ZGBriefs | January 25, 2018

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Featured Article

How China Plans to Feed 1.4 Billion Growing Appetites (February 2018, National Geographic)
China is grappling with a daunting conundrum: how to feed nearly one-fifth of the world’s population with less than one-tenth of its farmland, while adapting to changing tastes. 

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Overseas NGO Law

How are European NGOs coping under China’s Overseas NGO Law? (January 23, 2018, China Policy Institute)
It is worth taking a closer look at the nature of European “non-governmental organizations” (非政府组织) working in and with China to see why it is hard to conceive of the law as a common European problem. 

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China Rights Lawyer Detained After Posting Pro-Democracy Appeal (January 19, 2017, The New York Times)
On Wednesday, he posted an appeal to change China’s Constitution, suggesting, among other things, that there might be a more democratic way to elect the country’s leader. By Friday morning, he was in police custody.

A Post-Engagement US-China Relationship? (January 19, 2017, Rhodium Group)
Engagement, embracing China’s WTO accession and optimism were absolutely the right US strategy for the post 1978 China that risked everything to shift away from Communism; but unless Beijing demonstrates recommitment to that course now Washington and others will go a different way.

China wants to reshape the global order (January 29, 2018, Axios)
President Xi Jinping sees a remarkable opportunity, enhanced by the Trump presidency and its “America First” policies, to reshape the global order in ways that legitimize the Chinese political system and create more strategic advantages for the China. 

China to Enshrine Xi Thought In State Constitution (January 20, 2018, China Digital Times)
President Xi Jinping’s political thought will be officially incorporated into the state constitution in what will be the country’s first constitutional amendment since 2004.

China is making inroads into the Middle East, starting with Israel (January 22, 2018, China Policy Institute)
For decades, Sino-Israeli relations were trapped by Beijing’s reliance on Arab oil and its leadership position in the non-aligned world. China’s open door policy and the Oslo Peace Accords freed Beijing and Jerusalem to develop trade relations. 

Sweden Wants Answers About Its Seized Citizen. China Isn’t Giving Any. (January 23, 2018, The New York Times)
Sweden’s Foreign Ministry, which has twice summoned the Chinese ambassador for meetings, said on Tuesday: “Gui Minhai was seized while in the company of diplomatic personnel who were providing a consular service to a Swedish citizen in need of medical attention.”

Party members sign pledge to shun religion (January 23, 2018, Global Times)
Party members in a Muslim-majority region of Northwest China signed an atheism pledge on Friday, a practice officials said could reflect their devotion to the pursuit of Marxist purity.

Is China Really a ‘Threat’ to the U.S.?: A ChinaFile Conversation (January 24, 2018, China File)
Will 2018 be a year of increased competition between China and the United States? Does the rise of China challenge U.S. prosperity and security? And does the Strategy represent a shift in views on China, or the crystallization of existing conventional wisdom in policy circles?

North Korea: China's Unwelcome Mirror (January 25, 2018, The Diplomat)
Put quite simply, China is embarrassed by North Korea. In North Korea China sees its own cult of personality, its own zealotry, and its own Cultural Revolution-era madness.


China Jails Six Protestants in Yunnan Amid Massive Crackdown on 'Evil Cult' (January 18, 2018, Radio Free Asia)
Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan have jailed a group of Protestant Christians for for up to 13 years for involvement in an “evil cult,” their lawyer said on Thursday. […] He said the defendants, who have denied being part of a controversial house church group called the Three Grades of Servants, have said they will appeal the sentences.

3 Questions: Jennifer Lin (January 22, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
Based on the letters that my grandfather sent to my parents, beginning in 1953, my understanding of him was simple, namely that he was a retired priest who took care of his grandchildren. My father also told us that his father’s brother-in-law, Watchman Nee, was a famous religious leader in China who had many followers.

A Sojourner’s Story (January 23, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
In this article from Oaktree Publishing, Jiang Deng-xing, himself a migrant to Beijing and long-time resident, reflects on the Beijing evictions. He looks back on what it used to be like for migrants to Beijing and how the evictions have changed things.

Catholic Bishops 'Asked to Stand Aside' in Favor of Those Approved by Beijing: Report (January 24, 2018, Radio Free Asia)
An envoy from the Vatican asked Bishop Peter Zhuang of Shantou in the southern province of Guangdong to retire in favor of an excommunicated bishop approved by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, the Catholic news site AsiaNews reported.

The Bishops Caught Between the Vatican and the Chinese Government (January 24, 2018, The Weekly Standard)
The Vatican wants to normalize the situation of the church in China and needs to improve relations with the government to do that. What the Vatican will be willing to give up to get that deal remains to be seen. 

New Ark-shaped Church Completed in Shaanxi (January 24, 2018, China Christian Daily)
On December 28, 2017, a new ark-shaped church was dedicated in Shaanxi witnessed by more than 2,000 believers. Located in Jinghe New City, Jingyang County, Xianyang, Shaanxi, the church has a sanctuary with a seating capacity of over 1,000 and the space between the sanctuary and the offices can accommodate an additional 300.  

China’s Mission Movement: A Call to Incarnation (January 24, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
Today the forces of urbanization have brought Han Chinese believers face-to-face with a diverse range of cultures, from international students and business people to members of the hundreds of ethnic groups resident within China’s borders.

Society / Life

The Moment I Realized the Problem With Chinese Parenting (January 17, 2018, Sixth Tone)
More and more young parents are buying into suzhi jiaoyu, or “personal quality education,” a term that refers to encouraging children to cultivate diverse interests outside the traditional, exam-oriented educational curriculum. 

One in 60 Million: Life as a ‘Left-Behind’ Child in China (January 21, 2018, South China Morning Post)
China has a lost generation of ‘left-behind’ children, mostly the offspring of migrant workers forced to leave villages for cities in search of jobs. Huang Yuzhong was just 8 years old when his parents went. This is his story.

Beijing’s population drops for first time since 2000 as migrants are driven out (January 21, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Its population fell by 22,000 people to 21.707 million last year, the first decline recorded in 17 years, the municipal statistics bureau said. Figures on the number of migrants living in the capital were not released, but the statistics bureau said megacities such as Beijing had become “less attractive” for them.

Beijing parents put off having second child by financial pressure, survey finds (January 21, 2018, South China Morning Post)
The poll found that parents were choosing not to have a second child, even though they wanted one, because they were worried about the financial pressure and lack of options in terms of education and health care, Beijing Morning Post reported on Sunday.

Divorce-Happy Chinese Say ‘I Do’ to Marriage Counseling (January 22, 2018, Sixth Tone)
As divorce rates rise, counseling catches on among the younger generation — though some couples scorn the hefty price tag.

We’ll always have Sky City (January 22, 2018, Roads and Kingdoms)
Sky City became the poster child for other themed developments that had allegedly met the same fate: intended to house Chinese families in surroundings inspired by Orange County or Barcelona, these communities were said to have languished as ghost towns.

The Truth About China’s Unknown Millions of Drug Users (January 22, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Recreational drugs play a decreased social role among Chinese college students. But by the age of 25, people are more likely to have friends who have access to drugs.

China’s Propagandists Wanted a Hero. ‘Frost Boy’ Fit the Bill. (January 23, 2018, The New York Times)
A Communist Party website invited Fuman to the capital over the weekend and celebrated him as a patriotic hero. He waved a Chinese flag in Tiananmen Square, tried on riot gear at a public security bureau and swore an oath to be loyal to China and the ruling Communist Party.

‘Me Too,’ Chinese Women Say. Not So Fast, Say the Censors. (January 23, 2018, The New York Times)
Government censors, apparently fearing social unrest, are trying to hobble the campaign, blocking the use of phrases like “anti-sexual harassment” on social media and deleting online petitions calling for greater protections for women.

Beijing to demolish 15 square miles of illegal structures (January 24, 2018, Reuters)
Beijing plans to tear down at least 40 million square meters, or a staggering 15.44 square miles, of illegal structures, roughly an area of 28 London Hyde Parks, and shut 500 manufacturing firms this year. The city will “ensure zero increase of such structures” this year and will continue to relocate people out of the city center, acting mayor Chen Jining said in an annual work report to the city’s government on Wednesday.

Beijing municipality considers allowing foreign maids (January 24, 2018, Asia Times Online)
The municipal Commission of Commerce said it was considering offering work and residential permits to domestic workers employed by foreign executives and by some workers from Hong Kong and Macau, China Daily reported.

The Maybe-Magic Well Water of Twins Town (January 24, 2018, Sixth Tone)
A mysteriously high rate of multiple births has rural Chinese families struggling to provide for two — or more — newborns at once.

China's illegal opioids enter U.S. through Postal Service gaps: probe (January 24, 2018, Reuters)
Illegal shipments of the powerful and addictive opioid fentanyl are pouring into the United States by mail from China and the U.S. Postal Service must step up the use of high-tech detection methods to fight the problem, according to a congressional report unveiled on Wednesday.

Economics / Trade / Business

Video: The Arab Connection (January 9, 2018, Channel News Asia)
China’s revitalization of its ancient trade routes to the Middle East is energizing Chinese-Arab trade connections that hark back over 2,000 years. In this episode, we explore the enduring historical relationship and explore the motivations behind Beijing’s astonishing new trade initiatives.

China's economy grows by 6.9% in 2017 (January 18, 2018, BBC)
China's economy grew by 6.9% in 2017 according to official data – the first time in seven years the pace of growth has picked up. The figure beats Beijing's official annual expansion target of about 6.5%.

China’s Housing Market Is Like a Casino. Can a Property Tax Tame It? (January 22, 2018, The New York Times)
Now the Chinese government is considering adopting something that, while familiar to homeowners in the United States and elsewhere, could dramatically reshape the world’s second-largest economy: a property tax.

What could China do in a US trade war? (January 24, 2018, BBC)
President Trump's backing for slapping tariffs on imports of washing machines and solar panels will hit China and South Korea hardest. And it has opened up the prospect of some retaliation – especially from Beijing.


High Schools Given More Choice, More Languages, More Revolution (January 18, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Compared with the current standard, which was released in 2003, it will give students more flexibility and choice — while also putting greater emphasis on traditional culture and the Communist Party.

Chinese Colleges Hope to Graduate to University Status (January 23, 2018, Sixth Tone)
As dozens of higher education institutions in China wait to be renamed or reclassified by the end of January, some commentators have voiced doubts about whether the changes will merely polish the veneer of the ivory tower.

Chinese citizen pleads guilty to U.S. graduate school exam fraud (January 23, 2018, Reuters)
Xinyan Wang, who was a student at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to charges that she misused a passport and committed visa fraud by using counterfeit travel documents to take the exam.

Health / Environment

Northern China’s Hebei province home to six of 10 smoggiest cities, environment ministry says (January 18, 2018, South China Morning Post)
According to figures published by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Hebei’s provincial capital Shijiazhuang saw the highest average reading in all of China last year of particulate matter with a width of 2.5 microns, known as PM2.5 […] Also among China’s 10 worst performing cities were the Hebei cities of Tangshan – the world’s biggest steel producing city – Handan, Xingtai, Baoding and Hengshui.

China trash town's cleanup bolstered by import ban (January 24, 2018, The New York Times)
While residents in Guiyu generally welcome the cleaner environment, the ban on foreign waste – which is usually better sorted than domestic trash and therefore more lucrative to handle – has been a damaging blow for many recyclers.

Science / Technology

Chinese Surveillance Tech, from Xinjiang to South America (January 23, 2018, China Digital Times)
China’s increasingly advanced biometric and electronic surveillance technologies, including the widely misunderstood and still nascent Social Credit System, have attracted mounting attention in recent months. 

Rise of the machines: 12 Chinese robots taking over our everyday jobs (January 24, 2018, South China Morning Post)
From potentially life-saving robots (think medical and dental), to lawbreaking ones made by a tout and online fraudsters, the machines are on the rise as we enter 2018.

History / Culture

Where China Built Its Bomb, Dark Memories Haunt the Ruins (January 20, 2018, The New York Times)
The decaying clusters of workshops, bunkers and dormitories are remnants of Plant 221, also known as China’s Los Alamos. Here, on a mountain-high grassland called Jinyintan in Qinghai Province, thousands of Tibetan and Mongolian herders were expelled to create a secret town where a nuclear arsenal was built to defend Mao Zedong’s revolution.

Travel / Food

Skipping the Line at Burger King with WeChat (January 25, 2018, Sinosplice)
One of the interesting things about living in Shanghai is seeing new technology integrated into daily life across the city fairly quickly. […]  The other day I went to Burger King and there was a fairly long line.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Controversial historical drama 'Forever Young' tops China's box office (January 24, 2018, The Los Angeles Times)
The period drama stars Chinese celebrities Zhang Ziyi, Huang Xiaoming and Wong Leehom, and follows four generations of college students through a century of Chinese modern history — from the days before Mao Tse-tung founded the People's Republic, through the chaotic Cultural Revolution and into contemporary society.

China's fledgling hip-hop culture faces official crackdown (January 24, 2018, BBC)
A memo surfaced last week after a meeting of the state authority which oversees press and television and has almost total control over what can appear on air. The memo said programmes could no longer feature any hip-hop content or artists.

Language / Language Learning

The Eagle-Eyed Vigilantes Defending the Chinese Language (January 19, 2018, Sixth Tone)
“Bite every mistake that deserves to be bitten, and chew every article worth chewing.” The monthly magazine’s mission is to attack every grammatical error it encounters — and the staff take the job seriously.

Living Cross-culturally

More foreign workers pick Shanghai (January 17, 2018, China Daily)
China has issued more than 193,000 work permits to foreigners in the past eight months, including nearly 43,000 in Shanghai, the country's largest number. The four other top regions for permits were Guangdong province (33,000), Beijing (21,200) and Jiangsu (17,612) and Zhejiang (16,405) provinces.

Supporting Children in Cross-Cultural Transition (January 19, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
If I could add just one more point, make an effort to connect to your former host country in whatever ways you can. Trips to the international market, enjoying mooncakes from our new Chinese friends, and taking Chinese language classes have all been highlights for our family.

The Expatriate Balance Sheet (January 21, 2018, A Life Overseas)
Expatriates easily succumb to this lie that the grass is always greener. This is especially true when there is no grass, like where I live. If you have grass, even dead grass, I guarantee you it is greener than my grass. That small truth aside, believing the euphemistic meaning of the phrase is dangerously easy.


China's enduring love of steam trains (January 23, 2018, CNN)
Passionate about steam locomotives, Kitching has spent the past 20 years traveling to China, where — until very recently — steam trains remained common. Kitching's work charts how China became the last bastion of the steam railway. These stunning photographs are now the subject of a book: "Chinese Steam: The Last Years," published by Amberley Books.

Links for Researchers

The 19th Central Committee Politburo, by Alice Miller (Hoover Institute)
Congress and the new Central Committee it elected followed longstanding norms in appointing a new party Politburo. The major exception was the failure to appoint candidates to the Politburo Standing Committee who would succeed to the posts of party general secretary and PRC premier n 2022.


China Travel Advisory (U.S. Department of State)
Exercise caution due to the arbitrary enforcement of local laws and special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals. 

Image credit: Hubei, by Tauno Tahk, via Flick
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