ZGBriefs | February 8, 2018

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Featured Article

Possible deal between Vatican and China alarms many Catholics (February 2, 2018, The Washington Post)
Reports that the Vatican and China have reached an agreement on appointing bishops have been greeted with consternation by many Catholics in China and Taiwan, who worry that the pope is appeasing a government that routinely persecutes people for their faith.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

After Building New AU Headquarters, China Spies on Addis Ababa Facility (January 27, 2018, Morocco World News)
The glass tower $200 million complex was gifted to the African Union in 2012. The computer systems were fully equipped by the Chinese, allowing them to open an undocumented portal that gives Chinese administrators access to the AU’s computing system. This “backdoor” is an intentional fault put into code to allow hackers and intelligence agencies to gain illicit access to information.

U.S. Congress members irk China by nominating Hong Kong activists for Nobel Peace Prize (February 1, 2018, Reuters)
A dozen members of the U.S. Congress have nominated Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and its most prominent student leader for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, prompting a denunciation from Beijing for interfering in China’s affairs.

What It’s Like to Live in a Surveillance State (February 3, 2018, The New York Times)
China may no longer be the bleak land of Mao suits, self-criticism sessions and loudspeakers blaring communist slogans. It boasts gleaming bullet trains, luxury malls and cellphone-facilitated consumer life. But when it comes to indigenous Uighurs in the vast western region of Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) has updated its old totalitarian methods with cutting-edge technology.

Under Neo-Totalitarianism, There Is No ‘Civil Society’ in China (February 4, 2018, China Change)
In the face of the neo-totalitarian regime’s total control and persistent suppression, the prospect that a civil society born of social movements will usher in progressive political transformation seems increasingly distant and elusive. 

Is the Belt and Road Anti-Democratic?: A ChinaFile Conversation (February 5, 2018, China File)
How deeply should May enmesh Britain’s economy with China’s Belt and Road Initiative? What about other established economies and, in particular, democracies? 

NGOs at a Crossroads (February 5, 2018, China File)
For Li Dan’s part, he still sees room to maneuver on the ground, despite the marked changes to the legal situation for NGOs in China. One way to circumvent the legislation entirely is to register as a commercial entity, as Crossroads has done, rather than as a charity or NGO.

China confirms arrest of bookseller Gui Minhai (February 6, 2018, Al Jazeera)
An ailing Hong Kong-based bookseller was arrested by Chinese authorities last month for allegedly breaking the law, China's foreign ministry said. China confirmed Gui Minhai's detention for the first time on Tuesday, after his daughter said Chinese police had arrested him in January while he was travelling to Beijing for medical help, accompanied by two Swedish diplomats.

Hong Kong Court Throws Out Protest Leaders’ Prison Sentences (February 6, 2018, The New York Times)
Three leaders of protests that filled Hong Kong streets for weeks had their prison sentences thrown out by Hong Kong’s highest court on Tuesday, in a case that has drawn international scrutiny over accusations that the government was carrying out prosecutions to punish political opponents.

China Is Placing Underwater Sensors in The Pacific Near Guam (February 6, 2018, NPR)
Analysts see the move as a clue to China's strategy toward the Pacific, its neighbors and the U.S. The sensors could help China monitor foreign ships and protect its coastline from attack, while allowing its own warships to roam more freely.

China is planning a new network of Indian Ocean bases (February 6, 2018, China Policy Institute)
According to recent reports, China may be about to construct a naval and air base near Gwadar, in west Pakistan. This would be China’s second base in the Indian Ocean and indicates that it may be moving fast to establish a network of military bases across the region.

Podcast: Bitter Medicine: China’s New Pacific Frontier (February 6, 2018, Little Red Podcast)
China’s aid and growing influence in the South Pacific is causing alarm with an Australian minister recently complaining about Chinese-funded ‘roads to nowhere’. In this month’s episode, Louisa and Graeme are joined by award winning journalist Jo Chandler to discuss the challenges brought by a wave of Chinese aid and migration to the Pacific’s largest nation, Papua New Guinea.

Beijing Is Silencing Chinese-Australians (February 6, 2018, The New York Times)
Beijing’s reach into Australia goes far beyond groups like the student association. Its interference in Australian society is becoming increasingly bolder. And as Australians debate how to respond, the voices of the Chinese-Australians alarmed by Beijing’s encroachment are being drowned out by an aggressive Chinese government campaign to silence critics here.

A Weapon Without War: China’s United Front Strategy (February 6, 2018, Foreign Policy Research Institute)
Less headline-grabbing than China’s military advances and expanding economic reach is China’s united front activities, which have become an increasing cause for concern among countries in Asia, particularly U.S. allies. Not as benign as the name might sound, united front work aims to influence the policies of foreign states toward Chinese ends, through means that may be legal, illegal, or exploit gray areas.

China Detains Executive Close to Family of Former Prime Minister (February 7, 2018, The New York Times)
Duan Weihong, 49, who set up companies with relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister from 2003 to 2013, was detained before a Communist Party congress last year, according to three friends and business associates who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals by the authorities.

Here's why the South China Sea is highly contested (February 7, 2018, CNBC)
China has aggressively backed its claims to the South China Sea in recent years, building man-made islands with military facilities. Last year, the construction projects covered 72 acres. The area is globally important for a few reasons.


Chinese House Church Leader Allen Yuan 中國家庭教會領袖袁相忱 (1914–2005) (January 29, 2018, Medium)
In my thesis, I highlight that Yuan, despite a close friend of Wang Mingdao, was more open to Pentecostalism, probably due to his training in the Far East Bible College established by the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene and his encounter of the Pentecostal Pastor Wu Xikao in Beijing in 1933 (Aikman, 58–59). 

China Nursing Homes – A New Missions Ministry (February 1, 2018, Missions Box)
Elderly Chinese are often treated as second-class citizens since they are perceived as no longer able to make a significant contribution to society. Their longing for companionship and meaning has nurtured a new Christian mission field in eldercare in China.

Video: China's Crackdown on Falun Gong (February 2, 2018, BBC)
The spiritual movement Falun Gong was banned in China in July 1999. Thousands of people were arrested and the Chinese government announced that Falun Gong was an 'evil cult', but followers of the movement say they have been the victims of state persecution. 

Missing Christian house church leaders believed to be in Zhejiang police custody (February 4, 2018, Christian Daily)
While there is no word yet on the charges levied against the missing Christian leaders, China Aid noted that believers in Zhejiang have been facing harsh persecution from Chinese officials in the last few years. 

10 Quotes about China’s Rise and the Church (February 5, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
Brent Fulton recently wrote a long essay for our friends at The Gospel Coalition, titled "China’s Rise and the Church’s Call" in which he explores the ramifications to Western churches of the rebalancing of global power in general, and China’s rising influence in particular. It’s an excellent piece and we commend it in its entirety; but to whet your appetite, here are 10 key quotes

New Religious Regulations: Another View (February 6, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
The religious regulations are primarily focused on the Three-Self Church, acting as something like a legal exhortation. It is secondarily for the house church, for those groups who do not yet meet the standards for registration, who meet temporarily.

Is “Back to Jerusalem” Biblical? (February 7, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
In his conclusion, Jin asserts that the Back to Jerusalem vision is biblical, but warns against ignoring mission to other nations. 

Mindong Diocese goes beyond Beijing and the Vatican (February 7, 2018, UCA News)
it would be too simplistic to describe Catholics from Mindong as two static and competing groups caught in a power struggle between the Holy See and Beijing. They have always been more diverse than that, and the rapid transformation of China is pushing them to evolve further.

Society / Life

China’s Middle Class Is Pulling Up the Ladder Behind Itself (February 1, 2018, Foreign Policy)
Hundreds of millions of ordinary Chinese are still excluded from full participation in the country’s rapidly developing urban economy. And that exclusion is in danger of ossifying into something resembling a permanent caste system.

Shanghai Van Crash Caused by Smoking Driver, Police Say (February 1, 2018, The New York Times)
A smoking driver ignited a fire inside a van carrying fuel canisters, causing him to lose control and slam into pedestrians on a sidewalk outside a Starbucks in Shanghai on Friday, the police said. At least 18 people were injured. The crash occurred just before 9 a.m. on Nanjing Road West, near People’s Park in the heart of the city, the authorities said.

Chinese Civil Society in 2018: What’s Ahead? – A ChinaFile Presents Transcript  (February 2, 2018, China File)
There’s an evolving dynamic in the civil society space in China, and the appetite for charitable giving and philanthropy in China is growing by leaps and bounds. 

China's 'Toilet Revolution' Is Flush With Lavish Loos (February 3, 2018, NPR)
Potty pioneer Linfen has been building strange and fancy restrooms since 2008. The coal-mining hub has 40 five-star public toilets (see more here), 12 four-star toilets and 60 standard bathrooms. Facilities resemble castles, libraries, homes, even human faces. (The star designations are assigned by China's National Tourism Bureau.)

The elderly ‘migratory birds’ from the north ruffling feathers in tropical Sanya over winter (February 4, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Locals say the visitors are putting a strain on limited resources, particularly public transport, and there has been increasing tension between the “migratory birds”, as local media call them, and Hainanese.

Podcast: China’s Uighur Muslims, Under Pressure at Home and Abroad (February 6, 2018, China File)
By traveling not just to China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where 10 to 15 million Uighurs live, but also to Syria, where some have fled and taken up arms with militant groups, he sought to answer some of the most politicized and consequential questions about the ethnic group.

China's #MeToo movement started on college campuses. It may end there (February 7, 2018, The Los Angeles Times)
Many universities are ignoring online petitions. Government censors are deleting open letters. The #MeToo China hashtag has disappeared on social media, along with articles against sexual harassment.

Saving China’s Soul, One Village at a Time (February 7, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Some residents of a renovated countryside village are cashing in on tourism, but others think the new look has created a rift.

Powerful aftershocks hit Taiwan after deadly quake (February 8, 2018, Channel News Asia)
As of late Wednesday, at least seven people in the city were killed and 67 still missing, with rescuers combing the rubble of collapsed buildings and survivors recounting their escape from a dangerously tilting apartment block.

Economics / Trade / Business

Apple teams up with Alipay to win over China (February 6, 2018, CNET)
In something of an uncharacteristic move, Apple is partnering with Ant Financial, an affiliated company of e-commerce giant Alibaba, to allow for customers to buy products in-store and online using Alipay, a payment system that competes with Apple Pay. In exchange, the Alipay app will have a dedicated section for App Store purchases.


Student Rankings Are Making Parents and Kids More Miserable (February 6, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Children in China have it so hard because most people strongly associate the concept of jingying — the social elite — with good performances at school and college. Millions of parents buy into the snobbery and discrimination that perpetuates the myth of the jingying, believing that only elites get respectable jobs, health insurance, and a stable life.

UWF cuts ties with controversial Chinese-affiliated Confucius Institute (February 7, 2018, Pensacola News Journal)
George Ellenberg, senior vice president and provost at UWF, said university officials started analyzing the school's relationship with the institute last year. Funded and overseen by Hanban, an affiliate of the Chinese Ministry of Education, the institute started operations at the university in 2013.

Science / Technology

How WeChat came to rule China (February 1, 2018, The Verge)
China’s most popular messaging app, WeChat, has always had a close relationship with the Chinese government. The app has been subsidized by the government since its creation in 2011, and it’s an accepted reality that officials censor and monitor users. Now, WeChat is poised to take on an even greater role: an initiative is underway to integrate WeChat with China’s electronic ID system.

Chinese Internet Users Grow to 772 Million (February 4, 2018, The Beijinger)
Growth rates of internet users have remained steady. During 2017, a total of 40.74 million new netizens were added with a growth rate of 5.6 percent. Internet penetration rates have reached 55.8 percent in China, more than the global average (51.7 percent) and the average rates for Asia (46.7 percent).

Apple to build a second data center in China (February 6, 2018, CNBC)
Apple will build its second data center in China at Ulanqab City in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday, citing the local government. As Apple's first data center in north China, it would commence operation in 2020 and offer iCloud services on the Chinese mainland, the Xinhua report said.

In China, these facial-recognition glasses are helping police to catch criminals (February 7, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Police in a city in central China are using special glasses with facial-recognition software to help search for wanted criminals passing through a railway station during the Lunar New Year holiday travel rush.

History / Culture

10 Posts for Spring Festival (February 1, 2018, Chinese Language Blog)
This year, Chinese New Year falls on February 16th. It’s an exciting time in China as we get ready to enter the Year of the Dog (狗年 – gǒu nián). Learn all about this traditional holiday with these 10 posts for Spring Festival.

Unearthing the Islamic Relics of China’s Medieval Port City (February 5, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Historical records indicate that during the Tang Dynasty, the Muslim Prophet Muhammad sent four wise men to China, two of whom came to Quanzhou.

Who Killed More: Hitler, Stalin, or Mao? (February 5, 2018, New York Review of Books)
While these questions can devolve into morbid pedantry, they raise moral questions that deserve a fresh look, especially as these months mark the sixtieth anniversary of the launch of Mao’s most infamous experiment in social engineering, the Great Leap Forward. It was this campaign that caused the deaths of tens of millions and catapulted Mao Zedong into the big league of twentieth-century murders.

Travel / Food

China’s last steam train (February 5, 2018, BBC)
The Jiayang Steam Train in Sichuan Province has been running non-stop since 1959, when it was built as part of Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward.

The Unforbidden (February 6, 2018, The World of Chinese)
Despite the challenges, the Palace Museum is leading the way for other Beijing historical sites in research and guest experience. No longer simply a slog through empty courtyards, the Forbidden City is ready to take its place among the great museums of the world.

Sports / Entertainment / Media

China’s Fake Boyfriends – A Film Review (February 2, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
The documentary centers around a 27-year-old woman named Li Chenxi. She’s originally from Harbin but works as a landscape designer in Beijing. She enjoys her work, has friends, and a satisfying life in Beijing. But parental pressures are overwhelming and so she decides to hire a fake boyfriend for Chinese New Year.

China’s Olympic Dreams (February 7, 2018, China Policy Institute)
If China’s pursuit of the gold clearly coincides with the nation’s journey toward internationalisation and achieving a new status in the world, the state-driven championship mentality still reflects a combination of Chinese can-do confidence and the country’s lingering inferiority complex. 

Language / Language Learning

The Chinglish that Creeps in (February 1, 2018, Sinosplice)
In the past few months I’ve noticed that my daughter confuses the words “make” and “let” in her English. This is a mistake frequently made by Chinese learners of English. In Chinese, 让 has both meanings, and context makes the rest clear.

Language or Dialect? (February 6, 2018, China Channel)
If internet forum discussions are any indication, there’s something of an obsession with pinning down the difference between a dialect and a language. In Chinese language circles, we’re hit with the additional complexity of the term fāngyán, translated variously as “dialect,” “variety,”  “regiolect” and “topolect.” Every new arrival to Chinese language learning wrestles with fāngyán at one point or other.

Learning to unicycle, learning anatomy and learning Chinese (February 7, 2018, Hacking Chinese)
In this article, I will explore two ways of looking at language learning. This is somewhat oversimplified, but I hope that it will illustrate that which metaphor you use matters and learning languages isn’t really like learning anything else.


Controversial China 'influence' book to be published (February 6, 2018, BBC)
Publisher Hardie Grant said it would release the book, now titled Silent Invasion: China's Influence in Australia, after it had been rewritten to "minimise the legal risk". Prof Hamilton told the BBC that he had earlier submitted the book to Australian lawmakers in a bid to have it published under parliamentary privilege. Such a move would give it legal protection.

Leftover in China: The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower (February 7, 2018, China File)
Part critique of China’s paternalistic ideals, part playful portrait of the romantic travails of China’s trailblazing women and their well-meaning parents who are anxious to see their daughters snuggled into traditional wedlock, Leftover in China focuses on the lives of four individual women against a backdrop of colorful anecdotes, hundreds of interviews, and rigorous historical and demographic research to show how these “leftovers” are the linchpin to China’s future.


New honor-shame curriculum aims to serve Christian leaders, workers, educators around the world (February 7, 2018, Culture Learner)
o address growing global interest concerning honor-shame in Christian ministry, we at Mission ONE are launching a webinar curriculum called “Journey of Discovery in Honor, Shame, and the Gospel”. 

Image credit: Joann Pittman, 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