ZGBriefs | December 7, 2023

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Featured Article

How people in Hong Kong view mainland China and their own identity (December 5, 2023, Pew Research)
With local elections in Hong Kong approaching, here’s a look at how people in the special administrative region view mainland China, as well as their own identity and the way things are going in their city. All findings are drawn from a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Hong Kong: Protest leader Agnes Chow jumps bail (December 3, 2023, BBC)
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow says she is jumping bail and will not be returning home from her studies in Canada. Ms Chow was jailed in 2020 for taking part in the anti-government protests of 2019, and was released in 2021. She is still under investigation for “collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security”.

CNN took an 11-day cruise through some of the most-contested waters on Earth. Here’s what we learned(December 3, 2023, CNN)
A nighttime transit through the Taiwan Strait is a test of nerves, seamanship and political awareness in an environment where a slight miscalculation could potentially lead to an international conflict. It’s the first night in November. It’s dark – ink black before the moonrise – and Royal Canadian Navy Cmdr. Sam Patchell is taking that test.

Climate diplomacy in turbulent times: EU and China re-engage (December 4, 2023, MERICS)
The EU needs to shape the current phase of re-engagement with China by adjusting its approach to environment and climate cooperation on two fundamental levels. Moving away from dialogue for the sake of dialogue, the EU Commission has to consider the different political perceptions of climate cooperation and pursue a more stakeholder-centric approach with China.

Belt and Road: Italy pulls out of flagship Chinese project (December 6, 2023, BBC)
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s administration notified Beijing that it would cease participating in the BRI ahead of a deadline at the year’s end. Italy was the only major Western nation to sign up to the BRI, one of China’s most ambitious trade and infrastructure projects, in 2019.

Top US and Chinese diplomats agree to build on recent progress in ties (December 6, 2023, ABC News)
The top U.S. and Chinese diplomats have agreed to build on recent progress in bilateral ties and work together to keep the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza from spreading


Chinese Christians Use Zoom for Church. Their Government Is Making That Harder. (November 30, 2023, Christianity Today) (subscription required)
On a hot night in August, Yong Shao, a small group leader of a house church in a major city in northern China, was about to start the weekly Zoom Bible study when he started receiving a barrage of messages from his small group members with an unexpected problem: Zoom wasn’t working for them.

Chinese Christianity Endures, Part 2 (December 1, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
This Suffering is My Joy provides a timely record of how God’s people in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries responded to government persecution and endured. This historical demonstration of the inability of the gates of hell to prevail against the church of Christ is a most welcome reminder for today’s China ministry community of God’s unending faithfulness.

My Top 5 Books on Confucianism (December 1, 2023, Christianity Today) (subscription required)
Confucianism is a belief system rather than a religion, a system of ethics rather than a story of the divine. As the former state religion of ancient China, Confucianism serves as the foundation for Chinese culture, shaping its worldview, forming its traditional values, and offering a structure for relationships and the challenges of everyday life.

A Chinese Christian Exodus? (December 4, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
What caught our attention is the very obvious and strong presence of Christians in ongoing emigration from China. A couple of unofficial estimates put the percentage of Christians in the overall new immigrants from mainland China at 15-20%. If this number is credible, the disproportion is striking compared to the percentage of Christians in the general population in China, indicating that mainland China is losing its Christian population at a rather fast pace.

A New Christmas Film: Why the Nativity? (December 6, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Why the Nativity? explores questions, facts, and history seldom seen in traditional Nativity stories—from the influence of Roman rule, to the identities of the wise men, to the backstory of Mary and Joseph as children. […] Made available in English and Spanish for Christmas 2022, Why the Nativity? will be available in Mandarin (both simplified and traditional character versions) for Christmas 2023! It will air on cable in Taiwan and throughout Southeast Asia, as well as on YouTube and other digital platforms. 

My Top 5 Books on the Sinicization of Christianity (December 6, 2023, Christianity Today) (subscription required)
The primary goal of Zhongguo hua is political domestication. For example, the current policy requires Daoism, the only one of the officially recognized religions to originate in China, to go through Zhongguo hua as well, clearly showing that the policy is not about assimilation into Chinese culture but about ensuring submission to the CCP. 

Economics / Trade / Business

Moody’s Changes Outlook for China’s Debt to ‘Negative’ (December 5, 2023, VOA)
Moody’s Investors Service warned that high levels of debt among regional and local governments, many of which are struggling to remain current on their payments, is expected to force the Chinese government to step in with financial assistance.


China’s education reforms were meant to lower costs. So why is schooling more expensive? (December 6, 2023, South China Morning Post) (subscription required)
China’s changes to rules on schoolwork and private tutoring, intended to narrow gaps between haves and have-nots, appear to have had opposite effect. Parents still seek extra edge in hyper-competitive educational environment, pushing costs up and deepening chasm further

Health / Environment

What do we know about China’s respiratory illness surge? (December 4, 2023, Reuters)
A request by the World Health Organization for more information on a surgein respiratory illnesses and clusters of pneumonia in children in China has attracted global attention. Health authorities have not detected any unusual or novel pathogens, the WHO later said, and doctors and public health researchers say there is no evidence for international alarm. Authorities in Taiwan, however, this week advised the elderly, very young and those with poor immunity to avoid travel to China.

How China’s buses shaped the world’s EV revolution (December 6, 2023, BBC)
In the 2010s, China rolled out a rapid and widespread electric bus network. Today, China’s electric buses are influencing not just the country’s EV uptake, but the world’s.

China starts up world’s first fourth-generation nuclear reactor (December 6, 2023, Reuters)
China has started commercial operations at a new generation nuclear reactor that is the first of its kind in the world, state media said on Wednesday. Compared with previous reactors, the fourth generation Shidaowan plant in China’s northern Shandong province is designed to use fuel more efficiently and improve its economics, safety and environmental footprint as China turns to nuclear power to try to meet carbon emissions goals.

History / Culture

Some China Contacts With Henry Kissinger (December 5, 2023, The Diplomat)
Dr. Jerome Cohen offers his personal experiences interacting with Kissinger on China issues – with all the complexity that involved.

Video: Walking around Beijing in 1983 (Everyday Life in Mao’s China)

Travel / Food

China says visa-free travel policy has boosted tourism (December 5, 2023, Reuters)
The policy came into effect Dec. 1 and the ministry, citing immigration data, said about 7,000 of nearly 18,000 travellers from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia – the countries covered by the visa waiver – entered China in the first three days of the month. Daily average tourist numbers from those countries have risen by 39% on the first three days of December compared to on the last day of November, Wang said.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Three New Chinese Documentaries to Watch (December 30, 2023, The World of Chinese)
Chinese films that impressed at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam this November.

Language / Language Learning

China Moves to Standardize Place Names With Pinyin System (November 28, 2023, Sixth Tone)
The proposed measures aim to standardize names across the country, including for parks, streets, complexes, major infrastructure projects, and residential communities.

Pray for China

December 11 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
Beginning in Dec. 759, famous Tang dynasty poet Du Fu (杜甫先生) lived as a refugee in the western city of Chengdu for four years during the devastating An Lushan Rebellion (安史之乱) that took millions of lives. Chinese call him the Poet-Historian (诗史) and the Poet-Sage (诗圣), and Westerners compare his influence to Virgil and Shakespeare. A Chinese proverb says, “the mountains are high and the emperor is far away” (天高皇帝远). Pray that visitors to Du Fu’s former home in Chengdu will find refuge under the wings of the Infinite-Personal God. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. Psalm 91:4

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Image credit:  Uzenk Doezenk, via Unsplash
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