ZGBriefs | February 7, 2019

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Featured Article

How the Forbidden City’s treasures ended up divided between Beijing and Taipei (February 3, 2019, South China Morning Post)
A harrowing, 14-year journey preserved one of humanity’s most important artistic legacies. When bloody civil war engulfed China, both nationalists and communists claimed the treasure as their own.

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Special Section: Chinese New Year

Video: 48 Hours From Home (February 1, 2019, Sixth Tone)
I’m taking the dark green train from Hainan to Harbin to meet travelers heading home for the holidays. Most passengers taking this route are rural migrant workers — laborers eking out a living in cities and factories, often away from their hometowns. For many of this so-called floating population, who numbered 287 million in 2017, the festival is the only time of year they can be home with their spouses and children.

Happy Chinese New Year! (February 4, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
What I love about this film (and about Jia’s work in general), is that it is full of what I would describe as “Chinese soul.” It’s more than the typical elements of imagery, storytelling, and symbolism. Jia brilliantly captures the nuances of Chinese culture, the things that define what it means to be Chinese.

Chinese zodiac 2019: All you need to know about the year of the pig (February 4, 2019, South China Morning Post)
In China, pigs symbolise wealth. Their chubby little faces and big ears are associated with good fortune. According to Chinese astrology, they are realistic and pragmatic – where other zodiac signs may dither, pigs are decisive.

Manya Koetse on coping with holiday stress (February 4, 2019, CGTN America, via YouTube)
CGTN's Asieh Namdar talks with Manya Koetse, editor-in-chief of What's on Weibo, about the stress to marry and have families that urban children struggling to cope in a hyper-competitive job market face when they return home for Spring Festival.

Why It's The Year Of Peppa Pig In China (February 5, 2019, NPR)
It's the Year of the Pig — Peppa Pig, that is. The popular porcine British cartoon character is being boosted to new heights — in part thanks to an unusual movie trailer that's become a runaway viral hit in China.

What Lunar New Year Reveals About the World’s Calendars  (February 4, 2019, The New York Times)
Rather than a scientific given, calendars say a lot about the history and cultural values of the societies that created them.

Watch: Chinese New Year Traditions Are Changing (February 5, 2019, Radii China)
From the way the "largest annual human migration in the world" takes place, to how young people deal with the pressures of returning home, Chinese New Year is changing.

Photos: Chinese Lunar New Year 2019 (February 5, 2019, The Atlantic)
People around the world ushered in the new year with displays of fireworks, family get-togethers, temple visits, and street festivals. Collected here are images from several countries where revelers have been welcoming the arrival of the earth pig.

Video: China's new year gala: Martial arts and patriotism (February 6, 2019, BBC)
China's lunar new year gala is the most viewed TV programme around the globe. This year the highlight was thousands of martial arts students dazzling the audience with their synchronised moves.

The Year Of The Pig Begins (February 6, 2019, NPR)
If you celebrated the Lunar New Year, it probably kicked off with food, family and firecrackers. What else does this festivity mean for people who celebrate?

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Surge in support for Taiwan's president as Xi's call for unification backfires (January 31, 2019, Christian Science Monitor)
The residents of this self-governing island, with its vibrant and well-established democracy, are as much inclined as ever to resist China's demands despite rising political, economic, and military threats from Beijing.

Recommended Reading: European NGOs and the Foreign NGO Law (February 1, 2019, The China NGO Project)
Lang and Holbig find that, in many cases, the law has not necessarily altered the facts on the ground, but rather thrown into starker relief the kinds of organizations and activities that are welcome and those that are not. 

The rising role of “hub-style” organizations as stewards of the party (February 2, 2019, NGOs in China)
Hub-style organizations have become a dominant force in the region’s discussion on future public welfare provision, and they bring with them a determination to scramble the boundaries between enterprise, government, and nonprofit activity in hopes for better integration and efficiency.

The Unpredictable Rise of China  (February 3, 2019, The Atlantic)
Xi Jinping seeks national rejuvenation, but his nation’s mounting power masks increased instability.

Xi Jinping’s New Year Tour: Dumplings and Riot Gear (February 4, 2019, The New York Times)
Mr. Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao, rarely mingles with the public. But ahead of the Year of the Pig, he made an exception, visiting a famous Beijing alleyway on Friday to hang decorations with residents and make dumplings, a favorite New Year food.

What Is Xi Jinping Thought? (February 5, 2019, Project Syndicate)
The goal of the Chinese president's guiding doctrine is not to launch a new cold war with the West, or to export China’s political model. Rather, Xi wants to shore up the authority of the party-state within his country, including by ensuring that Chinese are not exposed to liberal-democratic ideas.

The Coming China Shock (February 5, 2019, Project Syndicate)
For years, China has defied the widely held view that political openness is necessary for long-term economic development. But recent macroeconomic developments now suggest that the country's exceptionalism is nearing its expiry date, with potentially devastating effects for the global economy.

China in Africa and the American response (February 5, 2019, Asia Dialogue)
Bolton’s announcement not only highlighted some common problems with established readings of China’s Africa policies, which often overlook how Beijing has been able to cement its influence across the continent, but also underlined common flaws in Washington’s response to China, which are the result of such an interpretation of Chinese initiatives.

Canberra strands Beijing's man offshore, denies passport (February 5, 2019, Sydney Morning Herald)
Billionaire political donor and Beijing's former top lobbyist in Australia, Huang Xiangmo, has been stranded overseas after Australian officials declared him unfit to hold an Australian passport and cancelled his permanent residency.


‘Underground’ bishop appointed to state-backed role in central China (February 2, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Jin Lugang was inaugurated as coadjutor bishop for the Nanyang diocese in Henan, central China, Global Times reported on Friday, and will assist 98-year-old diocesan bishop Zhu Baoyu until his retirement.

A Special Interview With Early Rain Covenant Church, Part 1: What Did ERRC Experience? (February 5, 2019, China Partnership Blog)
The following is Part 1 of an extended interview conducted by a Chinese writer with the leadership and various members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu. It was shared online in China over the last month.

A Village Transformed by Christ (February 5, 2019, Chinese Church Voices)
In this article from Manna of God, the author describes the radical transformation of his home village from a “village of thieves” into a Christian community built on faith, hope, and love. He tells the story of an unlikely group of villains who have their lives profoundly changed by the gospel of Christ. 

6 Lessons from Gladys Aylward About Gospel Success (February 6, 2019, The Gospel Coalition)
Aylward didn’t set out to become a well-known missionary. She didn’t expect to be a world-changer. She simply set her face on Christ, then toward China. God accomplished the rest.

Society / Life

Chinese Netizens Discuss: “Do You Say ‘Thank You’ to the Food Delivery Man?” (January 31, 2019, What’s on Weibo)
For many people in China’s urban areas, the food delivery people have become part of their day to day lives, but does that mean that you are supposed to thank them, or not?

Through Her Lens: Wang Lin Trains Her Camera on China’s Skies (February 1, 2019, Sixth Tone)
By revealing the secret lives of the country’s flight attendants, Wang hopes to puncture the male fantasies surrounding the profession.

Inside Chengdu: can China's megacity version of the garden city work? (February 4, 2019, The Guardian)
It may be China’s most liveable burgeoning megacity, but Chengdu’s park city plans bear a price tag of forced evictions and relocations.

The Future Of Uyghur Cultural — And Halal — Life In The Year Of The Pig (February 6, 2019, Sup China)
Up until 2018, Lunar New Year celebrations were conspicuously absent from Uyghur society. Today, it is the largest cultural event of the year — for the wrong reasons.

Eight Killed in Knife Attack in China Amid Lunar New Year Celebrations (February 6, 2019, The New York Times)
A brief police account of the attack on Tuesday in semirural Huining County, Gansu Province, left many questions unanswered, including the identities of the victims. But the local public security bureau said that the attacker, a 49-year-old man surnamed Guo, had been drinking and suspected his wife of having an affair.

Economics / Trade / Business

China Joint Ventures: The Long Version (February 3, 2019, China Law Blog)
When done right, China joint ventures do share risk. But when done wrong they actually increase the risk, but only for the non-Chinese company. This is part one in a series of posts intended to help you spot China joint venture risks and avoid them.

China’s top 10 infrastructure projects to rescue its slowing economy (February 4, 2019, South China Morning Post)
To counter China’s rapidly slowing economic growth, the Chinese government has returned to the policy playbook that worked well in the past: spending money on large infrastructure projects.

Huawei Sting Offers Rare Glimpse of the U.S. Targeting a Chinese Giant (February 4, 2019, Bloomberg)
Diamond glass could make your phone’s screen nearly unbreakable—and its inventor says the FBI enlisted him after Huawei tried to steal his secrets.

China just quietly wrote off a chunk of Cameroon's debt. Why the secrecy? (February 5, 2019, CNN)
Debt write-offs for developing nations are usually greeted with great fanfare, such as the IMF and World Bank's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, or the Paris Club's landmark debt wipe-out in the early 2000s. In China, it's more complicated: African debt has become increasingly controversial at home.


Beijing Bans Red Envelopes in Parent-Teacher Chat Groups (January 31, 2019, Sixth Tone)
On Tuesday, the city’s education bureau published a notice banning non-school-related posts in parent-teacher chat groups on social platforms like WeChat and QQ. The notice explicitly targets commercial content and red envelopes filled with digital cash, which parents often use to curry favor with their kids’ teachers.

Disappearing textbook highlights debate in China over academic freedom (February 1, 2019, Reuters)
A constitutional law textbook written by one China’s best-known reform-minded legal scholars has been pulled from book shops, apparently the latest text to run afoul of a government campaign against “Western influence”.

How to see a doctor in China (February 2, 2019, Language Log)
Basically, going to a Chinese hospital requires a certain amount of knowledge about about how to fulfill the necessary procedures.

The Long Goodbye (February 6, 2019, The World of Chinese)
But sometimes these academic high-fliers hit the headlines again for failing to deliver on these promises, as in the case of Lu Buxuan, the Peking University graduate who was discovered running a butcher shop in Xi’an in 2003.

Health / Environment

Teaching China to recycle, village by village (February 1, 2019, The Washington Post)
Although the average Chinese person produces about half the solid waste of the average American, there are many more people in China. That means China throws out about 60 million takeout food containers every day.

Gene-Editing Scientist's 'Actions Are A Product Of Modern China' (February 5, 2019, NPR)
"I think part of his motivation was that he wanted to do something that is world's first," says Cheng. "And that could give him more name recognition in the hopes that it will bring him more investments and also more future business opportunities for his companies." China's government promoted the same goals, and it wanted Chinese companies and scientists to break new ground in a range of technologies.

12,000 Chinese blood plasma treatments contaminated with HIV (February 6, 2019,South China Morning Post)
The batch of intravenous immunoglobulin – an immune therapy treatment made with antibodies from blood plasma – was produced by China’s second-biggest medical blood products manufacturer, the state-owned Shanghai Xinxing Pharmaceutical Company.

Science / Technology

What Do the Huawei Indictments Mean for the Future of Global Tech? — A ChinaFile Conversation  (February 2, 2019, China File)
Is tech the main battlefield in a new global struggle between two superpowers? Are there any prospects for de-escalation? What will the indictments mean for the growth of Huawei and other major Chinese tech companies?

Everything you need to know about WeChat — China's billion-user messaging app (February 3, 2019, CNBC)
WeChat, which is owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent, has more than a billion monthly users, just behind Facebook's WhatsApp and Messenger. But it offers so much more than messaging, allowing its users to do everything from payments to the ability to book flights and hotels. One key feature it has is called "mini-programs" which are apps within WeChat.

The 'splinternet': How China and the US could divide the internet for the rest of the world  (February 3, 2019, CNBC)
The future could see Chinese and American apps and services dominate half of the internet each, leading to a split internet, according to Kaifu Lee, CEO of Sinovation Ventures.

By 2022, Every Chinese Will “Own” Two Surveillance Cameras (February 5, 2019, China Scope)
According to a report that the market research institute IDC released on January 30, the deployment of video surveillance cameras in China will reach 2.76 billion units by 2022. With nearly 1.4 billion Chinese, on average, each person will “own” two surveillance cameras.

History / Culture

The Forbidden City in imperial China’s Beijing had one enemy above all: fire (February 4, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Fire posed the greatest danger to the Forbidden City, as it was constructed almost entirely from wood. With the palace at constant risk of sabotage and accidental blazes, it was essential to be prepared to tackle the peril.

Video: Beijing traffic in 1986  (Everyday Life in Maoist China)

Travel / Food

Chinese Takeout: Hainan Breakfast Noodles In A Dramatic Setting (February 1, 2019, Radii China)
Watching Nandaqiao’s staff assemble the noodles at lightning speed is a cornerstone of the dining experience. In a matter of seconds, they’ll mount a bed of plain rice noodles before your eyes with shredded beef jerky, pickled mustard greens, bamboo shoots, deep fried peanuts, beansprouts, coriander leaves, chives, a sprinkle of ground sesame, and dribbles of molasses and soy sauce.

Tibetan Sichuan: Traveling in the Ancient Kingdom of the Kham (February 1, 2019, Sapore di Cina)
Hidden among the perennially snowy peaks of Mount Hengduan, 横断, it seems that nobody remembers the ancient kingdom of the Khampa anymore.

Retracing The Old Silk Road To Meet The Uygurs In Kashgar (February 6, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Enamoured by the tale of Gan Ying, an ancient Chinese explorer who set out to contact the Roman Empire, William Han decided to follow in his path.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

‘My Responsibility to History’: An Interview with Zhang Shihe (June 30, 2019, New York Review of Books)
“Tiger Temple” (Laohu Miao) is the nom de guerre of Zhang Shihe, one of China’s best-known citizen journalists and makers of short video documentaries, many of them profiling ordinary people he met during extraordinarily long bike rides through China, or human rights activists who have been silenced but whose ideas on freedom and open society he has recorded for future generations.

Chinese Sci-Fi Blockbuster Draws Crowds on Opening Day (February 6, 2019, Sixth Tone)
he Wandering Earth’ — a big-budget adaptation of a Liu Cixin novel — is expected to spark deeper interest in homegrown science fiction.

Living Cross-culturally

Expelled from China (January 31, 2019, World Magazine)
Beijing has made a targeted effort to rid the country of all foreign influences, especially Korean and Western missionaries who work with house churches. The government has even kicked out entire mission agencies—and missionaries who remain in the country recognize their time is limited. 

When the Gates Close and the Church Is Called to Care (February 6, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
As they transition they need people to take time to listen, support them, and wisely and lovingly speak truth into the situation—that God is still at work—and eventually help them dream new dreams. For small churches or those with no global pastor, encouragement can come from a variety of church members who are committed to helping others in a difficult transition.


Sociological Analysis and Theological Reflection on China’s Migrant Workers: A Book Review  (February 1, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
By now it is not news that 300 million migrant workers in China have moved from the rural areas to urban centers over the past 30 years. Books, movies, and articles have described this unprecedented massive migration, but few have discussed this topic from a social justice point of view, with in-depth social, economic, and historical perspectives; fewer still with critical theological reflection from a Christian’s perspective. Li Ma’s The Chinese Exodus: Migration, Urbanization, and Alienation in Contemporary China, published by Pickwick Publications in 2018, is a unique book with those rare and refreshing views.


Historical Photos of China: Dudeney, Leo Collection(Historical Photos of China)
A collection of photographs from an album compiled by the English journalist Leonard Dudeney (1875-1956), and magic lantern slides, mostly of Shanghai. 

Image credit: Inside the Forbidden City, by adamclyde, via Flickr
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