ZGBriefs | January 10, 2019

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Featured Article

How the State Is Co-Opting Religion in China (January 7, 2019, Foreign Affairs)
Today’s China seeks not to marginalize competing groups and belief systems, the way Beijing did during the Mao era, but to co-opt them. Indeed, the events of the past two years show that for the first time in a century and a half, religion is firmly ensconced in the center of China’s social and political life.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Two Years of the Foreign NGO Law: How Did 2018’s Registrations and Filings Stack up against 2017’s? (January 3, 2019, The China NGO Project)
If foreign NGOs thought that 2017 had a “crossing the river by feeling for stones” sense to it, 2018 was the year that registration and filing processes became more regularized, for better or worse.

Canada says 13 citizens detained in China since Huawei CFO's arrest  (January 3, 2019, The Guardian)
The Canadian government has said several times it sees no explicit link between the arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, and the detentions of Canadian citizens. But Beijing-based western diplomats and former Canadian diplomats have said they believe the detentions were a “tit-for-tat” reprisal by China.

Will China’s leadership succession after Xi Jinping skip a generation? (January 5, 2019, South China Morning Post)
China watchers searching for clues in identifying the next generation of top Chinese leaders have been focusing on the recent promotion of about a dozen vice-governors and vice-ministers born in the 1970s.

China Targets Prominent Uighur Intellectuals to Erase an Ethnic Identity (January 5, 2019, The New York Times)
As the guardians of Uighur traditions, chroniclers of their history and creators of their art, the intellectuals were building the Central Asian, Turkic-speaking society’s reservoir of collective memory within the narrow limits of authoritarian rule. 

Video: China says pace of Xinjiang 'education' will slow, but defends camps (January 6, 2019, Reuters)
China will not back down on what it sees as a highly successful de-radicalisation program in Xinjiang that has attracted global concern, but fewer people will be sent through, officials said last week in allowing rare media access there.

No Smiles Across the Taiwan Strait (January 7, 2019, Foreign Policy)
Either way, between now and the next Taiwanese presidential election, the prospects of forging a sustainable peace are exceptionally low. Both Xi and Tsai are dug into their respective positions. And Xi’s new prioritization of the 1992 Consensus and “one country, two systems” is likely to unnecessarily make the situation even tenser. 

A New Cold War Has Begun (January 7, 2019, Foreign Policy)
The United States and China will be locked in a contest for decades. But Washington can win if it stays more patient than Beijing.

China Offers Trump a Trade Peace Deal. It May Not Be Enough. (January 8, 2019, The New York Times)
China is buying American soybeans again and has cut tariffs on American cars. It is offering to keep its hands off valuable corporate secrets, while also allowing foreign investors into more industries than ever before. […]  Many American officials and businesses complain that China has long wiggled out of commitments — accusations that China denies. 

With Kim’s Visit, China Shows U.S. It Has Leverage on Trade (January 8, 2019, The New York Times)
Though the government said the events were unconnected, Mr. Kim’s surprise visit was an unmistakable reminder that China could complicate the Trump administration’s pursuit of other goals — including ridding the North of nuclear weapons — if the two powers fail to strike a deal on trade.

Where Did the One Million Figure for Detentions in Xinjiang’s Camps Come From? (January 8, 2019, China File)
In the absence of officially reported numbers or other hard evidence, researchers of various stripes have converged on the figure of one million as a common estimate of the people the Chinese government is detaining in Xinjiang’s camps. But where does this figure come from, and how is it formulated?

New documents link Huawei to suspected front companies in Iran and Syria, and may bolster US case against Meng Wanzhou (January 9, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Three Chinese-named individuals had signing rights to bank accounts in Iran for both Huawei and Skycom, a company US prosecutors claim Huawei controlled.

Michael Spavor granted Canadian consular visit a month after his detention in China (January 9, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, had visited Spavor on December 16, but Canada had been seeking consular access to him since his arrest. Canadian officials gained access to Kovrig on December 14, four days after his arrest.

China 'to let thousands of ethnic Kazakhs leave Xinjiang' (January 9, 2019, The Guardian)
China is allowing more than 2,000 ethnic Kazakhs to abandon their Chinese citizenship and leave the country, the Kazakh foreign ministry has said, in a sign that Beijing may be starting to feel a mounting backlash against its crackdown on Muslims in the far west region of Xinjiang.

Normalization of Sino-American Relations: 40 Years Later (January 9, 2019, China File)
Yet far more important, in the long run, was the support it gave to Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening” policy that was initiated just days before normalization was formalized. 

The costs of containing China (January 9, 2019, East Asia Forum)
Washington’s policymakers at last understand that China is a serious strategic rival. For the first time since the Soviet collapse, they recognise that a major country is trying to expand its power and influence at the expense of US global leadership. Now they must decide what, if anything, to do about it. 

US-China trade talks wrap up in Beijing as hopes of a deal build (January 9, 2019, CNBC)
Asian stocks jumped after the talks were extended for an unscheduled third day, fueling optimism that the world's largest economies can strike a trade deal to avoid an all-out confrontation that would severely disrupt the global economy.


China’s Muslims Brace for Attacks (January 5, 2019, Foreign Policy)
But the turn against Islam is by far the most prominent—and potentially the nastiest—example of China’s clampdown on religion.

Inside China’s unofficial churches faith defies persecution (January 6, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Paul is by no means a lone voice among the millions of faithful in China today who would rather see their independently operated churches close than comply with official regulations to register with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and China Christian Council – together known as “lianghui” or “two organisations” – which govern Chinese Protestant churches.

A Hope-Filled Prayer For Early Rain Covenant Church (January 7, 2019, China Partnership Blog)
This prayer was written by a Chinese pastor’s wife who spent over a week visiting members of Early Rain Covenant Church. She spent time providing care and encouragement to those women whose husbands have been arrested. This prayer shares her heart after her time in Chengdu.

The Boundary between the Church and State (January 8, 2019, Chinese Church Voices)
In this article from the journal ChurchChina, Jiang Dengxing sketches what that boundary should look like in China and argues the future of the church in China depends on holding that line. 

Society / Life

Worse than Japan: how China’s looming demographic crisis will doom its economic dream (January 4, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Since 2000, China’s total fertility rate has been lower than that of Japan. The average in 2010-2016 was 1.18 in China and 1.42 in Japan. This means China's ageing crisis will be more severe than Japan’s, and its economic outlook bleaker.

China's population 'to peak' in 2029 at 1.44 billion (January 5, 2019, BBC)
China's population will peak in 2029 at 1.44 billion before beginning a period of "unstoppable" decline, a government report says. The China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) study says the country must implement policies to handle a smaller workforce and an older population. Both changes combined could cause "very unfavourable social and economic consequences", the report says.

The young and lonely hearts of China’s shrinking cities (January 8, 2019, National Geographic)
As China struggles to revive its industrial heartland, its young people grapple with isolation.

Economics / Trade / Business

China's economic slowdown: How worried should we be? (January 4, 2019, BBC)
The cracks in China's economy appear to be widening, with signs of weakening growth amid a background of trade tensions. Adding to the worries, China's stock market was the world's worst performer last year, ending with a loss of 28%.  This week Apple said slowing sales in China meant it would not meet sales expectations, triggering sharp falls on global stock markets.

China Employer Rules and Regulations: Clean Yours Up for the New Year (January 6, 2019, China Law Blog)
Employer rules and regulations are so important because China does not have employment at will and this means that without enforceable rules and regulations you as an employer generally cannot discipline or terminate your employees.

Alipay Changes Name to Hanbao (But for Users, Nothing Will Change) (January 8, 2019, What’s on Weibo)
The fact that the ‘Hanbao’ name is pronounced the same way as ‘Hamburger’ (汉堡) in Mandarin is also a reason some people are mocking the name change.

On SMEs Trusting China Manufacturers. Don’t. Just Don’t.  (January 8, 2019, China Law Blog)
Chinese manufacturing companies are very concerned about the US tariffs and you should not believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

China’s 2019 gross domestic product forecast cut to 6.2 per cent by World Bank under ‘Darkening Skies’ (January 9, 2019, South China Morning Post)
A report titled “Darkening Skies” has forecast China’s growth for 2019 will drop by a further 0.1 of a percentage point over concerns of “weaker exports”, with many other institutions joining the World Bank in predicting a deepening slowdown in the world’s second biggest economy.


A Teacher Responds (January 7, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
I smiled, laughed and even got teary-eyed as I read about the experiences, challenges, and lessons learned by those who spent so many years serving the students of China. 

Kenya will start teaching Chinese to elementary school students from 2020 (January 8, 2019, Quartz)
Kenya will teach Mandarin in classrooms  in a bid to improve job competitiveness and facilitate better trade and connection with China.

Suspect in Beijing School Attack Identified (January 8, 2019, Sixth Tone)
The assailant who attacked 20 students at a primary school in Beijing on Tuesday is a repairman who had been sent to work at the school, according to state broadcaster China Central Television.

Why China’s Students Are Being Told to Kneel Down and Take a Bow (January 9, 2019, Sixth Tone)
Kowtowing is not merely some outmoded relic: It has been part of traditional Chinese culture for millennia. The problem isn’t the act itself; it’s that school administrators are forcing students to kowtow. In doing so, they betray a fundamental misunderstanding of both the ritual’s true meaning and their own role as educators.

Health / Environment

Video: China’s Health Care Crisis (January 7, 2019, The New York Times)
The Chinese government claims that it provides medical coverage for nearly all of its citizens. But the reality is that the country’s health care system is broken.

Science / Technology

A Look At The Methodical Plan China Has Laid Out For Space Exploration (January 3, 2019, NPR)
China's space program has landed a wheeled rover on the far side of the moon that's never seen from Earth. It's part of a systematic plan that the country has for space exploration.

Guangdong Man Fined $150 for Using a VPN (January 7, 2019, Sixth Tone)
The man, surnamed Zhu, was fined for “setting up and frequently using illegal channels to connect to international networks,” according to a notice issued by the public security bureau in Shaoguan, Guangdong province. 

Best Photos From China’s Far Side Moon Landing (January 7, 2019, Smithsonian Magazine)
The Chang’e-4 probe and its rover Yutu-2 are the first spacecraft to land on the little-explored lunar region.

Hi-tech Shenzhen charges ahead in China with all-electric taxi fleet (January 8, 2019, South China Morning Post)
One of China’s major cities has reached an environmental milestone: an almost entirely electric-powered taxi fleet. The hi-tech hub of Shenzhen in southern China announced at the start of this year that 99 per cent of the 21,689 taxis operating in the city were electric.

History / Culture

Beijing tourism film from 1986 (Everyday Life in Maoist China)

Lake of the Lost (January 4, 2019, The World of Chinese)
Hatty Liu gets to the bottom of a maritime mystery dubbed “China’s Bermuda Triangle”

The makeover that defined modern China (January 7, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Forty years ago, Deng Xiaoping launched pragmatic economic reforms that launched the new China we know today.

Travel / Food

US State Department Issues New Warning on Travel to China (January 3, 2019, The Points Guy)
The US Department of State issued a new travel warning on China, officially increasing its travel advisory rating for China to Level 2 (exercise increased precautions) on Thursday.

Think Hotpot “Lacks Culture”? Think Again (January 4, 2019, Hot Pot Ambassador)
Since one of China’s most famous food critics called hotpot ‘uncultured,’ Chinese netizens and media step up to defend hotpot culture and its history.

China's Harbin ice festival in pictures (January 5, 2019, BBC)
One of the world's largest ice festivals has opened in north-eastern China, featuring frozen castles, glistening snow sculptures and lots of snowmen.

Up the stairs: the hidden shops of Hong Kong’s high rises (Lonely Planet)
Lurking on upper floors of the city’s high-rise buildings, and separated from glossy stores by a few flights of stairs, these stores mainly sell unique, artisan goods – proof that Hong Kong still has space for a slower lifestyle and curated aesthetics.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Tyson-starring action film "China Salesman" to hit big screens (January 6, 2019, Xinhua)
The Chinese action film "China Salesman" starring Li Dongxue, Mike Tyson, Steven Seagal and Janicke Askevold will hit Chinese mainland cinemas next Wednesday, the film's director and producer said. The film tells the story of Yan Jian, a Chinese engineer who explores faraway markets in Africa and wins contracts with remarkable courage and wisdom.

Rare 19th-century images show China at the dawn of photography (January 8, 2019, CNN)
These are just some of the figures whose work features in a 15,000-strong photo collection amassed by New York antiquarian and collector Stephan Loewentheil. His 19th-century images span street scenes, tradespeople, rural life and architecture, showing — in unprecedented detail — everything from blind beggars to camel caravans on the Silk Road.

Living Cross-culturally

When Our Dream Came to a Halt (January 9, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
It was a Saturday afternoon when my husband got a call from the Public Security Bureau (PSB) telling him to get over to the office. They were waiting for him. […] That was the beginning of a month and a half of interrogations until we left China, my husband with a “ten days to leave the country” stamp in his passport.


The Writer Yu Hua: His Life and Most Important Works (January 4, 2019, Sapore di Cina)
Yu Hua (余华) was born April 3, 1960 (one of Yu Hua’s works is entitled “What happened on April 3”, 四月三日事件) in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. At about one year of age, Yu Hua’s father left Hangzhou to become a surgeon in Haiyan. His father’s name is 华自治, his mother 余佩文(Yu Hua takes his surname from his mother).

A woman's murder in Peking and a literary feud (January 8, 2019, BBC)
There was every reason for the killing of Pamela Werner to simply fade into history until a book introduced the case to a modern audience in 2011. But Paul French's best-seller Midnight in Peking also dug up old ghosts and animosities which ran much deeper than the writer could have envisaged.  A retired British policeman, Graeme Sheppard, has now written a rival book challenging French's version of events. The result: a literary stand-off revolving around family pride, bizarre events now lost in the past and a grisly murder still unsolved.

Links for Researchers

Old Pastor and Local Bureaucrats: Recasting Church-State Relations in Contemporary China  (December 5, 2018, Modern China, via Sage Journals)
In examining the relationships between a state-recognized Protestant pastor and local bureaucrats, this article argues that church leaders in contemporary China are strategic in enhancing interactions with the local state as a way to produce greater space for religious activities. In contrast to the idea that the Three-Self church structure simply functions as a state-governing apparatus, this study suggests that closer connection to the state can, at times, result in less official oversight.

Bid Farewell to Reform and Opening Up –– On China’s Perilous Situation and Its Future Options (January 7, 2019, China Change)
Last week, Dr. Zhang Xuezhong (张雪忠), a law professor at East China University of Politics and Law in Shanghai, posted an article on WeChat titled “Bid Farewell to Reform and Opening Up –– On China’s Perilous Situation and Its Future Options” (《告别改革开放–– 论当今中国的危局和前路》). The following is an excerpt from the article in which he dismisses the notion that Deng Xiaoping’s time was a better time, a time, many believe, the current leader Xi Jinping has digressed from and should return to. 


Lecture: From Missionary Cook to Counter-Revolutionary: The 150-year Saga of a Chinese Christian Family, by Jennifer Lin (Sponsored by the Center on Religion and Chinese Society)
January 24, 2019, West Lafayette Library
West Lafayette, IN


China Travel Advisory(January 3, 2019, United States Department of State)
Exercise increased caution in China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws as well as special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals.

Image credit: by Joann Pittman, via Flickr

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 of Northwestern-St. Paul …View Full Bio