ZGBriefs | July 20, 2023

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Featured Article

‘Fragile Cargo’ chronicles the quest to save China’s Forbidden City treasures from war (July 15, 2023, NPR)
On the eve of Japan’s invasion of China in the early 1930s, a group of museum curators at the Forbidden City in Peking (now Beijing) gathered together and asked themselves: What would happen to the country’s vast collection of imperial art when the inevitable all-out war between Japan and China begins?

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Online Book Club (ERRChina)
In August, Joann Pittman will facilitate an online book club discussion for ERRChina/CAC. The book is Beyond East & West, by C.H. Wu.  Click here to join the discussion on August 9, 2023 at 7:00pm (US CDT).

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Canadian Politicians Who Criticize China Become Its Targets (July 15, 2023, The New York Times) (The New York Times)
As China increases its reach in diaspora communities, Chinese Canadian politicians in Vancouver are the focus of Chinese state interference in Canadian politics.

Will China ever get rich? A new era of much slower growth dawns (July 17, 2023, Reuters)
China is entering an era of much slower economic growth, raising a daunting prospect: it may never get rich. Whether the world’s second-largest economy chugs ahead at 3-4% annually or flirts, as some economists expect, with Japan-like “lost decades” of stagnation, it looks set to disappoint its leaders, its youth, and much of the world.

Qin Gang: China’s ‘missing’ foreign minister sparks guessing game (July 18, 2023, BBC)
The lengthy absence from public view of China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang has sparked furious online speculation, while once again highlighting China’s secrecy. The 57-year-old has not been seen in public for 23 days – his last reported engagements were on 25 June. Appointed to his post last December, Mr Qin was seen as a trusted aide of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Henry Kissinger meets China’s defence minister in surprise visit to Beijing (July 18, 2023, The Guardian)
According to a readout on Tuesday from the Chinese defence ministry, Li Shangfu said “friendly communication” between China and the US had been “destroyed” because “some people in the United States did not meet China halfway”. Kissinger said he was a “friend of China”, according to the readout.

John Kerry comes up empty in China climate talks (July 19, 2023, Fox News)
Special Presidential Envoy for Climate (SPEC) John Kerry announced during a press conference in China on Wednesday that his visit to the nation failed to yield any significant climate agreement. Kerry told reporters that, while he and his Chinese counterparts engaged in “frank” discussions about fighting global warming, they couldn’t solidify any formal agreement.

Hong Kong’s security appointee signals resolve for tight control (July 19, 2023, Reuters)
China’s appointment of a top intelligence official to run Hong Kong’s national security regime underscores its determination to tighten its grip on the financial hub, according to diplomats and analysts. Dong Jingwei, 59, is the highest-level Chinese security official to be appointed to a senior role in the former British colony since Beijing imposed a national security law on its most international city in 2020.


Family Foundations: Faith As Natural As Sunrise (July 13, 2023, China Partnership Blog)
Gu Junqing grew up in a Christian family and came to believe in the Lord at an early age. In this first part of his story, he talks about how his ancestors came to faith through the work of early missionaries, and how the tumult of the Cultural Revolution destroyed the foundations of many Chinese people.

A Reflection on 30 Years of Collaboration (July 14, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
As one who came to China 30 years ago from a Baptist tradition and with little experience with charismatic expressions of faith, I have gained an appreciation for the fervent faith and bold witness of Pentecostal cross-cultural workers and local believers with whom I have collaborated over the years in Southwest China. 

The Missionary Who Got It Right! (July 14, 2023, Field Partners)
Roland Allen (1868-1947) had a short and not very effective missionary career in China. It was his writings after that which made him a critical voice in cross-cultural thinking.

Ancient Chinese Sacrificial Rituals Resemble Those of the Israelites. Does This Matter? (July 18, 2023, Christianity Today) (subscription required)
Conducted by the royals until the end of the imperial dynasties in the early 20th century, these official rituals gradually drifted from their Confucian origins. But as a Chinese Christian, rather than grieve this separation, I’m grateful that I know Jesus, whose death supersedes these ancient sacrifices and whose resurrection offers redemption for eternity.

Shanghai Community Church Resumes Youth Gatherings Following Renovation (July 19, 2023, China Christian Daily)
Following a dedicated three-year period focused on the renovation of Shanghai Community Church, adjustments have been made to the gathering schedule for youth fellowship. The fourth youth gathering since the resumption of these gatherings at Shanghai Community Church after the COVID-19 pandemic took place on July 15th.

Society / Life

Lying Flat  躺平 (July 17, 2023, China Media Project)
“Lying Flat,” or tangping, is an online meme that arose in April 2021 as an informal social movement in China urging young workers and professionals, including the middle-class Chinese who are to be the engine of Xi Jinping’s domestic boom, to reject social pressure to achieve success in the workplace or fulfillment through consumerism. The term has met with staunch resistance since its inception from the Chinese leadership, which regards its lay-down attitude as a threat to the push for economic development.

Burnt out or jobless – meet China’s ‘full-time children’ (July 18, 2023, BBC)
Julie is part of a growing cohort that call themselves “full-time children” who are driven back to the comfort of home either because they are craving a break from their exhausting work lives, or they simply cannot find a job. Young Chinese, who had always been told that the hard work they put in studying and chasing degrees would pay off, are now feeling defeated and trapped.

Chinese State Media Slams ‘Hot Kids Style’ in Children’s Fashion (July 19, 2023, Sixth Tone)
The trend, which promotes microskirts, backless shirts, and crop tops among young children, has sparked concerns about the sexualization of minors.

Welcome to China’s Most International Small Town (July 19, 2023, The World of Chinese)
Mohammed is one of over 10,000 permanent foreign residents from more than 100 countries living in Yiwu, a county-level city of around 2 million in Zhejiang province, around 300 kilometers southwest of Shanghai. This thriving community of foreigners sets Yiwu apart from most other small cities in China. 

Economics / Trade / Business

Argentina’s yuan lifeline sign of brinksmanship between China, US (July 17, 2023, Al Jazeera)
In April, China and Argentina announced the swap line had been activated, enabling Argentina to use the equivalent of $1.04bn in yuan to pay for Chinese imports in May. Then in June during Massa’s China trip, that line was extended to up to $18bn over the next three years.

Chinese electric vehicle makers lead the world, rivaling U.S. pioneers (July 18, 2023, NBC  News)
China’s electric vehicle companies have grown rapidly in recent years, becoming major competitors for U.S. automakers like Tesla. William Li, the CEO of NIO, said competition in the EV industry is “much fiercer” in China, the world’s largest market for EVs and for automobiles overall.


China steps in with vocational school overhaul and 11 ‘key tasks’ to help boost self-sufficiency and tech prowess(July 19, 2023, South China Morning Post) (registration required)
Regional pilot programmes will be set up, and progress will be closely monitored to ensure local authorities are doing enough to bolster the hi-tech talent pool. But education researcher warns that plans are at risk of being put secondary to short-term and superficial political achievements

Major Setbacks: Students Struggle with Scrapped Majors (July 19, 2023, Sixth Tone)
In April, the Ministry of Education revealed that a staggering 925 majors had been discontinued over the past year. Information management and information systems topped the list of last year’s most frequently axed majors, as 27 universities decided to remove it from their offerings. Public administration closely followed suit, with 23 universities choosing to discontinue the program.

Health / Environment

Chinese province saw cremations jump during COVID surge (July 18, 2023, Reuters)
Cremations in the Chinese province of Zhejiang rose more than 70% year-on-year in the first quarter, government data showed, an unexplained jump that occurred as a COVID outbreak swept the country. About 171,000 cremations were registered in Zhejiang – home to around 5% of China’s population – in the first three months of 2023, up from 99,000 in the same period last year, according to data on the province’s civil affairs bureau website.

Heatwave Sweeps Across China, Claiming Lives and Rewriting Records (July 18, 2023, Sixth Tone)
In the past 10 days, multiple cities issued over 200 heat alerts amid scorching conditions, and this season also recorded the highest number of days exceeding 35 degrees Celsius since 1961.

Science / Technology

13 Unlucky Rules for Cyberspace (July 13, 2023, China Media Project)
New regulations for independent content creators in China are a reminder of how political priorities in the oversight of digital platforms undermine regulatory action that might protect the public.

Xi Jinping calls for ‘solid’ security barrier around China’s internet (July 15, 2023, Reuters)
Chinese President Xi Jinping said China must build a “solid” security barrier around its internet under the supervision of the ruling Communist Party, in his latest call to safeguard online data and information. China must persist in managing, operating and ensuring access to the internet in accordance with the law, Xi said in instructions delivered to officials attending a two-day cybersecurity meeting in Beijing that ended on Saturday.

History / Culture

Tang Dynasty Poetry Comes Alive in Animated Film ‘Chang An’ (July 18, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Blending modern animation with traditional poetry, ‘Chang An’ has been a surprise hit at the box office and won praise for its celebration of traditional Chinese culture.

Travel / Food

Chinese tourists brave scorching heat to see ‘Flaming Mountains’ (July 19, 2023, Reuters)
Tourists flocked to China’s scenic Flaming Mountains this week to experience searing high temperatures amid punishing heatwaves that have scorched much of the Northern Hemisphere. Armed with broad-brimmed hats and umbrellas for added protection, tourists took selfies by a 12-metre-tall thermometer that displayed a real-time surface temperature of 80 Celsius (176 Fahrenheit), Chinese state television showed on Wednesday.

Pray for China

July 21 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On July 21, 1882, Gen. Paul Zhang Zhijiang (张之江将军) was born in Guizhou. While serving in the military in Sichuan, Zhang was impressed by the anti-imperialist stand of believers there and chose to follow Christ. Throughout his life, he daily read the Bible and prayed; he also distributed Bibles to the men under his command and had his troops sing hymns and pray before each battle. Gen. Zhang died in Shanghai in 1966 as the Cultural Revolution was beginning. Pray for the Lord Jesus, the Eternal Word, to be glorified by military leaders who follow Him as their captain. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

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Image credit: Joann Pittman
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