ZGBriefs | January 11, 2018

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Featured Article

Livestreaming Country Life Is Turning Some Chinese Farmers into Celebrities (January 3, 2018, NPR)
Each day, farmer Liu livestreams video of his life in rural Sichuan province to nearly 200,000 subscribers, who pay him the equivalent of $1,500 a month in virtual gifts — far more than anyone in his village has ever made.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

First Djibouti … now Pakistan port earmarked for a Chinese overseas naval base, sources say (January 5, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Beijing-based military analyst Zhou Chenming said the base near the Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea would be used to dock and maintain naval vessels, as well as provide other logistical support services.

China’s Endgame: The Path Towards Global Leadership (January 5, 2018, Lawfare Blog)
In the 19th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress report, China’s most authoritative strategy document, Beijing articulated for the first time an ambition to contend for global leadership. It stated that by mid-century, China seeks to have “become a global leader in terms of composite national strength and international influence.”

A Chinese Empire Reborn (January 5, 2018, The New York Times)
From trade to the internet, from higher education to Hollywood, China is shaping the world in ways that people have only begun to grasp. Yet the emerging imperium is more a result of the Communist Party’s exercise of hard power, including economic coercion, than the product of a gravitational pull of Chinese ideas or contemporary culture.

China's new 'Silk Road' cannot be one-way, France's Macron says (January 8, 2018, Reuters)
Macron began his first state visit to China with a stop in Xian, an eastern departure point of the ancient Silk Road, hoping to relaunch EU-China relations often strained by Beijing’s restrictions on foreign investment and trade.

Photos: A New Silk Road (January 8 issue, The New Yorker)
If bridges, pipelines, and railroads are the arteries of the modern world, then China is positioning itself as the beating heart. 

China’s fingerprints are everywhere (January 9, 2018, The Washington Post)
A National Security Council interagency group is coordinating the administration’s study of Chinese activities that are “outside traditional espionage, in the gray area of covert influence operations,” a senior administration official said. 

Chinese military to prosecute former top general for graft (January 9, 2018, South China Morning Post)
State-run news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday that former chief of joint staff Fang Fenghui was suspected of taking and giving bribes and would be handed over to military prosecutors. It gave no further details.

Assessing Xi Jinping’s Recentralisation of Power (January 9, 2018, China Policy Institute)
This power recentralisation can be used either to strengthen the Party and address local problems such as policy implementation gaps and corruption, or to allow Xi Jinping to seize personal power and establish “the rule of Xi” in a similar manner to Mao Zedong.

China turns soft power into a sharp tool (January 10, 2018, The Globe and Mail)
A new report by the National Endowment for Democracy argues that we need to re-think soft power, because "the conceptual vocabulary that has been used since the Cold War's end no longer seems adequate to the contemporary situation."

West holds its tongue for fear the Chinese snake might strike (January 11, 2018, The Australian)
To those it seeks to influence, the Chinese Communist Party can be an intimidating presence. The China scholar Perry Link once called the party “the anaconda in the chandelier”. Just by hovering, it induces self-censorship and subtle behavioural changes.


Remembering the Life and Ministry of Rev. Wang Yongxin (January 9, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
At the beginning of this year, the well-respected pastor Rev. Wang (Thomas)Yongxin died at the age of 93 at his home in San Francisco. Rev. Wang was highly regarded as an influential ministry leader among the worldwide Chinese Christian population. He was known to carry a special burden for missions and the Great Commission.

Shanxi Christian Church Demolished, Congregants Pressed to Stay Silent (January 9, 2018, RFA)
Scores of police and local officials demolished a large church in the Shanxi Province city of Linfen on Tuesday, thwarting efforts by congregants to halt the demolition and pressuring them to remain silent, witnesses told RFA’s Cantonese Service. The Golden Lampstand Church was surrounded by officials, while cranes and bulldozers methodically reduced the large building to rubble, according to a witness who spoke to RFA.

Former head of Hong Kong Christian Council denounces Beijing for reviving 'autocracy' (January 9, 2018, Christian Times)
Rev. Po Kam-cheong, who stepped down as the secretary general of the council on Dec. 31 after his nine-year tenure, shared his personal political observations and urged local churches serving a Protestant congregation of about half a million to be "united and courageous" as they face the challenges.

Society / Life

China’s social media giants want their users to help out with the crushing burden of censorship (January 5, 2018, Quartz)
On Monday (Jan. 1), China’s tech giant Tencent said it was hiring (link in Chinese) 200 content reviewers to form what the company is calling a “penguin patrol unit,” after the company’s penguin mascot. The brigade, made of 10 journalists, 70 writers who use Tencent’s content platforms, and 120 regular internet users, will flag “low-quality” content.

China to move millions of people from homes in anti-poverty drive (January 7, 2018, The Guardian)
Over the next three years Xi Jinping’s anti-poverty crusade – which the Communist party leader has declared one of the key themes of his second five-year term – will see millions of marginalised rural dwellers resettled in new, government-subsidised homes.

China's women break silence on harassment as #MeToo becomes #WoYeShi (January 8 2018, The Guardian)
Beijing’s strict social control mean few have risked speaking out about misogyny but campaigners are beginning to make their voices heard.

Podcast: Lies, Damned Lies, and Police Statistics: Crime and the Chinese Dream (January 8, 2018, The Little Red Podcast)
Officially, China boasts one of the lowest murder rates in the world, claiming a forty-three percent drop in severe violent crime over the past five years. But Børge Bakken, a specialist in Chinese criminology, argues that all Chinese crime statistics are falsified for political, propaganda, and administrative reasons.

Garbage-sorting violators in China now risk being punished with a junk credit rating (January 8, 2018, Quartz)
Failing to sort out your trash could make it harder for you to get a bank loan in China. The new regulation passed last week in the eastern province of Zhejiang is the latest move by Chinese authorities to incorporate daily misdemeanors into the country’s burgeoning social credit system. 

A Life-Size Replica Of The Titanic Is Under Construction In China's Countryside (January 8, 2018, NPR)
A lot of questions spring to mind on arriving at the construction site for a full-scale Chinese replica of the Titanic: Why is this being built in the remote countryside, 1,000 miles from the sea? Why is this being built? And simply: Why?

China cracks down on five-star restrooms as Xi’s ‘toilet revolution’ spirals out of control (January 9, 2018, The Telegraph)
Local authorities in China have been told to rein in spending on a nationwide ‘toilet revolution’ campaign amid concerns that officials are flushing huge sums of money away as they compete to create ‘five-star’ restrooms.

Building boom in China's tropics as Beijing's 'smog refugees' flee toxic air (January 10, 2018, The Guardian)
Ji and Liu, 40 and 32, are part of a small but telling band of jaded Chinese urbanites seeking to outrun the hustle and bustle of their country’s big smoke. Some are permanently moving to China’s comparatively peaceful and preserved periphery, putting down roots in places such as Yunnan or Hainan, a tropical outpost in the South China Sea.

Economics / Trade / Business

Africa is changing China as much as China is changing Africa (January 8, 2018, Quartz)
The China-Africa story provides us familiar tropes: Chinese invaders, meek African victims. The counter narrative is also misleading.

Amway Made China a Billion-Dollar Market. Now It Faces a Crackdown. (January 8, 2018, The New York Times)
Facing declining fortunes in the United States and elsewhere, they turned to a ballooning consumer class in China hungry for new products — and susceptible to promises of the riches to be had by selling them. Now, the future seems less promising. The giants of multilevel marketing have come under a dual assault, from regulators here and in the United States.

Airbus to increase aircraft production in China (January 9, 2018, BBC)
Airbus has struck a deal to increase the number of planes it makes in China as part of a state visit by French President Emmanuel Macron. The European giant aims to produce six of its A320 jets each month by 2020 at its final assembly plant near Beijing.

China's consumer inflation accelerated in December (January 9, 2018, CNBC)
China's consumer inflation accelerated to 1.8 percent in December, official data showed on Wednesday. The consumer price index (CPI) had been expected to rise 1.9 percent from a year earlier, compared with an increase of 1.7 percent in November.

Video: Steel, soft power and 'fake' Islamic art: China's Belt and Road to the Middle East (January 10, 2018, Channel News Asia)
The new season of The New Silk Road looks at China's extension of its master plan for trade and soft power influence, and how it's changing the face of the Arab world.


China Wants Students to Inherit ‘Red Gene’ (January 4 2018, Sixth Tone)
In August 2018, Jiangxi province will introduce a set of “red culture” textbooks at a wide range of educational institutions, from preschools and primary schools all the way up to vocational colleges and universities, local media reported Wednesday.

Foreign Academics Confront Chinese Censorship (January 5, 2018, China Digital Times)
Increasingly, official Chinese efforts to limit access to information and to guide the narrative about Chinese politics and history are causing friction as they run up against a tradition of academic freedom in the west.

Dozens of Private Schools Bulldozed in Henan (January 6, 2018, Sixth Tone)
More than 40 private schools and kindergartens have been torn down in a campaign against illegal construction in Zhoukou, a city in central China’s Henan province, according to a report from business news outlet Caixin. Zhoukou began its crackdown against unauthorized construction in August.

Health / Environment

Flu Epidemic Sweeps Beijing With Unusual Strains to Blame (January 10, 2018, The Beijinger)
The flu epidemic has been growing in recent weeks, with 5,298 flu cases reported in Beijing alone between Dec 18 and 24, an increase of more than 80 percent on the previous week, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

Oil tanker Sanchi partially explodes in East China Sea (January 10, 2018, CNN)
Part of an oil tanker that has been ablaze for days off the coast of Shanghai exploded Wednesday, forcing rescue boats searching for 31 missing sailors to retreat, Chinese authorities said.

Science / Technology

Internet Users in China Expect to Be Tracked. Now, They Want Privacy. (January 4, 2018, The New York Times)
Fueled in part by widespread internet fraud and personal information theft, the call for privacy, if it continues, could become a major challenge to China’s internet titans, and eventually to the cyber-authoritarian aspirations of the Chinese government itself.

Self-Driving Cars to Hit Beijing Streets With Special Testing Road (January 5, 2018, The Beijinger)
The Beijing government is doing its part to help promote the implementation of self-driving cars by building a local road specifically for their use. A spokesperson for the city's transportation committee made the announcement on a radio show, specifying that the road will be located to the southeast of the city center in Yizhuang, but gave no further details.

China’s heralded 'solar highway' closed after thieves stole one of the panels (January 9, 2018, The Los Angeles Times)
It was supposed to be China's grand "photovoltaic highway" — a solar energy-collecting, 0.6-mile stretch of road that symbolized the country's extraordinary clean energy ambitions. But that was last month. Five days after the road opened in the industrial city of Jinan for testing on Dec. 28, inspectors found that one six-foot panel was missing — allegedly plundered by thieves, according to the Qilu Evening News, a local newspaper.

Apple: Chinese firm to operate China iCloud accounts (January 10, 2018, BBC)
Apple's iCloud services in mainland China will be operated by a Chinese company from next month, the tech giant has confirmed. It has contacted customers based in China, advising them to examine new terms and conditions.

History / Culture

China on Film (Channel News Asia)
With unique access to the BFI National Archive, this 2-part documentary shows films never seen before this outside the UK. The best of these extraordinary images are worked into a compelling narrative to reveal new insights into this period of tremendous change and turmoil in China. 

Travel / Food

Top 5 family friendly things to do in Xi’an, China (Kids are a Trip)
I’m super excited about this destination because my three boys are studying Mandarin and we hope to make our way to China some day in the near future.

Why Change Is Brewing in China’s Tea Industry (January 3, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Hey Tea’s cheese-inspired beverages are just variations of the same milk-topped teas available at many urban teashops in China. Fresh milk, skimmed milk, and cream cheese are blended and poured on top of iced tea to create a layer of creamy froth about 3cm thick.

Harbin ice and snow sculpture festival – in pictures (January 5, 2018, The Guardian)
The Harbin international ice and snow sculpture festival consists of three theme parks: Sun Island international snow sculpture art expo, Harbin ice and snow world and Zhaolin Park ice lantern fair.

Video: Ice sculptures transform Harbin to a winter wonderland (January 7, 2018, Reuters)
Teams from different countries compete to carve elaborate sculptures at an annual festival in northern China's Harbin city.

Air travel in China is about to get more expensive (January 8, 2018, CNN)
Big Chinese airlines have been cleared to let their prices take off. The country's aviation regulator is lifting a cap on how much government-owned carriers are allowed to charge passengers on domestic Chinese routes. If a route is served by at least five carriers, the state-run airlines can now hike prices by as much as 10% a year.

Hebei’s Donkey Burgers Full of Horse, Mule, and Pig (January 9, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Restaurants in a Chinese city known as the “hometown of donkey burgers” might not have been dishing up what it advertised, as a recent investigative report found that cheaper meat from mules, horses, and pigs was frequently being used instead.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Artworks of former Jewish artist donated to Shanghai (December 30, 2018, Shine)
The family of David Bloch (1910-2002), a deaf-mute Jewish painter and former refugee in Shanghai during the World War II, presented a batch of his works to the city on Friday. Dean Bloch, the son of the German artist who created hundreds of paintings and woodcuts about the life and customs in Shanghai during 1930s and 40s, presented 32 of his father's works to the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum for exhibition.

‘The Biggest Taboo’: An Interview with Qiu Zhijie (January 6, 2018, The New York Review of Books)
Last month, I met Qiu at his studio in the eastern suburbs of Beijing, where we talked about the challenges of maintaining artistic integrity inside the system, censorship, how he lectures on Communist Party ideology, and the Party’s transformation to a party of nationalism.

Why Chinese Animations Struggle to Capture the Country’s Essence (January 9, 2018, Sixth Tone)
The domestic movie industry’s fixation on Chineseness means that whenever a new release displays certain cultural elements, the national media lauds it as having the “conscience of Chinese animation.” This somewhat unwieldy term was created by Chinese animators and refers to high-quality domestic works with supposedly unique aesthetics.

Living Cross-culturally

3 Questions: Where Bread and Benefit Intersect (January 5, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
What do you do if you are traveling (or living) in Changsha and you have a sudden hankering for a warm, just-baked baguette? Or a craving for freshly brewed German coffee? You head across town to Number 8 Xiang Chun Alley and tuck into some delicious bread and pastries at Bach’s Bakery.

China Unveils New Visa Program To Attract 'High-End' Foreigners (January 5, 2018, NPR)
If you are a scientist, entrepreneur or a Nobel laureate, you might have a future as an expatriate in China. The guidelines were released jointly by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security.

Want to Work in China? How Do You Rate? (January 8, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
Under the slogan of “Encourage the Top End, Limit the Ordinary, Restrict the Low End,” the new system rates foreigners and assigns them to one of three categories.

Seeking Orientation in Transition (January 9, 2018, Velvet Ashes)
The only way to reorient is to admit I’m disoriented. Transition is exhausting, and I’ve lost count of the number of transitions we’ve endured this past year. I’m tired, my brain is foggy, and I’m in need of orientation.


What's The Difference Between Children's Books In China And The U.S.? (January 6, 2018, NPR)
For a taste of their findings, take a typical book in China: The Cat That Eats Letters. Ostensibly it's about a cat that has an appetite for sloppy letters — "written too large or too small, or if the letter is missing a stroke," explains one of the researchers, psychologist Cecilia Cheung, a professor at University of California Riverside. "So the only way children can stop their letters from being eaten is to write really carefully and practice every day."

Chinese Public Theology: Generational Shifts and Confucian Imagination in Chinese Christianity, by Alexander Chow (Oxford University Press)
Argues that Christians in mainland China have been constructing a more intentional public theology to engage the Chinese state and society, since the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Offers a new perspective into the vibrant and growing area of Chinese Christianity,


Pray for China in 2018 (January 10, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
For the past 20 years the Intercessors for China prayer calendar has been an invaluable resource for China-concerned Christians worldwide.

Image credit: Rice Farmer, Longsheng, China, by kevincure
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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