ZGBriefs | February 16, 2017

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Featured Article

How Spring Festival is being redefined? (February 13, 2017, China Daily)
For most Chinese, the weekend's Lantern Festival signaled the end of this year's Spring Festival and the return to real life and work in the new year. Traditionally, the holiday is celebrated at home with family. Fireworks and the giving of red packets make it the happiest time of year for children. However, modern lifestyles are rewriting how many Chinese celebrate this most important festival.

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Overseas NGO Law

Milestones in the Evolution of China’s Overseas NGO Law (February 15, 2017, From the West Courtyard)
While many critics say the new law gives the Ministry of Public Security a free hand to deal harshly with foreign NGOs, Hsieh argues that the legislation, in fact, provides a new degree of accountability by limiting the discretionary power of China’s security organs and others.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

'Close encounter' reported between US Navy plane, Chinese jet over South China Sea (February 10, 2017, Fox News)
The “interaction” between the U.S. Navy P-3 Orion and a Chinese KJ-200 took place on Wednesday in international airspace, U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Robert Shuford said in a statement. The Chinese "early warning" airborne surveillance aircraft crossed 1,000 feet in front of the U.S. plane forcing it to alter course, Capt. Jeff Davis said at the Pentagon.

China, the Party-Corporate Complex (February 12, 2017, The New York Times)
Hyper control, interventionism, currency manipulation — no, China is not a market economy. But it’s worse than that: The Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) has systematically infiltrated China’s expanding private sector and now operates inside more than half of all nonstate firms; it can manipulate or even control these companies, especially bigger ones, and some foreign ones, too. The modern Chinese economy is a party-corporate conglomerate.

Building NGO Capacity and Autonomy in China (February 13, 2017, China Policy Institute)
The current Chinese leadership appears to understand the potential contributions of NGOs to addressing various types of social and economic issues.  While they support a gradual expansion of the philanthropic and NGO sectors, they have also tried to put them under tighter party and government control. 

Five Years Later, Bo Xilai’s Shadow Looms Over Chongqing (February 14, 2017, China Real Time)
Five years after former Communist Party bigwig Bo Xilai saw his ambitions for high office spectacularly quashed by scandal, party inspectors say his “pernicious influence” lingers in the Chinese megacity he once governed.

China warns US against fresh naval patrols in South China Sea (February 15, 2017, CNBC)
China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday warned Washington against challenging its sovereignty, responding to reports the United States was planning fresh naval patrols in the disputed South China Sea. On Sunday, the Navy Times reported that U.S. Navy and Pacific Command leaders were considering freedom of navigation patrols in the busy waterway by the San Diego-based Carl Vinson carrier strike group, citing unnamed defense officials.

China knife attack: Eight dead in Xinjiang region (February 15, 2017, BBC)
Eight people are dead after a knife attack in China's restive Xinjiang region. Three assailants killed five people and injured 10 others before they were shot dead by police on Tuesday in Pishan county, local officials said. No motive was given, but the government often blames Muslim separatists for such attacks.


China's Great Awakening (March/April, Foreign Affairs)
They wonder what makes a good life and if there is more to it than material gain. As a 42-year-old pastor of a church in the western metropolis of Chengdu told me recently, “We thought we were unhappy because we were poor. But now a lot of us aren’t poor anymore, and yet we’re still unhappy. We realize there’s something missing, and that’s a spiritual life.”

Video: The astonishing ways God is working in and through Chinese Christians today (February 11, 2017, The Global Church Project)
But, leaving the numbers aside, how much do Americans, Australians, Europeans, and others really know about the life, struggles, sacrifices, hopes, witness, and experiences of Chinese Christians today? And what can Chinese Christians teach us about faith and spiritual passion? In this filmed interview, David Ro and Graham Hill discuss the astonishing ways God is working in and through Chinese Christians today.

China kicks out 32 Christian missionaries amid missile row (February 11, 2017, Reuters)
China has expelled 32 South Korean Christian missionaries, a Korean government official said on Saturday, amid diplomatic tension between the two countries over the planned deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in the South. The 32 were based in China's northeastern Yanji region near the border with North Korea, many of whom had worked there more than a decade, South Korean media have.

Chinese Catholics wary of suggested reform to government-backed church (February 12, 2017, South China Morning Post)
Two priests and a former senior official in the government-backed organisation that oversees the Catholic church in China have rejected suggestions that its role should be downgraded as part of a deal to restore ties with the Vatican that were severed over 65 years ago.

The Hardships of Pastoral Ministry in China (February 14, 2017, Chinese Church Voices)
Pastoral ministry is typically not a desired vocation among Chinese Christians. Although pastors in China are revered for their rich spiritual gifts and selfless service to the church, pastoral ministry itself is poor, lonely, and draining.  In this article from Green Olive Books, the author highlights the difficulties of being a pastor in China, as well as the need for Chinese Christians to better support their pastors. The author, a layperson, provides one unique look into how Chinese Christians view their pastor.

Society / Life

China aims to relocate 3.4 mln people in 2017 to tackle poverty (February 11, 2017, China Daily)
China plans to relocate 3.4 million people from poverty-stricken communities to more developed areas this year as part of its poverty reduction drive, according to government sources. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's economic planner, said 2.49 million people living in poverty had been relocated in 2016, meeting the target for the year.

“A Chinese Child Should Have a Chinese Mother” – Raising Mixed Children in China (February 12, 2017, The Beijinger)
“Can you speak Chinese?” “Did you understand what your mother just said to you [in that foreign language]?” “Where did you learn to speak Chinese so well?” These are all questions frequently thrown at him. Everyone is amused at his local Northeastern Chinese dialect when he answers, a dialect he is more apt at speaking than his Northeastern Chinese dad. Some will excitedly exclaim: “He speaks our tongue!”

Kung Fu Granny: 94-Year-Old Chinese Woman Is Local Martial Arts Legend (February 12, 2017, The World of Chinese)
Zhang Hexian (张荷仙) started learning martial arts at the age of 4. Now, 90 years later, she has gained fame as the ‘Kung Fu Granny.’

In China, a Lonely Valentine’s Day for Millions of Men (February 14, 2017, The New York Times)
If you’re a “single dog,” a “bare branch,” a “leftover man” or a “leftover woman” — all monikers for unmarried Chinese — you may find Valentine’s Day particularly trying. Judging by the numbers, quite a few of the long faces on Tuesday should belong to men.

China’s Youth Are Getting Less Nationalistic, Not More (February 14, 2017, China File)
The results not only show a drop in sentiment resembling nationalism, they strongly suggest that Chinese youth, at least those in China’s capital, are less nationalistic than their elders, belying notions of growing numbers of Internet-addled youngsters ready to take the government to task for any perceived failure to defend the national honor.

Speedy divorce goes through court trial via WeChat (February 14, 2017, China Daily)
How can you quickly say goodbye to a broken marriage? An instant messaging app used in court can do the job. A recent trial held at Fuquan No 4 People's Court through WeChat was completed in just 20 minutes to legalize a divorce agreement between a long-separated couple. It was the first trial case conducted through WeChat in Qiannan prefecture in Southwest China's Guizhou province.

These Five Charts Show How China’s Newly Rich Spend Their Wealth (February 14, 2017, Bloomberg)
“Chinese consumers are making purchase decisions based on how products make them feel,” said Vishal Bali, managing director of consultancy Nielsen China. “With increasing affluence, consumers are craving products that offer an enhanced, premium experience.”

Rural Millenials Make Spring Festival a Night to Remember (February 15, 2017, Sixth Tone)
The gala was an opportunity for them to put their knowledge and passion to work for their village, and it revealed the kind of positive impact a group can have on a place it loves.

Economics / Trade / Business

In China, social media means shopping (February 7, 2017, Tech in Asia)
When a Chinese fashion blogger who calls himself Mr. Bags last week sold US$174,000 worth of designer handbags in just 12 minutes, he showed that social media in China is as much about shopping as sharing.

WeChat and China WFOEs (February 13, 2017, China Law Blog)
Anyone who pays attention to China knows WeChat is the biggest name in Chinese social media. But the extent of WeChat’s dominance, and the way it has integrated itself into nearly every aspect of daily life in China, has significant implications for foreign companies doing business in China.


Anxious Chinese parents cause gene testing boom as they try to discover young children's talents (February 11, 2017, The Telegraph)
The trend in lab testing, which is prompted by pushy parents seeking to give their offspring an advantage, has seen the emergence of a growing number of "health institutes" that claim to predict if children as young as a year old will be the next Mo Farah, Lady Gaga, or Stephen Hawking.

Gang of fake exam takers arrested in Hebei (February 13, 2017, China Daily)
A gang of fake exam takers was arrested recently, accused of illegally taking exams for others in Hengshui, Hebei province, Beijing Evening News reported. More than 100 people sat for an adult college entrance examination in October in place of actual candidates for the exam, who paid money to hire them, a story in the newspaper said. 

Revealed: life inside China’s ‘Red Army’ schools (February 13, 2017, South China Morning Post)
Patriotic songs and lessons on the nation’s revolutionary past on the curriculum at more than 200 of the schools across the country.

Health / Environment

'We had to sue': the five lawyers taking on China's authorities over smog (February 13, 2017, The Guardian)
Who is responsible for China’s chronic and deadly air pollution? That depends on who you ask. Officials blame the weather or outdoor barbecues, activists blame steel companies and coal-fired power plants. But Yu Wensheng blames only one actor: the government.

China bird flu deaths surge in what could be the worst season ever (February 15, 2017, Reuters)
As many as 79 people died from H7N9 bird flu in China last month, the government said, stoking worries that the spread of the virus this season could be the worst on record. January's fatalities were up to four times higher than the same month in past years, and brought the total H7N9 death toll to 100 people since October, data from the National Health and Family Planning Commission showed late on Tuesday.

How China’s Garbage Goes From Cities to Rivers (February 15, 2017, Sixth Tone)
Hundreds of thousands of tons of household waste are produced each day in China, and waste disposal has turned into its own industry. But with toothless laws and a general lack of oversight, some waste disposal companies have found that they can inflate their profits by selling their trash on to middlemen instead of properly disposing of it themselves.

Science / Technology

Video: What is a VPN? How it works and why you should get one (VPN Video Reviews, via YouTube)
What is a VPN? This visual explanation will help demystify the confusion of a virtual private network, show you how it works and why you should consider buying one.

Foreigners Barred From Live-Streaming on Chinese Apps (February 15, 2017, Sixth Tone)
Chinese fans of foreign live-streamers might have to wait a while for the next broadcast. As new regulations come into effect, some platforms have chosen to take expats off the air.Multiple foreign users have received suspension notices from major live-streaming apps, including Blued, China’s most popular gay social networking app, and Yizhibo, which is backed by microblog platform Weibo.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

As Time Goes by in Shanghai: A Film Review (February 10, 2017, From the West Courtyard)
This delightful documentary by German director, Uli Gaulke, features these six sprightly bandmates as they are invited to play at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands—the biggest show of their careers! As they prepare for the show, they take trips down memory lane, talking about all the changes they’ve seen in China. Yet as they're still at it in 2013, it's clear that age is nothing but a number.

Overview of China’s 2017 Top TV Dramas (February 10, 2017, The World of Chinese)
China has one of the most booming TV drama industries in the world. As millions of drama fans tune into their favorite show, What’s on Weibo has compiled a list of China’s top TV dramas of 2017.

Travel / Food

Discovering the Spiritual Side of Southwestern China (Travel and Liesure)
What lies beyond the China of fast-paced cities and hypermodern culture? Horatio Clare journeys to the rural province of Yunnan, where age-old beliefs and traditions offer a glimpse of the country’s soul.

China’s attempt to punish Taiwan by throttling tourism has seriously backfired (February 9, 2017, Quartz)
Taiwan set a new record for international tourism last year. And it did so by courting visitors from the rest of Asia, thus reducing its reliance on Chinese tourists.

How to experience Tibet without the permit (February 10, 2017, Matador Network)
Litang fell under Chinese rule in 1912, was re-occupied by the Tibetan army in 1930, seized by a Chinese warlord two years later and handed over to Chairman Mao in 1950. Today, the town technically lies at the crossroads between three Chinese regions — Yunnan, Sichuan, and the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture — thus making it accessible for foreigners to visit freely without having to navigate your way through a maze of communist bureaucratic red tape.

Changchun! (February 13, 2017, From the West Courtyard)
When I was living in Changchun in the 1990s, as the city was beginning to shed the past and put on a modern skin, I often wondered what it would look like twenty years hence. This video answers the question. (Note: All the tall buildings you see were built during my time there or after I left in 1998.)

We Went to Try the Bird’s Nest’s New Air Corridor So That You (Really, Really) Don’t Have To (February 14, 2017, The Beijinger)
Now with the second round of festivities a mere five years away, Beijing has begun its push to reinvigorate tepid spirits, reminding you that yes, you do love winter sports even though you’ve never done one, and no it doesn’t matter that Yanqing, where the majority of the Winter Olympic Games’ outdoor events will be held, has an average annual snowfall of 1 to 5 centimeters. So what better way to drum up support (and recoup some lost money) than with something everyone can enjoy – a giant, zigzagging “Air Corridor,” smack-dab on the roof of the rusting beast itself!

Language / Language Learning

Introducing Chinese quiz tournaments on WordSwing (February 14, 2017, Hacking Chinese)
Playing games, especially with other people in a situation of friendly competition, is a great way of boosting motivation. I’ve wanted to find a way to provide this for Chinese learners for a while and now Kevin and I have created a first version of a Chinese quiz tournament over at WordSwing. It’s free, but you need an account to participate. 

Crazy Circus Chinese Characters (February 14, 2017, Sinosplice)
I’m always on the lookout for interesting, creative use of Chinese characters, and that includes cool and weird Chinese fonts. Well, the characters at the bottom of this poster really caught me by surprise, because I didn’t even realize they were characters at first.

Cold Comfort (February 14, 2017, The World of Chinese)
The fact is, however, that comforting someone is a strange business, language-wise. In English, it’s common to say, “there, there”, but where is the “there” to which the first “there” is referring? It’s madness. For the art of comforting in Chinese, always apply the right strategy, or, as another saying goes, “Apply medicine according to the symptoms (对症下药 duì zhèng xià yào).”


An interview with Xun Yuezang, author of Liberationists (February 14, 2017, Medium)
Liberationists tells the story of a human rights worker who disappears while crossing the border between Hong Kong and mainland China. More broadly, it’s about the lives of people fighting for human rights, freedom and democracy in the two places.

Links for Researchers

Party, State and Individual Leaders: The Who’s Who of China’s Leading Small Groups (Mercator Institute for Chinese Studies)
How are state and party bodies linked in China? Who is sitting at the table when certain policy decisions are made? Who is in charge of implementing these decisions? The interactive graph below provides a gateway to search for answers by visualising the formal links between party and state bodies, leading small groups and key individuals in the current Xi-Li Administration. 


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Location: Hong Kong

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource 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