ZGBriefs | January 12, 2023

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Featured Article

Xi’s China, Christ’s Kingdom, and a Suffering Church: Review: ‘Faithful Disobedience’ by Wang Yi (January 11, 2023, The Gospel Coalition)
The rich analysis of China’s house church and its theology contained in this collection offers precious insights into one of history’s most remarkable Christian movements.

Sponsored Link

Public Lecture: China’s New Civil Religion: A Challenge and Opportunity for Engagement (US-China Catholic Association)
When outsiders think of religion in China, they tend to focus on persecution–for example Muslims in Xinjiang or Christians in many big Chinese cities. While that is true for some faiths, China is also in the midst of a religious boom, which the government is trying to use to further its grip on power. That includes rebuilding ancient temples, subsidizing pilgrimages to holy mountains, and endorsing Confucian philosophers.  But can authoritarianism and religious life coexist? What are the risks as the government in Beijing embraces some religions while opposing others? 
Presenter: Ian Johnson
Wednesday, January 25 @ 6:30 PM
Fordham University, Lincoln Center Campus
McNally Amphitheater
140 W 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023
Go here to register (in-person or online)

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

US warship sails through Taiwan Strait (January 6, 2023, BBC)
A US warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland on Thursday, prompting criticism from Beijing. The US military said the USS Chung-Hoon’s transit showed the US commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific”. But a Chinese embassy spokesman in Washington said the voyage was to “flex muscles” and accused the US of “undermining peace and stability”.

How Beijing Accidentally Ended the Zero COVID Policy (January 7, 2023, The Diplomat)
China’s central government aimed to modify the zero COVID policy incrementally following the 20th Party Congress. What went wrong?

Whitewashing China’s Record on Covid (January 9, 2023, China Media Project)
China’s Covid policies, no matter how ruinous or ill-advised, must not be associated with failure. The CCP leadership has too much invested politically. And so the ultimate act of irresponsibility for the leadership is to suggest that it has not acted responsibly.

Zhao Lijian: China reassigns combative ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomat (January 10, 2023, BBC)
A controversial Chinese diplomat who epitomised China’s “Wolf Warrior” approach to diplomacy has been moved to a less prominent post. Ex-foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian is now deputy head of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs. He will help manage China’s maritime and land boundaries. It is unclear when he took up his new role.

How political and economic pressure led to Beijing’s abrupt U-turn on zero-Covid (January 10, 2023, South China Morning Post)
While top decision makers led by President Xi Jinping were already on track to lift Covid-19 restrictions by March, sources and analysts said a wide range of factors, including protests against the strategy in late November, worse than expected numbers of Covid-19 infections and the restrictions’ heavy toll on the economy, had accelerated the pace of reopening.

China’s Epidemic of Mistrust (January 11, 2023, Foreign Affairs)
More broadly, China’s system of daily governance, its everyday state power, hinges on public trust. The CCP relies on the willing participation of society at large to implement its policies. The erosion of trust in the wake of Xi’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis could shake the very foundation of this system, with wide implications beyond the battle with the virus.

As China Reopens, Online Finger-Pointing Shows a Widening Gulf (January 11, 2023, The New York Times) (subscription required)
A furious, wide-ranging argument is unfolding on the internet in China over the reversal of the government’s strict pandemic policies and the massive Covid surge that followed. The divisions are challenging the Communist Party’s efforts to control the narrative around its pandemic pivot.

Tokyo lodges protest after China punishes Japanese travellers over Covid test requirements (January 11, 2023, The Guardian)
Japan says Beijing’s decision to halt visa processing is ‘extremely regrettable’, amid uncertainty as to whether China will take action against other countries.


Chinese Pastors Can Teach You What John Calvin Can’t (January 9, 2023, The Gospel Coalition)
Our shared experience with the global church isn’t simply owing to globalization. It’s rooted in God’s very nature. History alone is too small a work for the God of all the world.

Being Chinese, Staying Christian in Europe (January 9, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
The Chinese church in Europe has not given up on the second generation either. It has increasingly shifted its focus to strengthening its youth ministry in recent years.

Hong Kong’s Cardinal Zen met Pope Francis, report says (January 9, 2023, UCA News)
A 90-year-old Hong Kong cardinal who has criticized the Vatican’s dealings with China received a private audience with Pope Francis on Friday, according to the Jesuit-run America Magazine. Cardinal Joseph Zen, one of Asia’s highest-ranking Catholics, is being investigated under Hong Kong’s national security law after his arrest last year over a now-disbanded fund that helped pro-democracy protesters.

Society / Life

Chinese Blue Rabbit Zodiac Stamp Becomes Unexpected Viral Hit for Looking “Horrific” (January 6, 2023, What’s on Weibo)
This year’s China Post zodiac stamp triggered controversy and immediately sold out. Some think it’s cute, others say it’s “nightmare fuel.”

Lying Flat: Profiling the Tangping Attitude (January 8, 2023, Made in China Journal)
The emergence of the lying-flat attitude in China and the way it echoed my personal experience revealed the universality of the phenomenon among younger generations who struggle to cope with the disintegration of the meaning of life at this stage of late capitalism.

Chinese rush to renew passports as COVID border curbs lifted (January 9, 2023, Reuters)
People joined long queues outside immigration offices in Beijing on Monday, eager to renew their passports after China dropped COVID border controls that had largely prevented its 1.4 billion residents from travelling for three years.

Inside China’s crackdown on tattoo culture (January 10, 2023, CNN)
But while many countries enforce similar rules banning young people from getting inked, Chinese state media coverage suggested that protecting minors was as much about ideology as medical welfare.

Economics / Trade / Business

Taliban and China firm agree Afghanistan oil extraction deal (January 6, 2023, BBC)
Afghanistan’s Taliban government is to sign a contract with a Chinese firm to drill for oil in the country’s north. It would be first major energy extraction agreement with a foreign firm since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021. The 25-year deal underscores China’s economic involvement in the region.


COVID Is Rife Inside China’s Colleges. Exams Are Going Ahead Anyway. (January 5, 2023, Sixth Tone)
For months, China’s students prepared for their exams under harsh “zero-COVID” restrictions. Now, many are having to sit crucial tests while infected with the virus.

Health / Environment

China Covid: More than 88 million people in Henan infected, official says (January 9, 2023, BBC)
Nearly 90% of people in Henan, China’s third most populous province, have now been infected with Covid, local health officials say. Provincial official Kan Quancheng revealed the figure – amounting to about 88.5 million people – at a press conference.

History / Culture

Speaking Ill: How Ancient Chinese Talked About Sickness (January 10, 2023, The World of Chinese)
From denoting various levels of illness to the “Gods of Plague,” 疒 is a radical you need to know in sickness or health.

Travel / Food

China preparing to expand airline service to United States (January 11, 2023, AP)
U.S. and Chinese airlines are among some 40 carriers that have submitted applications covering some 700 flights per week involving 34 countries, China Central Television reported on its website. It gave no timeline for when normal flights might resume.

Language / Language Learning

On the Character: 土 (January 8, 2023, The World of Chinese)
Ever since its first appearance, the character 土 (tǔ) has been connected with dust, soil, or land. 


The Class of ’77: A Q&A with Jaime FlorCruz (January 6, 2023, China File)
Last month, the veteran journalist was confirmed as the Philippines’ new ambassador to China. Before his appointment was announced, FlorCruz spoke with ChinaFile Editor Susan Jakes about his recent book, The Class of ’77: How My Classmates Changed China. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

What the West Doesn’t Know About China’s Silicon Valley (January 9, 2022, Wired)
Novelist Ning Ken’s history of Beijing’s Zhongguancun district shows how two generations of professors and tech entrepreneurs helped make the country more open.

Pray for China

January 16 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Jan. 16, 1837, Maria Jane Dyer (玛莉亚) was born into a pioneer missionary family in Malaysia. Her parents, Samuel Dyer (台约尔) and Maria Tarn Dyer (谭玛莉), died before she was 10. At age 16, she moved to China to work in a school for girls. She married Hudson Taylor (戴德生) in 1858 over the opposition of her school principal. Maria played a key role with her husband in the founding and growth of the China Inland Mission. Before her death in 1870 in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu at age 33, they had nine children, three dying at birth and two in childhood. The four surviving children all became missionaries with the CIM. Pray for Christian women to desire, as Charles Spurgeon did, “to paint upon the eyeballs of [their] soul[s] the image of God’s Son.” For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16

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Image credit: lxclb, via Pixabay
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