ZGBriefs | July 6, 2023

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Featured Article

Chinese social media users are not impressed with your ham sandwich (July 3, 2023, NBC News)
The plain ham sandwiches, simple salads and other American-style packed lunches that fill office refrigerators don’t exactly scream “Instagram.” But they’re a social media sensation in China, where they have their own hashtag: #WhitePeopleFood.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China’s Foreign Relations Law: Balancing “Struggle” with Beijing’s “Responsible Great Power” Narrative (June 28, 2023, NPC Observer)
The Law outlines China’s foreign policy framework and goals in 45 articles spanning six chapters, which I discuss in turn below.

Legislating Love for the Ruling Party (June 30, 2023, China Media Project)
A wide-ranging new law to “enhance patriotic education” has come before China’s top legislative body, offering a new means to tighten ideological controls both online and beyond the country’s borders. Despite its emphasis on “promoting the spirit of patriotism,” the text of the law makes clear that the broader goal is to legislate love and devotion to the Chinese Communist Party and the top leadership.

China tightens Xi Jinping’s powers against the West with new law (July 1, 2023, BBC)
China is adding to Xi Jinping’s vast powers with a new law that will assert Beijing’s interests on the world stage. The law threatens to punish entities that act in ways “detrimental” to China’s interests but does not specify which lines should not be crossed. Experts say the law underscores China’s aggressive diplomacy, but how actively it will be enforced when it takes effect on 1 July remains to be seen.

Hong Kong issues arrest warrants for eight overseas democracy activists (July 3, 2023, The Guardian)
Hong Kong police have issued arrest warrants for eight overseas activists days after the third anniversary of the introduction of a national security law that granted authorities sweeping extraterritorial powers to prosecute acts or comments made anywhere in the world that it deems criminal.

US recommends Americans reconsider traveling to China due to arbitrary law enforcement and exit bans (July 3, 2023, AP)
The U.S. recommended Americans reconsider traveling to China because of arbitrary law enforcement and exit bans and the risk of wrongful detentions.  No specific cases were cited, but the advisory came after a 78-year-old U.S. Citizen was sentenced to life in prison on spying charges in May. It also followed the passage last week of a sweeping Foreign Relations Law that threatens countermeasures against those seen as harming China’s interests.

The ‘Everything App’ for China’s Journalists (July 4, 2023, China Meda Project)
Released just before the weekend by the All-China Journalists Association(ACJA), “Journalist’s Home ‘University Hall’” (“记者之家”大学堂) is a comprehensive online training platform that will be used not just to train journalists in CCP press doctrine, but to track their progress and certify their training results, assisting with annual reviews and renewals of journalists’ press cards (记者证).

A troubled new power plant leaves Jordan in debt to China, raising concerns over Beijing’s influence (July 5, 2023, AP News)
Jordan’s Attarat power plant was envisioned as a landmark project promising to provide the desert kingdom with a major source of energy while solidifying its relations with China. […] Deals surrounding the plant put Jordan on the hook for billions of dollars in debt to China — all for a plant that is no longer needed for its energy, because of other agreements made since the project’s conception.


Four Shengjia Church Members Officially Arrested for “Illegal Business Operations” (July 3, 2023, China Aid Association)
Public security forces formally arrested four Shengjia Church members on suspicion of “illegal business operations.” Among them were Pastor Deng Yanxiang and three co-workers. Currently, they are detained in Foshan City Nanhai District Detention Center. 

Video: The Chinese Christian Diaspora in Britain and its Impact on Chinese Missions (June 20, 2023, Oxford Center for Mission Studies)

A Missed Opportunity: How Our Questions Shape our Narratives (June 30, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Like Pastor Ding, whose casting as a symbol of China’s persecuted church overshadowed his role as a pioneer missionary, the Chinese church’s richness and complexity can easily be lost when it is forced to fit into simple categories imposed from outside China. Too often the questions we ask (or fail to ask) drive our constrictive narratives about China and its church.

Education for Chinese Christian Families—Another Way (July 5, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Guardian visas for parents of young children studying abroad have opened another education opportunity for Christian families in China.

Society / Life

Between the Rains: Inside Henan’s Wheat Crisis (June 30, 2023, Sixth Tone)
In late May, China’s central Henan province was hit by what local media described as “the worst pre-harvest rain in more than a decade.” The sudden downpours plunged the region into chaos. Henan, known as “the granary of China,” produces over one-quarter of the country’s wheat. But the grain is highly vulnerable to pre-harvest rain, which can cause it to sprout prematurely, lowering its quality or even rendering it unusable.

China floods: Xi Jinping urges action as rains kill 15 and displace thousands (July 5, 2023, The Guardian)
China’s president, Xi Jinping, has called for stronger efforts to protect lives and property from severe flooding, as the country’s scientists warned July will bring more misery from extreme weather. Fifteen people died and four were missing after torrential rain lashed the metropolis of Chongqing and swathes of southwestern China, local officials and state media said on Wednesday.

China’s Brain Drain Threatens Its Future (July 5, 2023, Wall Street Journal) (subscription required)
Is China reopening to the world or turning inward again? Many would argue the latter, but in one important way, the country is still going global: Residents appear to be leaving at a faster clip than they have in years, including a significant number of the wealthy and well-educated the nation needs to keep modernizing and investing.

Economics / Trade / Business

China imposes export controls on 2 metals used in semiconductors and solar panels (July 4, 2023, NPR)
The Chinese government has announced buyers of two metals used in computer chips and solar panels will need to apply for export permits, starting on Aug. 1. The metals, gallium and germanium, are also used in military applications. The U.S. has been imposing trade limits for several years to try to restrict China’s access to semiconductor technology. In a statement, China’s Commerce Ministry said the new controls on exporting the metals are to safeguard China’s national interests.

China’s services activity softens as recovery falters (July 5, 2023, Reuters)
After growing at a faster-than-expected pace in the first quarter, the world’s second-biggest economy lost steam in April-June amid steepening deflation, high youth unemployment and sluggish foreign demand. Business activity and new orders both expanded at notably slower rates last month than in May, the Caixin PMI showed. 


30 Years of Choosing College Majors in China (July 3, 2023, The World of Chinese)
How did Chinese students earn the right to choose their own majors, and how did the most popular choices evolve over time?

Health / Environment

Moderna strikes deal to develop mRNA drugs in China (July 5, 2023, CNBC)
Moderna struck a deal with Chinese officials to research, develop and manufacture messenger RNA medicines in the country, despite rising tensions between the U.S. and China. The Massachusetts-based biotech company will develop those drugs “exclusively for the Chinese people,” a spokesperson told CNBC.  

Science / Technology

Content flow across the great firewall on WeChat (July 1, 2023, East Asia Forum)
WeChat is a news-sharing and content-distribution platform where people can easily share opinions and information. Despite the concerns about censorship, individuals and organisations have used the platform as an effective marketing, communication and publicity tool. This has created a need to adopt a more nuanced approach to the issue of censorship to consider its social, economic as well as cultural utility.

US to restrict Chinese companies’ access to cloud computing services (July 5, 2023, Technode)
The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the US government is preparing to restrict Chinese companies’ access to US cloud computing services, such as Amazon and Microsoft. If the new rule is adopted, US companies will be required to obtain government permission before offering cloud computing services using advanced artificial intelligence chips to Chinese customers.

History / Culture

How a Hani Designer Is Bringing Ethnic Fusion to Chinese Fashion (July 5, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Long marginalized and objectified by the fashion industry, a new generation of minority designers is experimenting with modern materials and techniques. But mainstream acceptance remains elusive.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

What We’re Listening To—Summer 2023 (July 3, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Whether you’re on a road trip, taking a walk on the beach, or going for a hike, a podcast is a great companion. In addition to our summer reading list, our team has also contributed several podcasts and podcast episodes that you might enjoy.

Links for Researchers

China Travel Advisory (June 30, 2023, U.S. Department of State)
Summary: Reconsider travel to Mainland China due to the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, including in relation to exit bans, and the risk of wrongful detentions. Exercise increased caution when traveling to the Hong Kong SAR due to the arbitrary enforcement of local laws. Reconsider travel to the Macau SAR due to a limited ability to provide emergency consular services. Exercise increased caution when traveling to the Macau SAR due to the arbitrary enforcement of local laws.

Pray for China

July 9 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On July 9, 2015, the detention of Beijing attorney Wang Yu (王宇律师) marked the start of the 709 Crackdown (七零九案) on human rights activists that eventually ensnared over 300 people, including her husband Bao Longjun (包龙军先生). They were released under a form of house arrest, and their teenage son Bao Zhuoxuan was barred for three years from leaving the PRC to study overseas. Pray for this family to rest in the love of the Good Shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

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Image credit: James Kern, via Unsplash
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