ZGBriefs | February 8, 2024

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Featured Article

From Descendants of the Dragon to Heirs of God (February 6, 2024, Christianity Today) (subscription required)
Their culture tells them the dragon is transcendent. Their Bibles tell them it’s evil. How should Chinese Christians approach this year’s zodiac animal?

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

“It’s Too Convenient to Say That Xi Jinping Is a Second Mao” (February 1, 2024, China File)
Last year, Wong published Party of One, a portrait of the organization that rules China, and the man who rose to its top. Xi emerges in the book as a prisoner of the Party, and its history, as much as he is its leader. Wong spoke with Nick Frisch, a research fellow at Yale. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Chinese migrants are the fastest growing group crossing from Mexico into U.S. at southern border (February 4, 2024, CBS News)
So what’s the fastest growing group among them? Chinese migrants. Yes, you heard that right…Chinese. We saw large groups, including many from the middle class, come through a 4-foot gap at the end of a border fence 60 miles east of San Diego. The illegal entryway is a new route for those hoping to live in America. 

Yang Hengjun: Australian writer given suspended death sentence in China (February 5, 2024, BBC)
Australian writer Yang Hengjun has been given a suspended death sentence by a Chinese court, five years after he was arrested and accused of spying. The sentence may be commuted to life imprisonment after two years, according to Australian officials. Dr Yang – a scholar and novelist who blogged about Chinese state affairs – denies the charges, which have not been made public. The Australian government says it is “appalled” by the outcome.

China’s Quiet Move Toward Moderation (February 6, 2024, The Diplomat)
Rhetorically, China is standing firm as the U.S. leads a hardening of policy toward Beijing. But its actions reveal a new willingness to compromise.


The First and the Last Sacrifice 最初和最后的献祭 (February 2, 2024, ChinaSource Blog)
Isa came to be Allah’s sacrifice to pay off our sin debt. Therefore, Isa surrendered himself to evil people. They crucified him, and his blood poured out. Before Isa died, he said, “It is finished.” 

Can the Gospel Come in a Red Envelope? (February 5, 2024, Christianity Today) (subscription required)
Chinese church leaders consider how to use the Lunar New Year tradition as an opportunity for evangelism.

The Gift of a Special Needs Son (February 6, 2024, ChinaSource Blog)
After several church services, I was full of passion and excitement. Looking back, it must have been the moving of the Holy Spirit that compelled me to ask Yanfei and my daughter to join me in being baptized on the evening of December 24, 2003, and taking on the name of Christian. This “great fortune” made me forget the glory, fame, wealth, and pleasure in Beijing, and I no longer wanted to return to Beijing as I had planned. At that time, the feeling in my heart was like Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

Reassessing Digital Engagement, Part II (February 7, 2024, ChinaSource Blog)
We are called for and to ministry modeled after the Word, who showed us what God was like by living among us in the flesh. Jesus could have been born in a king’s palace, and sent out a royal decree to all corners of the world, so that all might hear the good news. Instead, he chose the least “effective” or “efficient” modes of ministry. 

Even Atheist Chinese Scholars Admire Alvin Plantinga (February 7, 2024, Christianity Today) (subscription required)
The analytical philosopher’s Reformed epistemology is greatly helpful for Christian apologetics and theological education in China.

Society / Life

10 offenses that could lead to getting hauled in to ‘drink tea’ (January 31, 2024, Radio Free Asia)
In a post titled “10 Cups of Tea” that appeared in the Beijing Daily, the Ministry of State Security listed situations in which members of the public could find themselves under investigation for “endangering national security.”

AI Game Mimicking Nosy Relatives Takes China by Storm (February 5, 2024, Sixth Tone)
Every year in the runup to the Lunar New Year, young Chinese across the country mentally preparethemselves for the questions they will surely receive when they return home for their family reunions. From queries about salaries to quizzing on marriage plans, the unavoidable interactions with nosy aunties and uncles can instill fear like no other, and has even prompted some to cut ties with the worst offenders. But this year, a new AI-powered game is offering users a better way to mentally prepare for the daunting occasion. 

Job worries sour mood for Chinese heading home for holidays (February 5, 2024, Reuters)
Chinese workers packed into trains on Monday, heading home for the Lunar New Year holidays with worries about their jobs and a stuttering economy overshadowing the build-up to the long-awaited family reunions. People are expected to make a record 9 billion journeys before and after the Feb. 10-17 break – usually a time for celebration and relaxation. But this year, many said they were worried what they might find when, or even if, their employers call them back.

China: Snowstorms spoil Lunar New Year travel for millions (December 6, 2024, BBC)
Snowstorms and freezing rain have disrupted transportation in large parts of China as millions of people travel for the Lunar New Year holiday. Hundreds of flights and train services have been cancelled while motorists have been stranded on frozen highways for days. The holiday sets off the “largest annual human migration” as millions in China travel to their hometowns.

China population: with 20 million fewer people projected by 2035, will the retirement age have to be raised?(February 7, 2024, South China Morning Post)
China’s retirement ages are among the lowest in the world – 60 for men, 55 for female office workers and 50 for female blue-collar workers. Beijing confirmed in 2022 that it would start pushing back its long-mandated policy in the coming years, but no timetable has been released.

Economics / Trade / Business

The world’s factory strikes back (February 2, 2024, MERICS)
Economic security is driving a new era of globalization where dependencies are increasingly viewed as potential vulnerabilities. But efforts by advanced economies to diversify away from China are not happening in isolation. China is leveraging its dominance in supply chains to compete with emerging and developed economies. As supply chains begin to shift, China will make the process as costly as possible for its rivals.

Comments on Weibo giraffe post bemoan state of Chinese economy (February 5, 2024, The Guardian)
A social media post about giraffe conservation has become the latest place for people in China who are unhappy about the economy to vent their frustration, as the Chinese government increasingly cracks down on negative commentary.

China is pumping money into stocks and markets are loving it (February 6, 2024, CNN)
Chinese stocks staged their biggest rally in years Tuesday, after the country’s sovereign wealth fund said it would step up buying shares as officials scramble to draw a line under a three-year market rout.


What Will Newly Increased Party Control Mean for China’s Universities? (February 5, 2024, China File)
This latest move may be even more dramatic: Although all universities have Party branches and committees, the Party has never directly controlled administrative offices. How are China’s universities going to change under the new system? Why is the Party doing this now?

No Time to Teach (February 5, 2024, The World of Chinese)
Facing more bureaucratic formalities, overwork, and dwindling respect, many of China’s teachers are leaving the profession for good.

History / Culture

Celebrating Chinese Little New Year (February 2, 2024, The World of Chinese)
China’s Lunar New Year celebrations begin with rituals and offerings to the kitchen god.

Travel / Food

Stripped Down: The Story Behind China’s Favorite Snack (February 5, 2024, The World of Chinese)
Latiao is one of China’s most ubiquitous snacks. Since it emerged in the 1990s in the south-central Hunan province, plastic packs of the snack have taken over shelves in supermarkets, mom-and-pop shops, convenience stores, and even street food stalls where they can be added to spice up a meal.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

How Did This Brilliant Chinese Rust Belt Noir Get Made Under Xi? (February 3, 2024, Foreign Policy)
This is The Long Season, not only one of the greatest Chinese dramas ever but one of the best TV shows of the last year made anywhere—and now, months after its original release on Tencent Video, it is available on Prime Video for U.S. viewers.

Living Cross-culturally

Can Others Tell? (February 5, 2024, ChinaSource Blog)
As Chinese New Year is approaching, I am reminded how holidays are memory joggers. Good or bad they return to remind us of previous celebrations or gatherings. Birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings (October and November), Easters, New Years (no matter what month), and all the various and changing national holidays. 


Sorrow and Blood: Christian Mission in Contexts of Suffering, Persecution, and Martyrdom: Part I – Book Review(Revisited) (February 1, 2024, Global China Center)
The volume speaks to three audiences: Those currently suffering for their faith in Christ; mission leaders who need to equip workers for ministry in risky contexts; and comfortable Christians who either ignore what their brothers and sisters are going through around the world, or naively suppose that “it can’t happen here.”

Interview: Perry Link On His New Book, “I Have No Enemies: The Life and Legacy of Liu Xiaobo” (February 6, 2024, China Digital Times)
The biography, co-authored with a friend of Liu writing under the pen name Wu Dazhi, is a landmark work on Liu’s intellectual and personal life, as well as a portrait of the cataclysmic shifts through which he lived…

Links for Researchers

China 2024:  What to Watch | Center for China Analysis Report (Asia Society)
Across the economy, society, politics, the environment, and foreign policy, the team at the Asia Society Policy Institute’s Center for China Analysis largely foresees a vexing year ahead for China as challenges continue to proliferate — though some positive opportunities, at home and abroad, present themselves as possible exceptions. In this inaugural annual report, our analysts forecast ten key developments to watch in the year ahead.


Chinese Christian Couplets (ISAC)
This online depository developed by De La Salle University Manila (Philippines) and ISAC seeks to collect examples of Chinese Christian couplets from all around the world. With your support, we hope to gather and preserve pictures of thousands of poetic sentences that Chinese Christians use to mark the New Year. These Spring Couplets are valuable artifacts to reflect culture and faith.

Pray for China

February 10 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
The first day of the Lunar New Year (春节) falls on the new moon between January 21 and February 20. It is China’s major holiday—Christmas, Halloween, and Thanksgiving all combined in one 2-4 week period. It also involves the largest annual mass human migration in the world. For many rural families, it is an emotionally wrenching time—the only time of the year for parents, who were compelled to migrate to cities for work, to see their children left behind to be raised by grandparents. Pray for the many separated rural families—absent fathers and mothers who have gone to the city for work and children left behind with grandparents. Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. Isaiah 49:13

Praying as One (February 1, 2024, China Partnership Blog)
Through prayer, God’s people can come together to worship, wait, and intercede for and with one another. Prayer unites us with one another, with believers in China. It is through prayer that God’s kingdom will come. 

Beijing: Unique Among China’s Cities (February 5, 2024, China Partnership Blog)
We begin our year by praying for Beijing, China’s capital city. To help us pray wisely and specifically, Melody, a pastor’s wife, shared with us some of the things that make her city special. She also opened up about some of the challenging situations Beijing has faced over the past several years, and how she feels the general mood in the city is more pessimistic than previously.

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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