ZGBriefs | February 1, 2018

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Featured Article

China’s Rise and the Church’s Call (January 30, 2018, The Gospel Coalition)
Many parts of the world are inaccessible due to visa restrictions. Heightened anti-Western sentiment increases the risk of working with foreign Christians. New foreign NGO laws in India, China, Russia, and a host of other nations make it difficult for Western organizations to operate or fund local initiatives. Nearly all agencies sending foreign Christian workers to China report a downturn in recruits. Inside China, meanwhile, the indigenous church is ramping up efforts to mobilize a new generation of cross-cultural workers to take the gospel beyond China’s borders.

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Overseas NGO Law

Reams of Paperwork: Preparing Documents to Get Official Status in China (January 26, 2018, The China NGO Project)
Any foreign NGO seeking to register a representative office or file for a temporary activity in China must prepare a number of official documents in the location where it is headquartered. These documents must be notarized and authenticated (a process Chinese authorities refer to as “legalized” or “认证”) in the NGO’s home country.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Pocast: Cohen of China (January 25, 2018, Q&A, via Ricochet)
Jerome A. Cohen is a law professor, a China scholar, and a friend to Chinese democrats and freedom-seekers. For many years, he has been at New York University, and before that he was at Harvard. He clerked on the Supreme Court for Warren and Frankfurter. With Jay, he talks about the Chinese Communist Party, the Christian church in China, Falun Gong, Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and many other issues.

Reining in red entrepreneurs (January 26, 2018, East Asia Forum)
Although China undertook market reforms nearly 40 years ago, it has retained a state-dominated economy. Its own descriptor has for nearly three decades been a ‘socialist market economy’. While private enterprises have emerged, ‘private’ is a formal category of ownership that can be summed up as ‘less state’. In a political sense, there is almost no private sector.

Foreign journalists in China complain of growing abuse from officials, report says (January 30, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Almost half of more than 100 correspondents were subjected to some form of interference in 2017 while attempting to gather information, according to the report by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China. Twenty-three per cent said they were physically obstructed from accessing a location and 8 per cent said they were manhandled or beaten.

Theresa May unveils education deal at start of China visit (January 30, 2018, BBC)
Theresa May has announced new education links with China as she arrives for a three-day visit to boost trade and investment after Brexit. The initiative includes the extension of a Maths teacher exchange programme and a campaign to promote English language learning in China.

How Chinese government uses ‘front organisations’ to influence Australian society and monitor behaviour of its citizens studying there (January 31, 2018, South China Morning Post)
MPs investigating foreign interference have been handed evidence with unprecedented detail of the complex network of soft power used by extensions of the Chinese Communist Party in boardrooms and on university campuses across Australia.

Asia is set for a difficult 2018 – much of it centred around China (January 31, 2018, China Policy Institute)
Contested Asia has become a geopolitical and geo-economic reality. In 2018 we will see just how sharp the contests will become. The wounded nationalism of China, the erratic and unpredictable US, and the weak political leadership in many regional powers mean the coming year in Asia is going to be even more challenging than 2017.

Theresa May sidesteps backing $900bn Silk Road project of China (January 31, 2018, The Guardian)
Critics have said the project is designed to pull other countries in the region deeper into China’s sphere of influence, and that it could give unfair preferential treatment to Chinese contractors.

Chinese media enthuse about arrival of 'Auntie May' (January 31, 2018, BBC)
Chinese state media are rolling out the red carpet for British Prime Minister Theresa May as she embarks on a three-day trade mission. Outlets have nicknamed her "Auntie May" – an affectionate form of lingo that is usually reserved for key allies of Beijing. State media say the visit shows Sino-UK relations are moving in a positive direction, and they are optimistic about future trade relations and cultural exchanges.

China to issue 5-year visas for foreigners of Chinese origin (January 31, 2018, Straits Times)
Many ethnic Chinese living outside of China will be able to apply for visas valid for much longer stays from today, as the country tries to attract overseas Chinese to live and do business there. Following changes to visa rules, foreigners of Chinese origin will be able to apply for visas valid for multiple entries over a period of five years, up from one year previously.


China in transition, part 3: We have to press hard (China Partnership Blog)
We know at this point that we have to press hard. Press forward. We do what we planned; we do it boldly and we do it carefully. The gospel is still the key people need, and  people’s hearts are crying out for the gospel. The church is  the key. There is no real community life in China, but the churches have that. So we will continue to press forward. We will be humble to serve and to work in the culture. We have a great opportunity now. We just need to press forward.

Chinese Christian churches face new threats as state religious code is revised (January 25, 2018, America Magazine)
Under the new regulations, lower-level officials can oversee the activities of China’s religious communities—a move expected to lead to intensified harassment of Christians and churches—and large fines can be imposed on unsanctioned activities.

Noodles for the Messiah: China’s Creative Christian Hymns (January 25, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Henan has a long tradition of adapting the Christian doctrine to local customs. In one case, Lü Xiaomin, a Nanyang resident, composed more than 1,000 hymns, some of which were performed at the Sydney Opera House in 2012, and in that same year also featured in “Back to 1942,” a movie by the well-known Chinese director Feng Xiaogang.

Vatican, Eager for China Ties, Asks ‘Underground’ Bishops to Step Aside (January 29, 2018, The New York Times)
In a move that has upset many in the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican asked two “underground” bishops in China to surrender their positions to individuals approved by the country’s authoritarian government, including one the Vatican had excommunicated, a cardinal who traveled to Rome said on Monday.

Wenzhou churches reinstall crosses that authorities had taken down (January 29, 2018, World Magazine)
In the dark of night on Dec. 23, church members at the three Wenzhou churches climbed up to the roofs of their respective churches and erected new crosses atop the buildings. To protect the crosses, each church set up 24-hour guards to surround the church: Up to 200 congregants sang praise songs and prayed aloud during the day and more than a dozen kept watch at night. 

Xiamen Church Warns Its Congregation to Guard against Shincheonji Cult (January 30, 2018, China Christian Daily)
On January 24, 2018, Xiamen Xinqu Church released a WeChat message to remind its congregation to guard against active members of the Korean-based cult group "Shincheonji Church" who are evangelizing near the church.

Xinjiang to be a key focus of revised religious regulation (January 30, 2018, Global Times)
Xinjiang will be a key focus in enforcing a revised religious regulation, which calls for fighting extremism and overseas infiltration, a senior religious official said Tuesday. The revised religious regulation will take effect on Thursday. Zhu noted that Xinjiang, where challenges from extremism are severe, is a key focus for future law enforcement of the regulation. 

Explaining why the Vatican seems so eager for a deal with China (January 30, 2018, Crux News)
The debate has always been over how far Rome ought to go in trying to achieve that aim, and at what point compromise becomes appeasement. It has special resonance because we’re talking, in part, about the legacy of martyrs in China who’ve paid the ultimate price for their fidelity to the pope.

Why Christians in China Must Prepare Themselves for the New Regulations on Religious Affairs (January 30, 2018, Chinese Church Voices)
This week we are publishing an analysis of the regulations from Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Church in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. In this post, Wang Yi writes a critique of the regulations and warns Christians in China of the coming pressure that will result from the new regulations. He dissects why the new regulations are a violation of religious freedom and should therefore be resisted by Christians in China.

Not Exclusively Political: Learning from the Diversity of China’s Church (January 31, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
Scratch the surface of the neatly divided “official” and “unofficial” churches, and one quickly finds that Christians in China—like those in most countries around the world—are not easily put into boxes. As Chambon says, “Everything may be political but is not exclusively political. . . . Chinese Christians teach us that only one factor is never enough.”

Society / Life

China’s Young Children Are Overheating in the Middle of Winter (January 25, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Many Chinese parents are afraid of exposing their kids to the cold because common medical knowledge dictates that it weakens the immune system, leaving the body more susceptible to infections. As a result, parents assume that adding more layers of clothing is essential for staving off diseases. But being too warm is dangerous, too.

Exodus: 22,000 Beijing Residents Leave City After Overcrowding Measures Take Effect (January 26, 2018, Sixth Tone)
When Beijing drops a hint that they want you to go, people listen. 22,000 permanent residents decided to leave the capital last year, local statisticians told a press conference last week. The 0.1 percent drop in population leaves Beijing with 21,707,000 permanent residents.

Shopping with the Taobao app: The guide for those who don’t speak Chinese (January 26, 2018, Sapore di Cina)
This guide isn’t designed to be a complete manual on the use of Taobao, but rather guidelines for using it on a mobile device for the foreign user living in China who doesn’t speak Chinese.

The Propaganda I See on My Morning Commute (January 28, 2018, The New York Times)
Looking for a bank in Downtown Beijing? Walk past the screen proclaiming, “The people have faith,” take a right at the poster glorifying President Xi Jinping and cross the footbridge with the banner declaring a new era of prosperity for China. Even as China grows increasingly confident on the global stage, Mr. Xi is using propaganda at home to protect his strongman rule and extend the party’s dominance over everyday life.

Beijing plans to move 15,000 villagers away from its 600-year-old Ming tombs (January 28, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Some 16 villages spread across an area of 87 sq km are to be relocated as part of a plan to close off and restore the complex, Zhang Yanyou, head of the Changping district government, was quoted as saying in Beijing Youth Daily on Sunday.

Economics / Trade / Business

North Korea sanctions are strangling this Chinese city (January 25, 2018, CNN)
For decades, Dandong has been a key trading hub that helped the North Korean regime cash in on China's spectacular economic rise. But now it's suffering as President Trump, alarmed by the rapid development of Kim Jong Un's nuclear weapons program, presses Chinese President Xi Jinping to squeeze North Korea's sources of revenue.

China's eight-year-long smartphone growth comes to an end (January 26, 2018, BBC)
China's smartphone market has fallen for the first time, with annual shipments down by 4% in 2017, according to data from research firm Canalys. The decline ends eight years' growth in the world's largest mobile phone market.

Command and control: China’s Communist Party extends reach into foreign companies (January 28, 2018, The Washington Post)
"The creeping intrusion by the party apparatus into the boardrooms of foreign-invested enterprises has not yet manifested itself on a large scale, but things are certainly going down that path," said James Zimmerman, a managing partner of the law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton and former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, who is instructing clients to "push back."


Thinking about Chinese student experience (January 27, 2018, China Policy Institute)
It isn’t the fault of the Chinese students who turn up in your classes that they have grown up in an authoritarian information environment where the Party is highly motivated and capable through control of the media and education systems to instil a particular worldview.

Rural School Closures Are Leaving Young Students Out in the Cold (January 27, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Official statistics estimate that China has almost 50,000 schools with less than 100 students, spread across 14 contiguous regions — mostly in the countryside — that the government defines as suffering from extreme poverty. Small schools struggle to attract highly qualified teachers and provide students with an adequate education.

Health / Environment

China’s Emissions: More Than U.S. Plus Europe, and Still Rising (January 25, 2018, The New York Times)
China — which already emits more carbon from burning fossil fuels than the United States and Europe combined — saw electricity use jump last year as its economy accelerated.

China puts finishing touches to two-year smog crackdown plan (January 31, 2018, Channel News Asia)
"A three-year battle plan in the war to protect blue skies" is being hammered out by officials of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said spokesman Liu Youbin, and incorporates tougher curbs on major industrial regions. Key areas facing such restrictions are the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei zone in the country's north and the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas further south.

Science / Technology

Top 3 VPNs for China (January 2018, What’s on Weibo)
How to stream that TV drama without geo restrictions, and what VPN is best to purchase for your travels? These are What’s on Weibo’s favorites.

History / Culture

Ancient Chinese Temple Uncovered After Four Years of Excavations (January 26, 2018, National Geographic)
For more than half a millennium, the Great Shangqing Palace was the primary place of worship for a popular Taoist sect in China. It was reportedly where several generations of Chinese emperors worshipped.

Travel / Food

Insider’s Guide to the Harbin Ice Festival (January 25, 2018, Wild China Blog)
The city of Harbin, in northeast China, is well-known for its frosty weather come winter. Temperatures drop as low as  -40 °C (-40 °F) and thick snow covers the ground for months on end. But all that snow and ice doesn’t go to waste, the city is home to the world’s largest ice and snow festival.

Podcast: What Milk Means to China, From Farm to Table (January 28, 2018, Sixth Tone)
The “farm-to-table” story explored the trials and tribulations of China’s dairy industry since the melamine contamination crisis of 2008. In November, the team traveled through the “cow villages” of Inner Mongolia, getting up with farmers at the crack of dawn. 

Beijing! (January 29, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
Obviously, there is a lot that I could write about Beijing, but I’d like to focus here on the name of the city. Many who visit, particularly those who remember the “old days” when it was known in the west as Peking, want to know when and why the name of the city was changed to Beijing.

How to Travel to (and Around) China, From VPNs to T.P. (January 30, 2018, The New York Times)
China is one of the world’s most exciting and rewarding places to visit, but can be intimidating even to experienced travelers, who might struggle with communication and lack of familiarity with rules and customs. Here’s a handful of practical tips to help make sure your trip to the world’s most populous country is smooth sailing from start to finish.

Chinese flights scrapped in Taiwan row (January 30, 2018, BBC)
China Eastern and Xiamen Airlines had planned an extra 176 round trips over the Lunar New Year holiday. But Taipei has refused to authorise the flights, for which tens of thousands of people have bought tickets. The stand-off will potentially leave passengers stranded as they try to get home for the year's biggest holiday.

How to Choose Between Xi’an and Chengdu (January 30, 2018, Wild China Blog)
On your first trip to China visiting Beijing and Shanghai is a must. Ideally, we’d then recommend adding Xi’an and Chengdu to the mix. But if you’re pushed for time, how should you choose between these two cities that are both chock-full of history and culture? We’ve compared Xi’an and Chengdu side-by-side to help you make the right choice for your China trip.

Brewing Trouble (January 31, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Sixth Tone reporters Zhang Liping and Li You, along with photojournalist Wu Huiyuan, traveled to Maotai in southwestern China’s Guizhou province to see how the town and the national liquor are reinventing themselves.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Trivial Pursuits: The Rise of Chinese Quiz Apps (January 30, 2018, Sixth Tone)
The concept is simple: The app gives users a daily test comprising a series of multiple-choice trivia questions. Players have around 10 seconds to answer each question. If they answer correctly, they advance to the next round; if they get a question wrong, they are eliminated from the game. The more questions you answer correctly, the more money you stand to win.

Language / Language Learning

The Shallowness of Google Translate (January 30, 2018, The Atlantic)
That said, I turn now to Chinese, a language that gave the deep-learning software a far rougher ride than the two European languages did. 

Living Cross-culturally

33 Clickbait Headlines for Expats—Number 12 Will Make You Gasp (December 27, 2018, A Life Overseas)
Normally, clickbait headlines are created simply to grab clicks—and clicks and clicks and more clicks. But you can’t click on the titles below, since there aren’t any stories linked to them. Instead, if being an expat is in your past, present, or future, the stories are up to you, to write or live out yourselves.

How a 40 Year Old Camel Changed My Life (January 29, 2018, A Life Overseas)
The full truth is the camel (actual picture above) was only a child when he changed my life AND he was not the sole life-changer. There were others. A black pleather book bag, some cheap wooden shoes, and a one peso coin from the Phillippines, just to name a few.


A Winter Reading Recommendation (January 26, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
Timothy Conkling has written a book, the first in a proposed series, that discusses in an engaging way what it means to live bouncing between different cultures. So, if you are looking for some stay-in-where-it’s-warm winter reading, you might want to try Stranger in Every Land: Reflections of a Transcultural Adult in a Shrinking World.

A Village with My Name: A Family History of China’s Opening to the World (January 26, 2018, China File)
A Village with My Name offers a unique perspective on the transitions in China through the eyes of regular people who have witnessed such epochal events as the toppling of the Qing monarchy, Japan’s occupation during World War II, exile of political prisoners to forced labor camps, mass death and famine during the Great Leap Forward, market reforms under Deng Xiaoping, and the dawn of the One Child Policy. 

Chinese Translation of Cambridge History of Christianity Completed (January 26, 2018, China Christian Daily)
The Chinese translation of the Cambridge History of Christianity was announced as complete after a four-year effort and will be published by China Social Science Press. […]  The evaluation experts claimed that the Chinese version would present the most complete Christian history among Chinese Christians, helpful to the research on Christianity in China and interdisciplinary research. 

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