ZGBriefs | January 26, 2017

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Featured Article

China cracks down on VPNs, making it harder to circumvent Great Firewall (Marcy 23, 2017, The Guardian)
The nation’s ministry of industry and information technology announced a 14-month “cleanup” of internet access services, including making it illegal to operate a local VPN service without government approval. VPN services use encryption to disguise internet traffic so that web surfers in China can access websites that are usually restricted or censored by the Great Firewall.

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Overseas NGO Law

First Batch of Overseas NGOs Register Under China’s New Law (January 20, 2017, Sixth Tone)
The six organizations are all based in Shanghai and were named earlier this week in local Shanghai news reports after they received approval from the municipal public security bureau on Tuesday. The majority of them are not charitable or advocacy organizations, but rather the Shanghai offices of chambers of commerce: the US-China Business Council, the Canada China Business Council, the Russian chamber of commerce, and the Confederation of Indian Industry. 

China issues first certificates for overseas NGOs (January 24, 2017, china.org.cn)
The Chinese government has issued registration certificates for over 30 offices of NGOs from Hong Kong, Taiwan and a number of foreign countries. A certificate issuing ceremony was held Monday in Beijing where 20 NGOs from outside the Chinese mainland, such as the World Economic Forum and the Paulson Institute, were granted certificates for their Beijing offices.

Implementing the Overseas NGO Law – Six NGOs Manage to Register in Shanghai (January 24, 2017, NGOs in China)
Slowly, we’re beginning to see signs of the implementation machinery and process being rolled out in various provinces.  Shanghai is taking the lead, which is no surprise given that the first news conferences about the law’s implementation took place in Shanghai.

Implementing the Overseas NGO Law – 26 NGOs register in Beijing and Guangdong (January 25, 2017, NGOs in China)
According to the Ministry of Public Security’s website, the first group of overseas NGOs have successfully registered in Beijing and Guangdong. The MPS notice dated January 24 states that 20 NGOs in Beijing, and six NGOs in Guangdong, received their registration certificate this month.  The MPS Overseas NGO Service and Management platform shows pictures of the undoubtedly relieved NGO representatives on a stage holding their certificates, along with MPS officials.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China abandoning rule of law, human rights lawyers say (January 23, 2017, The Guardian)
In a letter to the Guardian, a group of leading lawyers and judges from the US, Europe and Australia expressed “grave concern” over the detention and treatment of legal professionals. The authors – which include former French justice minister Robert Badinter as well as British human rights lawyers Michael Mansfield QC and Clive Stafford Smith – called on China to release “the detained or arrested lawyers and others held with them”, describing their detention as “without legal basis”.

Beijing reasserts sovereignty claims over disputed South China Sea islands (January 24, 2017, Christian Science Monitor)
China on Tuesday restated its claims of sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea, calling them “irrefutable,” amid comments suggesting the possibility of military action from the Trump administration. 


China to crack down further on 'cult' activities (January 25, 2017, Reuters)
China will crack down further on what it calls "cults" with a new judicial interpretation released on Wednesday mandating harsh punishments for groups proselytising to government officials or children or linking up with foreign groups.

Society / Life

Shanghai Updates ‘Seven Don’ts’ (January 22, 2017, Sixth Tone)
Shanghai has updated its guidelines for being on your best behavior: After 22 years, the “Seven Don’ts” have been given a makeover for 2017. “Don’t let pets disturb neighbors” and “Don’t cut in line” are among the new items on the list of public behaviors that municipal authorities would like to encourage among residents.

China Now Has 33,5 Million More Men Than Women (January 23, 2017, What’s on Weibo)
China’s latest population data reveal that despite the implementation of the ‘two child policy’, the gender imbalance is a continuing social problem.

In China, an Ancient People Watch Their Floating Life Dissolve (January 23, 2017, The New York Times)
The residents of this floating village are members of the Tanka group, an ancient people scattered across southern China who have survived on coastal waterways, and on the margins of society. But Guangdong is a caldron of manufacturing and urban growth. Cities have engulfed once-quiet towns, and the Tanka way of life is disappearing.

14 Things China Expats Binge on in Thailand (January 24, 2017, Small Town Laowai)
Every year around Spring Festival, there’s a flood of Chinese expats from the Great Chicken over to the Land of Smiles. I don’t have an exact number, but judging from the way my Facebook and Instagram feeds are currently bursting with everyone’s Thailand pictures, and from the number of people I’ve already run into in person in Thailand, it’s approximately a LOT of laowai. And when laowai come to Thailand, there are certain things we go crazy about.

Dating Guide for Communist Party Members (January 25, 2017, China Real Time)
To help speed things along, helpful elders have been known to arrange blind dates for their progeny. That has led to many avid discussions on blind date do’s and don’ts, and now even Chinese officialdom has weighed in. The “Blind Date Guidebook for Communist Party Members” was posted by Nanchang Municipal Government on its verified Weibo social media platform Jan.19.

China Likely to Stick to a Two-Child Policy (January 25, 2017, China Real Time)
The country’s State Council, its cabinet, unveiled a key plan detailing deep demographic changes over the next 15 years, including low birthrates and a rapidly aging population, but said it would stick to a policy of letting families have a maximum of two children.

Chinese man cycles 500km in wrong direction to get home (January 25, 2017, BBC)
A man hoping to cycle home cross-country for Chinese New Year realised 30 days into his trip that he had been travelling in the wrong direction. The young migrant worker from China was aiming for his home in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang province, after setting off from Rizhao – over 1,700km away. But he was stopped by traffic police 500km off course, in the central Chinese province of Anhui.

Economics / Trade / Business

Can Your China WFOE Survive the Local Mayor’s Arrest? (January 24, 2017, China Law Blog)
If you are not operating legally in China, there will come a time when you will pay the price for that. Going after American companies operating illegally in China is low hanging and lucrative fruit for the Chinese government and it is just one of the ways we see China retaliating against Trump. The Chinese government has stepped up its law and order efforts and that has meant that time is coming more often these days for foreign companies doing business in China.


Universities Offer Lifelong Learning to China’s Elderly (January 19, 2017, Sixth Tone)
As China’s population ages, universities for the elderly have become so popular that seniors have started waiting in line overnight just to secure a coveted spot, especially for popular classes like piano and English. Some even rent beds at nearby shops to be among the first in line.

Stanford Closes Beijing Study Abroad Program, Enrollments Down at Other Beijing-Based Centers (January 20, 2017, The Beijinger)
I have worked in the study abroad industry here in Beijing for over a decade, both as an instructor and as an administrator. Recently, there has been a lot of soul searching at study abroad centers around Beijing about why numbers at so many programs have fallen dramatically when compared to just a few years earlier.

China Opens Up Job Market for Expat Masters Students, But What About the Undergrads? (January 21, 2017, The Beijinger)
It just got easier for foreign grad students to land a job in China. Several Chinese ministries recently announced the loosening of work permit restrictions for foreign graduates of masters degree programs both in China and abroad. In recent years China's work permitting system has slowly but surely made it increasingly difficult for young foreigners to get proper working papers. One of the major hurdles has been proof of two years of relevant working experience outside of China.

Under the Skin of Beijing’s Migrant Worker Village (January 23, 2017, Sixth Tone)
National media reports have praised Migrant Workers’ Home for inspiring an awakening of the new working class born from China’s mass urban migration. But though the media-savvy organization has brought visibility to migrant workers’ struggles and won significant public and corporate support, some residents in Pi Village feel that the group’s efforts do not address their everyday needs.

Science / Technology

China’s Growing Ambitions in Space (January 23, 2017, The Atlantic)
Meanwhile, China is moving boldly ahead with its own space-exploration efforts, and with little ambiguity about its mission. The country recently announced it would conduct about 30 launches this year. The target, if met, would be a record for China. The country conducted 21 successful orbital-launch missions in 2016, and 19 the year before that. The output puts China in a close second behind the United States, which saw 22 successful launches, and ahead of Russia, which conducted 16.

Who Needs Facebook When You Have China's Leading App WeChat? (January 24, 2017, Forbes)
Speaking at Silicon Dragon’s recent VC and tech forum in San Francisco, venture capitalist Chris Evdemon of Sinovation Ventures commented that China does not need Facebook because it already has better sites with more functionality for Chinese users. Of course, one of these is Tencent’s social messaging app WeChat.

China tries to ease fears over impact of VPN crackdown (January 25, 2017, South China Morning Post)
In a statement posted on Tuesday night, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said the crackdown would not affect multinationals that had obtained governmental approval to use cables or other means of cross-border connectivity. The crackdown, set to run until the end of March 2018, was aimed at companies and individuals renting cables or VPNs without regulatory approval, it said.

How WeChat Founder’s Obsession With QR Codes Reshapes Chinese Internet (January 25, 2017, China Real Time)
The way Chinese smartphone users pay for lunch and browse the internet owes much to an obsession that the founder of messaging app WeChat has with quick-response, or QR, codes. In China’s cutthroat mobile-internet competition, Tencent HoldingsLtd.’s WeChat gained ground partly by training its enormous user base to scan the low-tech, two-dimensional codes now used in virtually all WeChat in-store payments.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

The real secret of Chinese internet censorship? Distraction (August 22, 2017, The Guardian)
The study showed that, contrary to western conventional wisdom, Chinese social media is as raucous and chaotic as it is everywhere else, so the Daily Mail’s idea of a country full of timid, faceless people with only banal opinions is baloney.

China swings back at golf, shutting down 111 courses (January 23, 2017, ESPN)
China has launched a renewed crackdown on golf, closing 111 courses in an effort to conserve water and land, and telling members of the ruling Communist Party to stay off the links. The state-run Xinhua News Agency said Sunday the courses were closed for improperly using groundwater, arable land or protected land within nature reserves. It said authorities have imposed restrictions on 65 more courses.

Chinese Fans Are Slow To Warm Up To Ice Hockey (January 24, 2017, NPR)
As the Beijing Kunlun Red Stars hit the ice to face off against a team from Moscow, tension is high. A win tonight is crucial to make it to the playoffs in the Kontinental Hockey League, or KHL, Russia's top professional hockey league, second only to the U.S. National Hockey League in talent. But hardly anyone in the 15,000-seat Beijing arena understands the stakes. In fact, there's hardly anyone here; a vast majority of the seats are empty.

History / Culture

Sidney Rittenberg: An interview with a revolutionary (July 19, 2017, Sinica Podcast)
Sidney Rittenberg was a labor activist in the American South before going to China as a translator for the U.S. Army in 1945. He stayed there until 1980, joining the Communist Party and going to the revolutionary base at Yan’an, where he got to know Mao Zedong and other senior members of the Party who went on to govern China. He also spent 16 years in solitary confinement. In this first episode of a two-part interview, Kaiser and Jeremy talk to Sidney about his fascinating life story.

5 of China’s Worst “Last Emperors” (January 20, 2017, The World of Chinese)
In China, the “bad last emperor” is a bit of cliché. The hackneyed revolutions of the dynastic cycle eventually turn from the heroic founder to the dunderheaded descendant who undoes all the founder’s good work. So, in honor of the leadership transition in Washington, a countdown of the worst of the last: Bad Emperors who ended an era.

A collection: Everyday Life in Shanghai 1979-1980 (January 21, 2017, Everyday Life in Shanghai)

Travel / Food

Forks vs. Chopsticks – The Showdown Winner! (January 21, 2017, Small Town Laowai)
It’s time to announce the winner of the Fork vs. Chopsticks SHOWDOWN! Honestly, I thought these two utensils would be evenly matched, and we’d be seeing a very close race. However, it quickly became clear that one of them was winning by a country mile.

Chinese Are Celebrating Lunar New Year by Escaping China (January 23, 2017, Bloomberg)
The essence of China’s seven-day holiday, also called Spring Festival, is morphing as rising incomes and an expanding network of international flights prompt more people to go abroad — the equivalent of Americans choosing Bermuda over the Midwest for Thanksgiving. Outbound travel for the holiday break is expected to top a record 6 million passengers, with airlines hauling near-full loads to Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia.

A Chinese Nuclear Site, Hidden in a Mountain, Is Reborn as a Tourist Draw (January 24, 2017, The New York Times)
Fifteen years ago, the local government announced that inside the hollowed-out mountain lay the remnants of what was once one of China’s most ambitious military infrastructure projects: the top-secret 816 nuclear plant. Initiated in the 1960s during the height of tensions between China and the Soviet Union, the 816 project was China’s first attempt to build a nuclear reactor that could produce weapons-grade plutonium without Soviet involvement.

How to Make the Most out of a Trip to the Great Wall (January 24, 2017, Wild China  Blog)
he majesty of the Great Wall is known across the world, and it’s the most iconic sight in all of China. If you’re planning on visiting this world wonder, you won’t want to miss any part of the experience of a lifetime. Here’s how to make the most out of your trip.

Language / Language Learning

Chinese podcast: Beginner’s Guide to Chinese History #3: The Developmental History of Buddhism in China (January 22 2017, carlgene.com)

Serial constructions in Chinese (January 25, 2017, Sapore di Cina)
The Chinese language often allows the juxtaposition of two adjectives and or verbs without the help of any element of which a language like Italian or English would use. This juxtaposition is commonly known as “serial constructions”. Let’s clear up the concept right away: a serial construction consists of two (or more) verbal predicates that share the same subject and follow one another without the use of conjunctions (or commas).


Historian’s Latest Book on Mao Turns Acclaim in China to Censure (January 21, 2017, The New York Times)
Now Mr. Yang has broken that silence with the publication of his history of the Cultural Revolution, “The World Turned Upside Down,” a sequel to “Tombstone,” his landmark study of the famine spawned by Mao’s policies in the late 1950s. The 1,151-page book is the latest shot fired in China’s war over remembering, or forgetting, the dark side of its Communist past, a struggle that has widened under the hard-line president, Xi Jinping.

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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