ZGBriefs | February 16, 2023

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Beijing Shouwang Church was Raided, and Pastor Zhang Xiaofeng Detained (February 10, 2023, China Aid)
On February 8, Shouwang Church held a church service at a place they rented in Kemao Market, Zhongguancun, Beijing when it was interrupted by police. […] They announced that the gathering held by Shouwang Church was illegal pursuant to the new Regulations of Religious Affairs and the shutdown decision issued by Bureau of Civil Affairs.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Interpreting China’s policy reversals (February 8, 2023, Tangled Woof)
So what does it mean that he is doing things so much differently than just a few months ago? Here are four of the leading interpretations that I’ve heard:

Where Is China’s Politics Headed in 2023? (February 9, 2023, The Diplomat)
But now that COVID-19 and Party Congress issues are largely resolved, will 2023 be a less turbulent year for politics in China? One certainty is that policymakers can now focus their attention on non-COVID-19-related issues.

The Philippines accuses a Chinese ship of aiming a laser at a Filipino boat crew (February 13, 2023, NPR)
The Philippines on Monday accused a Chinese coast guard ship of hitting a Philippine coast guard vessel with a military-grade laser and temporarily blinding some of its crew in the disputed South China Sea, calling it a “blatant” violation of Manila’s sovereign rights.

How has China reacted to the balloon saga? (February 14, 2023, BBC)
It has been almost two weeks since the US first accused China of floating a spy balloon over its territory. The incident has provoked a range of responses – from indignation to fevered speculation – from the Chinese government and people.

How zero-Covid was a costly lesson for China’s local governments (February 14, 2023, South China Morning Post)
Authorities throughout the country spent billions on keeping the coronavirus at bay. The effort has left them with a legion of temporary hospitals and testing booths – and the question of what to do with them.

China expresses support for Sri Lanka ahead of debt meeting (February 14, 2023, AP)
Beijing is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest creditors after extending it loans under President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, which expands trade by building ports and other facilities across Asia and Africa. China has offered a two-year suspension of repayments but balked at reducing the amount owed.

Iran’s President Visits China, Hoping to Revitalize Ties (February 15, 2023, The Diplomat)
During his three-day visit, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi made clear that Iran is not satisfied with progress on a 2021 partnership agreement.


The Church In The Wilderness (February 13, 2023, China Partnership Blog)
These thoughts were shared in a 2020 gathering of pastors from across China, encouraging them to press on with the mission of the church. The speaker reminded pastors that the church is always in the midst of hard times, and that God’s grace is richly poured out on his people, even as they walk in the barren desert.

A Scottish Farmer Started the World’s First Chinese-Language Magazine (February 13, 2023, Christianity Today) (subscription required)
During William Milne’s nine years of ministry in Asia, the second Protestant missionary to China printed Chinese books, helped translate the Bible into Chinese, and cofounded the well-known Anglo-Chinese College. Perhaps his greatest legacy was creating the first modern Chinese periodical, Chinese Monthly Magazine.

Twenty Quotes from Faithful Disobedience (February 14, 2023, Chinese Church Voices)
Noah Samuels reviewed the book Faithful Disobedience on February 13, 2023. Below are 20 quotes he compiled from the book that give a glimpse into the rich theology and ecclesiology of suffering yet faithful pastors in China. 

‘Honoring’ Your Father and Mother Isn’t Always Biblical (February 15, 2023, Christianity Today)
But does the Chinese understanding of filial piety really mean exactly the same as the biblical description of honoring parents? And can an emphasis on obeying the fifth commandment overlook or even rationalize parent-child relationships characterized by contention, pain, disrespect, and suffering?

Society / Life

China seeks ‘bold’ steps to lift birth rate (February 10, 2023, BBC)
A senior health official in Beijing has urged China’s local leaders to find ways to boost the country’s birth rate. Yang Wenzhuang said officials must take active steps to tackle the detrimental effects of China’s long-standing anti-population growth policy. He also urged officials to “make bold innovations” in tackling the cost of childcare and education.

To the Fields: China’s Professionals Become Part-Time Farmers (February 10, 2023, Sixth Tone)
On rented tracts of land, urban residents get to experience farming: from sowing seeds to watering them and eventually, the harvest.

Report reveals problems faced by children of migrant workers (February 14, 2023, China Development Brief)
According to the latest official statistics, there were approximately 130 million children with migrant parents, among whom 71 million migrated with their parents. This number is an improvement compared to 2010 when only 36 million children were able to migrate with their parents. 

Thousands of retirees protest in Wuhan and Dalian over medical payout cuts (February 15, 2023, Radio Free Asia)
Thousands of people took to the streets of two Chinese cities – Wuhan and Dalian – on Wednesday in an ongoing protest over major cuts to their medical benefits, according to local residents and video footage posted to social media. Video clips uploaded to social media showed crowds singing the communist anthem “The Internationale” under a traffic overpass in Zhongshan Park and along Jiefang Avenue in the central city of Wuhan.

Taking it Slow: China’s Gen Z in No Hurry to Walk Down the Aisle (February 15, 2023, Sixth Tone)
China’s young are getting married later than ever before. New government data shows that the average age for Chinese getting married in several provinces in 2022 was nearly 30, much higher than 2010 when the average age was 24. The trend only adds to growing concerns over the country’s population growth.

Economics / Trade / Business

Pressure on China’s factories grows as U.S. demand falls (February 8, 2023, CNBC)
For China’s domestic economy, the drop in overseas demand reveals a more widespread employment problem: lack of high-skilled factory workers.

China’s provinces spent almost £43bn on Covid measures in 2022 (February 15, 2023, The Guardian)
Chinese provinces spent more than £42.8bn on tackling Covid-19 in 2022, according to data released by local governments, with the figure expected to rise as the huge cost of the pandemic hits the world’s second-largest economy. Although national statistics are not yet available, at least 20 of China’s 31 provinces have published figures on how much money they spent on measures to control the pandemic.

China’s fate in the hands of its tightfisted consumers (February 15, 2023, Asia Times)
Economic recovery in China hinges on reviving consumer demand. Exports and investment were the principal driving forces of demand in 2022, but they are unlikely to continue on the same trajectory.


Past the Peak, China’s Schools Prep For a Normal Semester (February 13, 2023, Sixth Tone)
With more than 300 million students and teachers expected back in class, authorities have scrapped regular COVID testing and eased masking requirements.

Science / Technology

China’s tech giants are launching ChatGPT clones — and Beijing is watching closely (February 13, 2023, CNBC)
Chinese technology giants from Alibaba to Baidu have announced their intentions to launch ChatGPT-style products. But announcements from China’s biggest firms have not declared they are working on a free-for-all ChatGPT-esque chatbot, a move which could worry Beijing, which heavily censors internet content. Instead, companies have spoken about the technology in application-specific scenarios, taking a more circumspect approach.

History / Culture

The Battle of Red Cliffs and the blurring of fact and fiction (February 15, The China Project)
It’s hard to know exactly what happened at the Battle of Red Cliffs some 1,800 years ago. But what is agreed upon is that this monumental battle changed Chinese history — and achieved a mythical status that still endures.

Travel / Food

Hainan island: Known as ‘China’s Hawaii,’ the vacation hotspot is also a strategic military base (February 15, 2023, CNN)
It’s known as the “Hawaii of China,” a tropical island paradise where the Chinese middle class enjoys sandy beaches, five-star resorts, and duty-free luxury shopping. It’s also China’s largest free-trade port and host of the Boao Forum, an annual meeting of political and business leaders dubbed “Asia’s Davos.” But Hainan, China’s southernmost province, is also a strategically important island. And just like Hawaii, it is also home to key military bases.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Wandering Earth II speaks to China’s global aspirations (February 13, 2023, Asia Times)
Adapted from a short science fiction story by celebrated Chinese author Liu Cixin, at first sight, the plot will seem very familiar to fans of Hollywood. But this film speaks to China’s growing ambition of leading global governance, and its embrace of collectivism and consequentialism.

Language / Language Learning 

Flexible length of Chinese words (February 9, 2023, Language Log)
This instructional video is a bit long (11:05) and is delivered in a seemingly childlike manner, but it is full of useful information.  So, if you’ve ever wondered why so many Chinese words have both one syllable and two-syllable versions, this is worth a watch.

Word of the Week: Huminerals (人矿 rén kuàng) (February 15, 2023, China Digital Times)
First introduced in a now-censored Zhihu post on January 2, 2023, “humineral”—a portmanteau of 人 rén (“person”) and 矿 kuàng (“ore,” “mineral deposit,” or “mine”) in the original Chinese—describes a person relentlessly exploited by society until they are eventually discarded on the refuse pile.


Faithful Disobedience as Testimony to the Kingdom: A Book Review (February 13, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
This book seeks to showcase the voice of a pastor who has cared deeply, written wisely, and been affected greatly by the governmental attempt to control religion in the Middle Kingdom. It’s a “theological outworking of a pastor concerned for his flock, who is writing or speaking to others as he answers questions for himself” (p. 10). 

Pray for China

February 16 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
Johannes Avetaranian (阿维塔兰尼恩) was the first Protestant missionary to reside in Xinjiang. He was born as Muhammad Shukri Efendi in 1861 and became a mullah in Turkey. On Feb. 28, 1885, he was baptized as a Christian, with his new surname meaning “son of the gospel.” He served in Kashgar, Xinjiang as a missionary for the Swedish Mission Covenant Church from 1892-1897 and translated the New Testament into Uyghur. The church in Kashgar had grown to 133 members by 1933—mostly Uyghur and Kirghiz—but Muslim warlords then decimated the church and eventually expelled the last Swedish missionaries in 1938. Today there are a few hundred Uyghur believers in Kazakhstan and China. Missions historian Ralph Covell has written in The Liberating Gospel in China that, “Xinjiang’s Muslim peoples remain among the most resistant unreached peoples of China.” Pray for missionaries in Xinjiang to follow in the footsteps of Johannes Avetaranian and to persevere in speaking of the things they have seen and heard. For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard. Acts 4:20

Video: Hold Fast to Christ (February 1, 2023, China Partnership, via YouTube)
In the midst of all this uncertainty, we are praying that the church in China would host fast to Christ. Whether they remain in China or leave, we want to see Chinese Christians rooted in the gospel of grace and led by the Spirit. Will you join us in praying for the church in China to hold fast?

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
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