ZGBriefs | July 11, 2019

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Featured Article

Summer Censorship: Weibo Launches “Project Sky Blue” (July 6, 2019, What’s on Weibo)
Earlier this week, the administration of Sina Weibo announced a special summer holiday crackdown on “vulgar content,” including “pornographic novels, erotic anime, pictures or videos.” In a public announcement that was posted on July 4th, the Weibo administration writes that the primary goal of this campaign is to “create a healthier, more positive environment for underage users” during the summer break period. 

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China’s Overrated Technocrats (July 4, 2019, Foreign Policy)
China’s leaders today—including President Xi Jinping himself—have been molded less by their education and more by the need to consolidate control and prevail in the brutal internal power struggles of the Chinese Communist Party.

China Muslims: Xinjiang schools used to separate children from families  (July 4, 2019, BBC)
Based on publicly available documents, and backed up by dozens of interviews with family members overseas, the BBC has gathered some of the most comprehensive evidence to date about what is happening to children in the region. Records show that in one township alone more than 400 children have lost not just one but both parents to some form of internment, either in the camps or in prison.

Hong Kong youth vow to fight on as China gets tough on protest (July 7, 2019, The Guardian)
Democracy activists worry that Beijing’s hardline attitude will result in a vicious circle of violence.

Dealing with Local Officials in a Changing China, Part 3 -- An Update (July 8, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
Despite the regulatory uncertainty many organizations are now facing, there are a number of unchanging basic principles that can increase the yield of any government relations program.

Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam Says Extradition Bill Is ‘Dead’ as Unrest Continues (June 8, 2019, Bloomberg)
Hong Kong protest leaders vowed to return to the streets after the city’s leader declared her controversial extradition bill “dead,” suggesting her latest effort to resolve a weeks-long political crisis had backfired.

Is there a China model? (July 8, 2019, East Asia Forum)
Within China, advocates for a China model point to a strong developmental state, gradual institutional reform, selective and cautious borrowing of foreign ideas, and a trial-and-error approach to policy making and reform. 

China Losing Public Relations Battle With U.S.? (July 8, 2019, China Digital Times)
Chinese authorities have maintained strict control over the domestic narrative on the trade war by prohibiting websites from publishing related news and commentary and issuing propaganda notices with granular coverage guidelines for domestic media outlets. While this strategy has allowed the government to shape the trade war conversation within China, it may be causing China to lose the global public relations battle with the U.S.

Banned at home, Twitter becomes a new tool for Chinese diplomats abroad (July 8, 2019, The Washington Post)
According to Chinese officials, Twitter is a destabilizing carrier of foreign influence, a platform banned inside China on national security grounds. Also according to Chinese officials: “We are pleased to join Twitter in which we can engage in more frequent and productive dialogue with Americans.”

US approves $2.2bn Taiwan arms sale despite Chinese ire (July 9, 2019, BBC)
The US State Department has approved a potential arms sale to Taiwan, estimated to be worth $2.2bn (£1.76bn), the Pentagon said. The deal is for 108 Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger missiles and related equipment. China's foreign ministry has called on the US to "immediately cancel" the proposed sale.

Video: Carrie Lam: 'Hong Kong extradition bill is dead' (July 9, 2019, BBC)
Hong Kong's leader said there is "no such plan" for the controversial bill that would've allowed extradition to the Chinese mainland. She stopped short of saying it had been withdrawn completely, saying there were "lingering doubts about the government's sincerity".

Hong Kong protests: Is anyone in charge? (July 9, 2019, Christian Science Monitor)
Does leadership really need leaders – visible, everyone-knows-their-name ones? For now, Hong Kong’s young protesters are doing without. But the stakes are high, both for individuals and for the pro-democracy movement.

China urged to end mass Xinjiang detentions by countries at UN  (July 10, 2019, BBC)
More than 20 countries at the UN Human Rights Council have signed a joint letter criticising China's treatment of ethnic Uighurs in the Xinjiang region. […]  The unprecedented statement was signed by the ambassadors of 22 countries including Britain, Canada and Japan.

Chinese activist, critic of Communist Party Zhang Baocheng arrested for ‘promoting terrorism’ (July 10, 2019, South China Morning Post)
A Chinese anti-corruption activist who urged officials to disclose their wealth has been arrested for allegedly “promoting terrorism”, as Beijing clamps down on critics of the ruling Communist Party. Zhang Baocheng, 60, was a member of the now-defunct New Citizens Movement, which campaigned for democracy and government transparency.

Ex-State Department Worker Gets 40 Months In Prison For Secret Dealings With China  (July 10, 2019, NPR)
A former State Department employee was sentenced to 40 months in prison for concealing her interactions with two Chinese intelligence agents, along with the extravagant gifts they gave her in exchange for government information. Candace Claiborne began to work as an office management specialist at the State Department in 1999, according to court documents. 

After protests, sticky notes take over Hong Kong streets(July 10, 2019, Inkstone News)
They sprang up seemingly overnight: on footbridges, in pedestrian underpasses and at bus stops. They took over walls, storefronts and construction site fencing. When damaged, they regenerated. Neighborhoods across Hong Kong are covered in colorful Post-it notes in support of a series of protests against a contentious – and now declared “dead” – government plan that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. 


Early Rain church members attend first service after China crackdown (July 8, 2019, South China Morning Post)
The 49-year-old arrived in Taiwan last week after fleeing the mainland with five family members. He and his 23-year-old daughter, Ren Ruiting, described living under constant surveillance for the past seven months after authorities detained them and dozens of other members of their prominent, but not government-sanctioned, church in December.

The Problem of Consumerism in the Church (July 9, 2019, Chinese Church Voices)
Under the influence of consumer culture, Christians often approach their pursuit of faith and their spiritual life with a consumer attitude.

Chinese Christians warned not to speak about persecution (July 9, 2019,UCA News)
The crosses of some churches in Hebei’s Handan Diocese were forcibly removed in May and since then all news about the demolition of churches has been blocked by authorities.

The Middle Ages and The Reformers - Reflections On “Justification” and “Sanctification” in The Reformation (July 10, 2019, China Partnership Blog)
As the Chinese house church engages the question, “What is the church?” it recognizes the all-important preceding question, “What is the gospel?” The result is that the house church finds itself contemplating what can be gleaned from the depths of church history. 

Uyghurs Ordered to Destroy Muslim Architecture Deemed ‘Extremist’ by Authorities  (July 10, 2019, Radio Free Asia)
RFA’s Uyghur Service recently received information suggesting that villagers in Ghulja (in Chinese, Yining) county, in the XUAR’s Ili Kazakh (Yili Hasake) Autonomous Prefecture, have been forced to remove Muslim ornamentation from buildings in the area, while a video currently circulating on social media purports to show a Uyghur woman using a shovel to tear down a “mihrab” from her ceiling.

The West Gate Church in Kaifeng (July 10, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
The largest demographic in this church is the 60-and-over group, making up 60% of the congregation, with those 30-60 years old comprising another 30%, leaving only 10% below 30. Nor is growth as fast as in some areas. Baptism is held once every two years, with about 150 being baptized. The church is packed full for the morning service, but only the smaller sanctuary is used for the afternoon service.

Society / Life

Thousands protest in central China over waste incineration plant (July 5, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Protesters carried banners and chanted as they marched against a waste-to-energy plant that could be built next to residential areas in Yangluo, near Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province. Residents were angered by plans to build the plant on a garbage landfill site that had been expected to be turned into a public park.

Why China has no civil society (July 9, 2019, Inkstone News)
Today’s China is still far from becoming a civil society and a legal society that respect the rule of law. Most Chinese these days are still firm believers of private ethics that focus more on individuals rather than society as a whole, just like their ancient ancestors.

Economics / Trade / Business

China’s Work Culture (July 4, 2019, China Law Blog)
Being a Chinese who has working experience in both China and Japan, here are some of my personal observations. Please take this with a grain of salt (Warning: Generalization ahead!)

China’s Adds to Imported Waste Ban (July 9, 2019, Sixth Tone)
Following China’s 2017 ban on 24 types of waste imports, an additional 32 products have just been added to the list.

China’s Looming Deflation Fears Strengthen Policy Easing Case (July 9, 2019, Bloomberg)
Growth in China’s producer price index slowed to zero in June from a year earlier, the weakest reading in almost three years. Prices fell 0.3% from May. The downward trend accentuates fears of a return of deflation for manufacturing, which would erode company profits and increase debt repayment pressures.

One of China’s most successful investors is quietly leaving (July 10, 2019, Inkstone)
“We have experienced some of the worst situations in China over the past few years and learned that the political risk there wouldn’t just simply go away overnight.”

China's car market fell off a cliff this year. It faces a long road back (July 10, 2019, CNN)
China's car sales rose for the first time in a year last month, but the world's largest market remains stuck in a deep slump that shows little sign of ending soon as the country's massive economy slows.

China’s global business footprint shrinks (July 10, 2019, American Enterprise Institute)
China’s investment and construction around the world plunged in the first half of 2019 and is unlikely to return to 2016–17 levels in the foreseeable future. The principal cause is fewer large transactions by state-owned enterprises. These firms rely on foreign currency provided by Beijing for global activities, and hard currency may be rationed indefinitely.


Lottery-Based Private School Admission Worries Chinese Parents (July 10, 2019, Sixth Tone)
New guidelines require all private academic institutions to select students through a computerized lottery system if the number of applicants exceeds a school’s quota.

China tells schools to step up patriotic education (July 10, 2019, Inkstone News)
The Chinese government has instructed schools to teach children to follow Communist Party values from an early age. The directive, aimed at primary and middle schools, is part of new guidelines issued by the  central government that also prohibits the use of teaching materials from outside China.

Education First teachers, foreign students held in China on drugs charges (July 10, 2019, South China Morning Post)
A total of 16 foreign teachers and students are among 19 people detained in China’s eastern province of Jiangsu in an anti-narcotics crackdown, according to police. A statement by the Xuzhou public security bureau’s Quanshan branch on Wednesday morning did not elaborate on the nationalities of the foreigners, or what drugs were involved, but it is known that some of the teachers are from the Xuzhou branch of Education First (EF).

Chinese students' applications to UK universities up by 30% (July 11, 2019, The Guardian)
The number of students from mainland China studying in UK higher education has more than doubled in the last decade. Commentators say however that recent tensions between China and the US are further benefitting British universities as Chinese students look at destinations other than America for their studies.

Health / Environment

Chinese officials report slowdown in African swine fever (July 4, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Pig production in China is gradually returning to normal and outbreaks of the deadly African swine fever are finally slowing, according to the Chinese vice-minister for agriculture. The disease has swept through China, the world’s top pork producer, since it was first reported in August last year, with no cure or vaccine to halt its progress.

Patients Weigh In As China Mulls Second ‘Rare Diseases’ List (July 7, 2019, Sixth Tone)
At a meeting of doctors, patients, and policymakers, a leading health official said rare diseases that can be effectively treated stand a high chance of being added to a list for prioritized research and insurance coverage.

Three Gorges Dam Back in The Spotlight (July 7, 2019, China Media Project)
In recent days, posts on social media have suggested satellite imagery of the mega-structure now shows that it is warping, calling into question its structural integrity. Other posts have reported so far unsubstantiated claims that authorities have halted tours to the area.

China’s Free Plastic Ban, 10 Years On (July 9, 2019, Sixth Tone)
Survey shows that the country’s “free plastic ban” has been less than effective.

Chinese rural doctors threaten mass resignations for being overworked and underpaid  (July 9, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Medics in Henan province complain they are getting ‘less and less money’ but face a heavy workload. Local authorities dismiss most of their complaints but have been told to investigate case further.

History / Culture

Contested centenary: Remembering the May Fourth Movement in the PRC and across Chinese communities (July 4, 2019, Asia Dialogue)
Interactions across Chinese communities also remind us that the ‘hard’ borders of the Cold War were tempered by the presence of millions of Chinese residing outside of the People’s Republic of China.

What Family Photos Tell Us About 20th Century Shanghai (July 4, 2019, Sixth Tone)
As another old neighborhood is renovated, unearthed family photo albums offer a window into Shanghai’s past.

Travel / Food

Trailblazers: crossing into China as a Lonely Planet writer in the 1980s  (Lonely Planet)
Here, our Melbourne-based writer Steve Waters recalls his time researching in China, when the country was starting to emerge from isolationism.

1,250-mile road linking Europe to China given green light  (July 9, 2019, Matador Network)
A new highway stretching 1,250 miles through Russia has received the green light from officials. The "Meridan" highway will reach almost 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) long and will run westward from the country's border with Kazakhstan, creating the shortest route to move goods between mainland Europe and China, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

How to visit the 7 most beautiful temples in Beijing (July 8, 2019, Matador Network)
Visiting the temples in Beijing can provide a lens not only into the different religions and philosophies that people there follow but also into the different Chinese architecture styles, which reflect the dynasties in which they were built. Temple hopping can be draining, however, so spend your time wisely by checking out Beijing’s seven best.

Rail line links Tianjin, Hong Kong for the first time (July 10, 2019, China Daily)
The first high-speed railway linking Tianjin and Hong Kong began running Wednesday, according to Tianjin's railway authorities. The bullet train G305 departs Tianjin West Railway Station at 10:58 am and arrives at Hong Kong West Kowloon Station at 9:02 pm.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

China is ramping up its media abroad – and not just in Chinese (July 3, 2019, Christian Science Monitor)
Increasingly, the audiences that countries are targeting with state-approved messaging aren’t their own citizens, but ones abroad – making it all the more complicated to figure out whose “truth” we’re looking at. 

Disney’s live-action Mulan trailer lights up Chinese social media (July 8, 2019, South China Morning Post)
While some online commenters had their doubts over technical details, most internet users appeared exhilarated at the prospect of Disney’s first Chinese princess, played by Chinese-American actress Crystal Liu Yifei.

5 Chinese Films to Watch on Netflix This Summer (July 9, 2019, Radii China)
From sci-fi smash hits to lowkey LGBTQ dramas, here's our pick of Netflix's Chinese-language offerings to get you through those long summer nights.

14 Stand-Out China Entries on the World Architecture Festival 2019 Awards Shortlist (July 9, 2019, Radii China)
There are more China-related projects than ever before on the World Architecture Festival 2019 awards shortlist - here are the spectacular highlights.

Language / Language Learning

Writing Chinese: Basic Rules and the Order of Strokes (July 5, 2019, Sapore di Cina)
In this article I will speak to you about the rules through which this “world” is created on paper: starting from an alphabetic writing you’ll be used to, up to simple signs that indicate sounds whose combinations create the written text, while the question becomes a little more complicated for Chinese.

Chinese vocabulary challenge, July 2019 (July 5, 2019, Hacking Chinese)
Lack of vocabulary is also a big problem for many learners when it comes to reading and listening ability. Too many unknown words in authentic input makes it impossible to understand. When reading, nothing kills reading speed like a word you’ve never seen. 

Watch: Yunnan Slang Fresh from the Borderlands (July 8, 2019, Radii China)
Today on Slang Dynasty, we have Yunnan native Niu Yun, bringing us a useful and flexible phrase, which basically translates to “cool” or “dope.”

Choice Chengyu: Fast Phrases (July 10, 2019, The World of Chinese)
July 13 is the birthday of one of the speediest Chinese of all time—Olympic hurdler Liu Xiang. A national hero after win the gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2004 Games, setting a world-record time of 12.91 seconds, Liu’s career ended ignobly as he withdrew from the 2008 Beijing Games due to injury, and suffered a humiliating fall at the 2012 London Games. However, Liu is still remembered for his glorious speed, hence the topic of today’s chengyu:

Living Cross-culturally

So, How Are They Now? -- A Follow-up on Chinese Christians after Their Expat Colleagues Had to Leave (July 5, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
Seven or eight months have passed since I met with Chinese sisters and brothers whose expat colleagues and friends had had to leave China suddenly. They had shared with me how heartbroken and shaken they were; some had not even had the opportunity to say goodbye. So where are they now in their journey of healing? 


Writer traces history of Catholic finances in China (July 8, 2019, UCA News)
A Chinese scholar has published the first book on the finances of the Catholic Church in China prior to 1949, which includes covering tensions between a sacred religion and a secular economy. Professor Kang Zhijie, a scholar of Chinese Christian studies, published Financial and Economic Studies of Chinese Catholicism (1582-1949).

Links for Researchers

China Internet Report 2019(South China Morning Post)
This report, informed by on-the-ground reporting by the South China Morning Post and Abacus, offers insights into China’s tech trailblazers and the big important trends shaping the world’s biggest internet community.

Huawei, the CSSA and beyond: “Latent networks” and Party influence within Chinese institutions (July 5, 2019, Asia Dialogue)
Both the ongoing debate into Huawei’s position in the West and the recent exchange over the precise role of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) highlight a much wider issue in terms of engagement with Chinese Party-state. Whilst dismissing Chinese Communist Party (CCP) agency within such organisations is clearly a grave error, those who seek out CCP influence in every action will most probably draw erroneous conclusions. 


Online Spiritual Atlas of China
The Online Spiritual Atlas of China was created by the Center on Religion and Chinese Society (CRCS) at Purdue University to complement the print volume, Atlas of Religion in China: Social and Geographical Contexts, by Fenggang Yang (Brill, 2018). OSAC allows users to visualize the spatial distribution of individual religious sites in China, as well as see how provinces, prefectures, and counties compare with each other in terms of the number of religious sites.

Image credit: Jim Choate, via Flickr
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... View Full Bio