of the municipality of Beijing was patchy. While we found few ritual associations in the counties of Gu’an, Fangshan, and Zhuozhou south of the city, the groups in the suburban counties of Daxing and Tongxian, southeast of Beijing, were still actively providing ritual services.

Society / Life

Shanghai’s Elderly Elite Flock to Luxury Nursing Homes (December 1, 2017, Sixth Tone)
Golden Sunshine, however, is different. Located in Shanghai’s Pudong New Area, it’s among a growing cohort of upscale elderly care facilities that promise a retirement complete with customized meals, on-call staff, and other luxuries.

Invisible Millions: China’s Unnoticed Disabled People (December 2, 2017, Sixth Tone)
Most Chinese see disability as something to be overcome or pitied, not something to be accommodated through accessible infrastructure.

China’s “Social Credit System” Will Rate How Valuable You Are as a Human (December 2, 2017, Futurism)
The SCS seems relatively simple. Every citizen in China, which now has numbers swelling to well over 1.3 billion, would be given a score that, as a matter of public record, is available for all to see.

Beijing migrant worker evictions: the four-character word you can’t say anymore (December 4, 2017, South China Morning Post)
In the end, those four characters had to go, never to be seen or mentioned again: di-duan-ren-kou, or “low-end population”. […]  The censors have now banned that word from social media and elsewhere.

Why Are the Migrants Being Kicked Out? (December 4, 2017, ChinaSource Blog)
The question comes to mind: is it about ridding the city of structures or people? And this being China the answer to that question is, of course, “it’s complicated.” 

The Underclass That Threatens Xi’s ‘China Dream’ (December 5, 2017, The Wall Street Journal)
Behind Mr. Xi’s confident narrative about his country’s emergence as a global superpower at the recent 19th Communist Party Congress is a more fragile reality.

Chinese Newspaper’s Nuclear War Survival Guide Alarms Readers (December 6, 2017, Sixth Tone)
The five-part guide was published in Jilin Daily, a state-owned newspaper serving Jilin province in China’s northeast, which borders North Korea. The feature explains how nuclear weapons work, what safety precautions people can take, and what happened in past attacks around the world.

Economics / Trade / Business

China’s Next Potential Boom Spot: The Places People Overlook (December 1, 2017, The New York Times)
The government is trying to shift the country’s growth engine away from its traditional dependence on factories and building things. Those old growth sources are no longer dependableand require more and more costly debt.

Inside China's 'Christmas Village,' where the world's decorations come from (December 5, 2017, ABC News)
Located a little over an hour away on the bullet train south of Shanghai, Yiwu, an inland city of 1.2 million people, reportedly produces nearly two-thirds of the Christmas decorations consumed worldwide. 

Photos: The world’s largest Starbucks is 30,000 square feet and just opened in China (December 5, 2017, Quartz)
Located in Shanghai, the new outlet measures 30,000 square feet (2,787 square meters) and is called the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai. 

China Says It’s Open for Business. Foreign Firms Find It’s Not That Simple. (December 6, 2017, The New York Times)
A government-led effort to help Chinese companies at home and abroad has set up a potential trade battle with the United States, as a growing number of American businesses complain that Chinese trade practices like forced technology transfer are putting them at a disadvantage.

Science / Technology

Inside China’s Big Tech Conference, New Ways to Track Citizens (December 5, 2017, The New York Times)
If there were any doubts about China’s technological prowess, the presentations made this week at the country’s largest tech conference should put them to rest.

Apple in China: WTF? –A ChinaFile Conversation (December 6, 2017, China File)
But by dancing onstage at the World Internet Conference, furnishing his hosts with golden soundbites about shared visions and common futures, and by endorsing hollow official rhetoric about “openness,” Cook has crossed a line.

History / Culture

Podcast: Follow the Law (November 30, 2017, The History of Chinese Philosophy, via China Channel)
Legalism takes front and center stage in this episode. After the conquest of the competing Warring States in 221 BCE by Qin Shihuang, a new ideology was embraced by the new Chinese state.

The Star of Bethlehem and Magi in Tang China (618–907) (December 4, 2017, Flower Ornament Depository)
What I want to discuss in the current post is the references to the Star of Bethlehem and the Magi in Chinese sources from the Tang period. I believe these references can tell us something about how Christianity was first transmitted and what sort of direction it took over the course of its maturation in medieval China.

Lens Snaps Shut: Mao’s Personal Photographer Dies at 93 (December 4, 2017, Sixth Tone)
Out of the approximately 700 photos of Mao Zedong published before his death in 1976, more than half of them were taken by Hou Bo, his personal photographer for 12 years. Hou’s pictures gave the public an inside look at the chairman’s life in Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of the country’s central government.

Travel / Food

22 Foods You Should Try in China (October 13, 2017, Orient Excess)
So, with a bewildering array of dishes available to you, and limited space in your stomach, where to begin? Well, as a resident of the People’s Republic for a good four years now, and as a remorseless glutton for a whole lot longer, allow me to be your guide. 

Climbing Tai Shan, the Great Mountain of the East (December 1, 2017, Sapore di Cina)
Tai Shan can boast thousands of years of history. The first traces of human beings goes back to the paleolithic period, and during the period of pre-imperial dynasties the mountain was already an important destination as the place where one would go to offer sacrifices to the gods.

Bureaucratic bites: Inside China's government-run restaurants (December 4, 2017, CNN)
Provincial government restaurants have their roots in the danwei, or work unit, system, whereby state-run businesses provided everything for their employees, from food, to housing, education and healthcare.

Of Sea Cucumbers and Men (December 6, 2017, China Channel)
The fate of the lowly sea cucumber is a cautionary tale into how one country’s growing hunger for a particular food source can reverberate into unforeseen ecological and social crises on the other side of the world.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Factory Youth: A Film Review (December 1, 2017, ChinaSource Blog)
Throughout the film, we follow the lives of a few selected factory workers, get to know their stories, and even follow some to their hometowns. Putting the audience in an observer’s position, the director uses no narration. His goal is to present you with the footage and as a viewer, you can form your own conclusions about what you see.

Language / Language Learning

Chinese Grammar – Our Complete Guide (December 1, 2017, Sapore di Cina)
In this article we’ll explain what counts as so-called “Mandarin Chinese”, how many dialects are spoken in modern China, what the Chinese writing is and the word in Chinese; how Chinese phrases are usually structured will also be explained.

The Subversive Power of Chinese Internet Slang (December 5, 2017, Sixth Tone)
On web forums, comment boards, and WeMedia, youngsters are playfully challenging social and political linguistic taboos.

Living Cross-culturally

Oops, I went home for Christmas — How to readjust to life abroad after a quick trip “home” (January 7, 2017, The Culture Blend)
This post is specifically for the masses who have been transitioning to a new life abroad and thought that a quick trip home for the holidays might be exactly what they needed to crush their culture shock and get rid of that pesky homesickness.

When the Pillar Moves: Transition and Providential Grace (December 4, 2017, ChinaSource Quarterly)
As in years past, only God in his sovereignty can open and close the door for foreign Christian work in China, and only he knows what lies ahead. However, when God moves the “pillar,” as he lights for them “the way in which they should go,” his people will follow.

Of Returns and Runways (December 4, 2017, ChinaSource Quarterly)
We have found fellowship in a loving church home and are developing friendships and putting down roots in our community. The kids are enjoying activities they never had the chance to pursue while we were in China, such as participating in a home school coop, taking ballet lessons, or playing sports. In these areas, life is feeling more “normal” every day. The bigger question for me personally remains, “Who is God calling me to become, and, how does that work itself out in provision for my family?”

The Church’s Role with Returnees from China (December 4, 2017, ChinaSource Quarterly)
If one is able to navigate this transition well, the process can similarly be a time of growth and learning and a continuing of the ministry that was started while in China. The local church has a large role to play in this transition and can be the critical factor in whether the process is a healthy one.


Finding Women in the State: A Socialist Feminist Revolution in the People’s Republic of China, 1949-1964 (November 30, 2017, ChinaFile)
Finding Women in the State is a provocative hidden history of socialist state feminists maneuvering behind the scenes at the core of the Chinese Communist Party.

Six great culture books for kids — plus a giveaway! (December 1, 2017, The Missions Blog)
Here are some books sure to broaden a child’s understanding of the world in interesting, relatable ways.

Suggested Book List for Parenting and Living Abroad (U.S. Department of State)

Image credit: 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