ZGBriefs | February 1, 2024

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Featured Article

Telling China’s Story in Stockholm (January 27, 2024, China Media Project)
Angered by what he saw as biased coverage in the Western media in 2008, a Chinese resident in Sweden launched a newspaper and website for the Chinese diaspora in Nordic countries. The outlet is now a megaphone for the external propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party.

Sponsored Link

USCCA Book Circles (U.S. – China Catholic Association)
You are invited to join the 2024 USCCA Book Circles, whose aim is to educate friends and affiliates of the USCCA, current and former Board members, colleagues, and others interested in learning more about the Church in China. Our first Book Circle conversation this year will be on Saturday, February 17 (U.S. time zones: 9 am PT, 10 am MT, 11 am CT, 12 pm ET). Sign up here.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China’s Preference for Hard Power Is Creating Major Headaches for Beijing (January 26, 2024, The Diplomat)
Taiwan’s election result points to a broader trend: China is failing to use soft power effectively, and paying the reputational price.

Hong Kong leader starts push for new security laws, says city ‘can’t afford to wait’ (January 30, 2024, Reuters)
Hong Kong’s leader confirmed on Tuesday his intention to tighten national security laws to build on sweeping legislation China imposed in 2020, saying the city “could not afford to wait”. Some business people, diplomats and academics are watching developments closely, saying the prospect of new laws targeting espionage, state secrets and foreign influence, known as Article 23, could have a deep impact on the global financial hub.

The Red Sea crisis tests China’s global ambitions (January 30, 2024, CNN)
As Houthi rebels continue their assault on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, the deepening crisis is posing a fresh test to China’s much-touted ambitions of becoming a new power broker in the Middle East.

FBI shut down China’s ‘Volt Typhoon’ hackers targeting U.S. infrastructure (January 31, 2024, CNBC)
The FBI shut down a major China-backed hacking group that attacked hundreds of routers and had been working to compromise U.S. cyber infrastructure, FBI Director Christopher Wray announced Wednesday at a House committee hearing.

‘10 cups of tea’: for first time China’s top intelligence agency spells out reasons for questioning by authorities(January 31, 2024, South China Morning Post) (subscription required)
For the first time, Beijing’s top intelligence agency has laid out 10 conditions subject to scrutiny by its agencies – mainly concerning national security, state secrets and violating the country’s updated anti-espionage law – that could lead to questioning, known in slang as “an invitation to tea”. In an article posted to its WeChat account on Tuesday, the Ministry of State Security acknowledged the euphemism by referring to the“10 cups of tea” that could lead to a summons.

China Quietly Expanding Influence In Taliban-ruled Afghanistan (January 31, 2024, International Business Times)
While most of the world treats Afghanistan’s Taliban government as a pariah, China is growing diplomatic and economic links — and Kabul is happy for the attention. Top-level meetings between officials, new mineral deals, and the upgrading of transport routes between the two countries are regularly championed by Taliban government officials.

China ousts top rocket scientist from key political body in widening military purge (January 31, 2024, CNN)
China has expelled a leading rocket scientist from its top political advisory body, the latest sign of a widening purge in the Chinese military’s missile force and aerospace contractors. The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) removed Wang Xiaojun at a meeting in Beijing on Monday – just a year after he was appointed a member, state news agency Xinhua reported, without offering an explanation.


Sinicization: Culture or Politics? (January 29, 2024, ChinaSource Blog)
Understanding this cultural imperative does not necessarily make the current campaign any more legitimate. But it can shed some light on the perennial struggle by Chinese Christians not only to engage in appropriate cultural adaptation and contextualization, which Yang argues has been successfully underway within the Chinese church for some time, but also to articulate Christianity’s place within a political culture that has, time and again, warmed to certain aspects of the faith that seemed to be “good for China,” only to turn against the church when it was perceived as a threat to the established order.

Society / Life

The Lives of China’s Hidden Workers, Through Their Own Camera Lens (January 25, 2024, Sixth Tone)
A documentary made using short videos shot by working-class Chinese people is hitting the big screen for the first time.

China’s Population Decline Continues (January 26, 2024, Council on Foreign Relations)
Unfounded assumptions about a future rebound in national fertility rates weaken Chinese policymakers’ ability to properly address the challenges posed by rapid demographic change.

Ban or Bang? China’s Fireworks Paradox (January 31, 2024, The World of Chinese)
Why does the land that invented fireworks and firecrackers prohibit them in so many places?

Economics / Trade / Business

Hong Kong’s economic quagmire continues (January 25, 2024, East Asia Forum)
Problem areas including changes in consumer preferences, weak investor confidence, high interest rates and geopolitical risks. 

What China’s E.V. City Says About the State of the Economy (January 27, 2024, The New York Times) (subscription required)
Hefei has led the country in making electric vehicles and other tech products, but it still has not escaped a nationwide housing crisis.

Here’s what to know about the collapse of China’s Evergrande property developer (January 30, 2024, NPR)
Although Evergrande’s demise is unlikely to have an immediate impact on U.S. consumers, it is yet another indicator that China’s economy — which makes up about 20% of the world’s GDP — is undergoing a painful period of slowdown, and that could result in slower global growth down the road.

Weakened China won’t overtake US economy ‘until 2080’ (January 31, 2024, Yahoo! Finance)
China’s crushing debt levels, ageing population and an ongoing property crisis means it may never surpass the US to become the world’s largest economy, according to a leading investment bank. Nathan Sheets, global chief economist at Citi and a former US Treasury official in the Obama administration, said it was no longer “inevitable” that the size of the Chinese economy would surpass the US after Beijing lost major ground over the past two years. 

China overtakes Japan as world’s biggest vehicle exporter (January 31, 2024, AFP)
Japanese giants such as Toyota and Nissan have been much more cautious than their Chinese counterparts like BYD on electric vehicles (EVs), banking instead on hybrid models. Figures released Wednesday by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association showed shipments of cars, trucks and buses rising 16 percent to 4.42 million last year.

China’s GDP, population, youth-jobless rate: 6 takeaways from the economy in January (February 1, 2024, South China Morning Post)
China confirmed its economy grew by 5.2 per cent in 2023, while also revealing its population fell to 1.4097 billion. Authorities resumed the release of China’s youth-unemployment data, with a twist, and announced a cut in the total cash that commercial banks must hold in reserve, to ease market concerns


Throwing Eggs in the Classroom: ‘Guandan’ Fever Hits Primary Schools (January 29, 2024, Sixth Tone)
The traditional card game is being promoted among children for the soft skills it can impart, although some are not as keen.

Travel / Food

Houston Is Home To One of the Biggest Lunar New Year Parties in the US. Here’s How To Celebrate (January 29, 2024, Matador Network)
Fortunately, you don’t have to be in China to celebrate the Lunar New Year, or expose yourself to its time-honored traditions. You might even be surprised to learn that one of the best places to celebrate is actually right here in the United States. Houston hosts one of the biggest Lunar New Years celebrations in the country. 

Arts / Entertainment / Media

How Philly’s orchestra became a rare link between China and the US (January 24, 2024, Christian Science Monitor)
When formal diplomatic channels grow cold, countries must rely on softer forms of statecraft. For 50 years, the Philadelphia Orchestra has played a singular role in connecting America and China through the universal love of music.


Telling the Truth in China: A Book Review of Sparks (January 31, 2024, ChinaSource Blog)
Anyone familiar with Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Ian Johnson’s previous writing on China has likely already picked up a copy of his most recent book, Sparks. Johnson’s ability to combine his intimate familiarity with life in China today with heartfelt interviews from people throughout Chinese society makes his writing insightful and often deeply moving. His latest book is no exception, and should be read by all who care about the people of China.


New Animated Series to Share the Gospel (January 26, 2024, ChinaSource Blog)
Are you looking for a new tool to start gospel conversations? Check out this new film series entitled, What Is Home? or 《 何以为家》. The animated series, designed in the style of Chinese ink paintings, aims to reach East Asian people groups with the gospel creatively and intentionally.

Pray for China

February 4 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Feb. 4, 781 (Jan. 7 on the Lunar Calendar), a monument was erected in Chang’an (now Xi’an) to record the history of the Church of the East in China. The Xi’an Stele records the existence of a thriving church planted after 635 by Persian missionary Alopen (阿罗本) with the active support of Emperor Tang Taizong (唐太宗). The monument was buried during a crackdown instigated by Daoists in 845 and not rediscovered until 1625. Pray for the Infinite-Personal Creator God to be glorified as Chinese believers manifest the joy that comes from being one in Him. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:1-5

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Image credit: Anna Hunko, 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