ZGBriefs | January 3, 2019

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Featured Article

The year 2018: China’s civil society past, present and future (December 30, 2018, NGOs in China)
Terminal 2, like many other of the new structures being built in China, could serve as a metaphor for the kind of civil society China is building, one that is carefully constructed from the top down and looks beautiful on the outside but lacks the energy and life that comes from the engagement of individuals and groups having ideas to express and problems to address.    

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Ma Jian: China's ex-intelligence chief jailed for life (December 27, 2018, BBC)
China's ex-intelligence chief Ma Jian has been sentenced to life in prison for crimes including taking bribes and insider trading, a court says. Ma had been put under investigation in 2015 and expelled from the Communist Party one year later.

Are the wheels coming off China's Belt and Road megaproject? (December 31, 2018, CNN)
Five years into the BRI, the sheen is also coming off the project in Beijing, amid an ongoing — though temporarily paused — trade war with the US, and concerns over future funding and returns on an increasingly unwieldy list of overseas investments.

Thousands march in Hong Kong against China 'repression' after grim 2018 (January 1, 2019, CNBC)
Thousands of demonstrators marched in Hong Kong on Tuesday to demand full democracy, fundamental rights, and even independence from China in the face of what many see as a marked clampdown by the Communist Party on local freedoms.

China in 3 Years — Year of the Tiger (2022) (January 2, 2019, China Solved)
A new year usually means predictions for the next 12 months — but in the case of China trade that would just be too bleak. Instead, ChinaSolved is making broader predictions about longer term trends: Divergence, Alliances, and Island Building

Xi Urges Peaceful Unification Of China And Taiwan, But Won't Rule Out Using Force (January 2, 2018, NPR)
A Taiwan independent from mainland China is not an option, and no person or party can stop the trend toward "unification," Chinese President Xi Jingping said in a policy speech Wednesday.


Grinch China: Three Decades of China’s Problem with Christianity (December 27, 2018, The Diplomat)
There appears to be one aspect of the Christian faith which has escaped the deep understanding of the Party, however. Christianity has always thrived in the presence of suppression, repression, and martyrdom. In that light, China continues to provide fertile ground for a bumper harvest of devout Chinese Christians.

China, Bishop Wei: the time of going underground is ending (December 28, 2018, Vatican Insider)
“The Chinese Catholic communities are reconciling” – says the Bishop of Qiqihar, not yet recognized by the government – “not because of a command coming from the outside, but because their faith asks them to do so”. It also scales down the issue of the demolition of a convent of nuns of his diocese.

Sorting Rumor from Fact? Look for the Red Chop (December 28, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
Distinguishing facts from rumors is never an easy endeavor, but it is even more difficult in China, where official information is often lacking. In the absence of official, verified information, rumors abound. In fact, it sometimes seems that the country runs on rumors; so much so that the government regularly feels the need to remind people that it is illegal to spread rumors.

Chinese Church Voices—Top 10 posts of 2018 (December 31, 2018, Chinese Church Voices)

Chinese authorities close three Hui Muslim mosques for ‘illegal religious education’ (January 2, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Three “illegal” Hui mosques in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan were closed by authorities on Saturday, but officials refused to say if worshippers were arrested.

Hui poet fears for his people as China ‘Sinicizes’ religion  (December 28, 2018, South China Morning Post)
In the years since, the Hui (pronounced HWAY) generally have been supportive of the government and mostly spared the kind of persecution endured by China’s largest Muslim group, the Uighur. There are signs, though, that that is changing. Cui fears both that history may be repeating itself and for his own safety as he tries to hold the ruling Communist Party accountable.

Society / Life

‘Now We Don’t Talk Anymore’ — Inside the ‘Cleansing’ of Xinjiang (December 28, 2018, China File)
Paradoxically, the government’s efforts to quell what it perceived as the threat of separatism had only made Uighurs feel more separate, and seemed to make them more pious in both appearance and everyday religious practice, which in turn only alarmed the authorities more. Here is what I saw as I walked around the city of Urumqi.

Cut Chives: The Year in Pictures (December 28, 2018, China File)

Outliving Their Only Child, ‘Shidu’ Seniors Fear the Future (December 29, 2018, Sixth Tone)
With few institutional options and modest pensions, couples who’ve lost their only child worry about who will look after them in their old age.

China’s 2018 in Photos (December 30, 2018, Sixth Tone)

From 'rice bunny' to 'back up the car': China's year of censorship (December 30, 2018, The Guardian)
Online freedom has come under sustained assault from Beijing in 2018, with references to Xi Jinping’s new powers among the prohibited phrases.

Enterprising Chinese villagers sell ready-made snowmen after rare blizzards hit southwest (January 2, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Locals enjoying the wintry scenes in Sichuan province have been decorating their cars with the creations, which also include animals made out of snow.

China birth numbers expected to fall to lowest level since 2000, creating new economic and social challenges (January 2, 2019, South China Morning Post)
The number of children born in China in 2018 is expected to have dropped to the lowest level since 2000 after a year that “will be remembered as a historical turning point for Chinese population”, signalling a “demographic crisis” that threatens already struggling economic growth prospects, mainland media and researchers said.

Economics / Trade / Business

China's December manufacturing activity contracts even more than expected (December 30, 2018, CNBC)
The Chinese National Bureau of Statistics said on Monday official manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) was 49.4 — lower than the 49.9 analysts expected in a Reuters poll. The December reading was the weakest since February 2016, according to Reuters' record.

The Rise and Fall of China’s Cycling Empires (December 31, 2018, Foreign Policy)
The rise and fall of the China bike craze played out like a sped-up version of every tech bubble, an unprofitable idea sustained by fantasy, false predictions, and the power of bigger firms.

The end of China’s ridesharing gig (January 1, 2019, Tech Crunch)
On January 1, ride-hailing apps in China start banning drivers who operate without the required “double licenses”: one for drivers and another for the cars they steer. Municipal governments across the country have nuanced stipulations for what these certificates entail, but in general, the fresh rules aim to more closely vet drivers transporting passengers around.

China’s new income tax law could be costly for foreign workers, but there’s good news too (January 1, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Foreigners who live and work in mainland China for prolonged periods will be required to pay tax on their worldwide income under a new law that took effect on Tuesday. But while the new regulations might at first seem punishing, Beijing has left plenty of room for non-natives to avoid the extra payments.

China's first e-commerce law offers consumers more protection (January 2, 2019, Reuters)
China has introduced a new law to regulate its vast e-commerce sector. The legislation aims to protect online consumers and intellectual property and clean up the country's reputation as a major source of fake goods.


China university students protest Marxist group shakeup (December 29, 2018, AFP, via Hong Kong Free Press)
A dozen students from a top Chinese university staged a protest Friday after the school removed the president of an on-campus Marxist group amid an ongoing crackdown on student activists this year. The students gathered in an open area in front of an academic building where they held up signs and shouted slogans protesting the change in the society’s leadership.

China Thwarts U.S. Effort to Promote American Culture on Campuses (December 30, 2018, The New York Times)
The center that turned down Branstad was one of more than 20 that the State Department opened in the past decade on college campuses across China to promote American culture and counter anti-American propaganda by offering English lessons, screening movies and hosting visiting music and dance performances.  Today, the American centers have closed after the Chinese authorities denied American officials entry to them and state security agents interrogated an American academic working on a Chinese campus.

Science / Technology

Five Ways China Used Facial Recognition in 2018 (December 28, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Classrooms, concerts, and an animal farm are but a few of the places that adopted the much-discussed technology this year.oms, concerts, and an animal farm are but a few of the places that adopted the much-discussed technology this year.

In China's Push For High-Tech, Hackers Target Cutting-Edge U.S. Firms (December 28, 2018, NPR)
To understand China's espionage goals, U.S. officials say, just look at the ambitious aims the country set out in the plan "Made in China 2025."  By that date, China wants to be a world leader in artificial intelligence, computing power, military technology, as well as energy and transportation systems. And that's just a partial list.

History / Culture

Opening Up the History of China’s ‘Reform Pioneers’ (December 26, 2018, Sixth Tone)
A recent list honoring those who contributed to China’s reform and opening-up program is a reminder that progress is rarely a straight line.

A Photographer’s Quest to Reverse China’s Historical Amnesia  (January 1, 2019, The New York Times)
The photographer Li Zhensheng is on a mission to make his fellow Chinese remember one of the most turbulent chapters in modern Chinese history that the ruling Communist Party is increasingly determined to whitewash.

Travel / Food

Preparations for the Harbin ice and snow festival – in pictures (January 1, 2019, The Guardian)
For weeks before the annual winter festival in Harbin, China, workers collect and transport to the site nearly 200,000 cubic metres of ice cut from the frozen Songhua River. Most of the cutters are farmers from nearby villages who start work before dawn in bitterly low temperatures and earn about US$35 a day.

‘They Only Go to Chinese Shops’: Why Cambodia’s Influx of Mainland Tourists is Causing Tensions  (January 2, 2019,South China Morning Post)
More than 1.27 million Chinese tourists visited the country in the first eight months of 2018, a 72 per cent increase over the same period in 2017. But locals say Chinese-owned businesses are benefiting most from the surge

Language / Language Learning

Top 111 Chinese Slang from 2008 to 2018 (January 1, 2019, carlgene.com)

Living Cross-culturally

When the Dream Comes to a Halt (January 2, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
What happens inside of you when unwelcomed guests knock on your door inviting you tocome with them for questioning? Or what goes on in the minds of children whose dad has been with the police all day while mum is stressed, tense, and worried? And what about the team members and dear friends who suddenly find themselves trying to help their friends pack up their things, seemingly at a moment’s notice—while they themselves are also in shock.


Top 25 Best Fiction Books on China: Understanding Contemporary China through Modern Literary Fiction (December 27, 2018, What’s on Weibo)
Literature or modern fiction can be a great way to understand more about a country’s culture, history, or society, as it describes events, feelings, atmospheres, and personal stories in a way that history books or more scholarly accounts could never do.

Links for Researchers

Podcast: The PLA Navy’s Growing Prowess: A Conversation with Andrew Erickson (December 21, 2018, China Power)
This episode explores the rapid modernization of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and its growing naval capacity. Our guest, Dr. Andrew Erickson, explains the motivations behind this effort as well as the most recent capabilities of the PLAN’s expanding naval fleet.


Become a master at learning Chinese characters! (Outliers)
In this 90-day online video course, you'll learn how Chinese characters actually work and by the end of this course, you'll be a master at learning Chinese characters!!

Image credit: Wikimedia
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