ZGBriefs | February 15, 2024

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Featured Article

The village basketball games that are a national obsession in China (February 13, 2024, NBC News)
It’s game day in this remote village in southwestern China, and the atmosphere is electric. Before thousands of fans on an outdoor court tucked in the rugged hills of Guizhou province — and with millions more watching online — teams from across China are vying to become champions of the “CunBA,” a grassroots version of the National Basketball Association whose name is a play on the Chinese word “cun,” which means “village.”

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China’s YouTube Propaganda in Latin America (February 13, 2024, The Diplomat) (subscription required)
The efforts are obvious, but many of the videos fail to garner significant attention.

‘To the Masses’: Decoding Xi Jinping’s Lunar New Year Visits (February 13, 2024, The Diplomat)
Understanding Xi’s take on a longstanding CCP tradition: visiting ordinary citizens ahead of the holiday season.

EU proposes sanctions on Chinese firms aiding Russian war effort (February 14, 2024, The Guardian)
The EU is proposing to sanction companies in mainland China for the first time as part of its latest measures aimed at shutting down loopholes that allow Russia to route military technology via third countries to its weapons factories.

As China Tries to Present a Friendlier Image, a New Face Emerges (February 14, 2024, The New York Times) (subscription required)
Liu Jianchao is a Communist Party diplomat skilled at defending tough positions without being pugnacious. He also once hunted fugitive officials abroad.

Why has China recognised Taliban’s envoy to Beijing? (February 14, 2024, Al Jazeera)
After over two years of negotiations, China recognised Bilal Karimi, a former Taliban spokesman, as an official envoy to Beijing, making Xi’s government the first in the world to do so since the group seized power in Afghanistan in 2021.


Chinese Christians and the Chinese Zodiac: Idolatry or a Cultural Artifact? (February 9, 2024, ChinaSource Blog)
In my new book, As Promised, I explore the influence of two types of feasts and festivals on Chinese Christians: church feasts that mold our heavenly identity and traditional Chinese festivals that sculpt our earthly identity. As Chinese New Year approaches, let’s delve into how we, as Christians as well as Chinese, should perceive the Chinese zodiac (生肖) through a biblical lens.

Fenggang Yang: “Xi Jinping is Not Trying to Make Christianity More Chinese” (February 12, 2024, The Pneuma Review)
Missionary-scholar Robert Menzies looks at what one China scholar says about recent changes in religious policy in China: this is not an attempt to make churches more Chinese. Rather, this is a move to politically domesticate the church in China. Despite this, there are reasons for hope.

The 2023 Regulations for Religious Activity Site Registration: What the Party Doesn’t Want You to Know (February 12, 2024, ChinaSource Blog)
For churches, the CCP has absorbed the offices of the government overseeing religion. So, while the State Administration of Religious Affairs office exists at the national level, at lower levels the CCP’s United Front Work Department has overtaken the Religious Affairs Bureaus. Religion oversight is firmly in CCP hands.

Beijing: The China Dream Has Shattered (February 12, 2024, China Partnership Blog)
There have been a lot of big changes in Beijing over the last several years. How has the way people are receiving the gospel changed? What does it look like to do gospel ministry, and what is the spiritual environment of the people your church is sharing with?

Society / Life

Collage: How Cities Across China Are Welcoming the Dragon (February 8, 2024, Sixth Tone)
The best art and installations celebrating the imminent arrival of the Year of the Dragon.

In pictures: Welcoming the Lunar New Year (December 10, 2024, BBC)
Saturday 10 February marked the start of Lunar New Year, and more than a billion people in countries around the world have been saying farewell to the Year of the Rabbit and welcoming the Year of the Dragon.

A photographer’s fantastical portrait of rural China during Lunar New Year (February 10, 2024, CNN)
In photographer Zhang Xiao’s images of the Shehuo festival, an ancient celebration still observed in parts of northern China during the Lunar New Year, rural life comes alive with something altogether more fantastical.

Bad economy, nosy relatives: Young Chinese put off by Lunar New Year (February 10, 2024, BBC)
Yuwen dreads the homecoming trip because he says he will be grilled by relatives over every aspect of his life, particularly his work situation including salaries and benefits. His parents know he has lost his job and have been understanding about it. They have agreed with Yuwen that the best course of action is to lie to relatives that he still has his old job.

Video: Drones put on dazzling dragon show in skies over China (February 13, 2024, ABC News)

Eyesores or Heritage? Shanghai’s Ubiquitous Laundry Racks (February 13, 2024, Sixth Tone)
Writers and residents reflect on how a classic style of outdoor clothes racks came to dominate the city’s skyline.

Economics / Trade / Business

A bumpy road ahead for China’s economy (February 8, 2024, East Asia Forum)
The word to describe China’s economy in 2023 is bumpy. After an expectations-exceeding growth of 4.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2023 following three years of strict COVID-19 prevention policies, China’s GDP grew short of the market expectations by 6.3 per cent in the second quarter.

What’s really happening with the Evergrande liquidation (February 12, 2024, NPR)
China is in the economic doldrums in part due to its slumping real estate market. And one of the largest property developers in mainland China is a huge part of the story. Evergrande is drowning in about $300 billion of debt. And after months of attempting to restructure, one of its entities is now being forced to liquidate. We look at what that means and how the Chinese economy will be affected. 

Exclusive: German investment in China rises to record high (February 14, 2024, Reuters)
German direct investment in China rose by 4.3% to a record high of 11.9 billion euros ($12.7 billion) last year and also increased as a share of the country’s overall investment abroad, official Bundesbank data analysed by the IW institute showed. The data underscores concerns that German firms continue to invest heavily in China despite the government’s pleas for them to reduce their exposure and its sharp cut in investment guarantees for the country.

China’s domestic travel takes off, but foreign visitors yet to make a comeback (February 13, 2024, South China Morning Post)
While domestic travel is experiencing a steady recovery since the lifting of stringent Covid-19 restrictions, only 50 per cent of the international arrivals seen in 2019 are expected to return next year, the CTA report said.


Robert Ekvall: Living on the Edge: A Book Review of Brave Son of Tibet (February 13, 2024, ChinaSource Blog)
Brave Son of Tibet tells the interesting story of Robert Ekvall. In a mix of Robert Ekvall’s challenges and eagerness to explore and push the limits, Robert’s life had many turns and bring us a very engaging story. Robert was born in China, on the border of the Tibetan areas.


UBS China Partnership Bible Mission in China 2022/2023 (United Bible Societies)
Join us in giving thanks to God for His faithfulness in the Bible ministry in China. Here is our annual “Bible Mission in China” magazine featuring testimonies and ministry updates. 

Pray for China

February 15 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Feb. 15, 1871, pastor-theologian He Jinshan (何进善牧师-Ho Tsun-sheen) from Guangzhou went to be with the Lord at age 53. He Jinshan served as James Legge’s longtime co-pastor in a unique bi-lingual church in Hong Kong. Lauren Pfister described He Jinshan as “the first modern Chinese Protestant theologian well informed in biblical traditions…He set the pattern for the pastor-scholar among Protestant Chinese communities…” Rev. He helped plant a church in Foshan and was inside the church building when it was set on fire by a mob in 1870 during a worship service. The trauma sustained in this event contributed to Rev. He’s death the following year. Pray for pastors in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Foshan to follow in the footsteps of He Jinshan and to love the Lord Jesus more than life. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39

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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