ZGBriefs | June 18, 2015

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ZGBriefs is a compilation of news items gathered from published online sources. ChinaSource is not responsible for the content, and inclusion in ZGBriefs does not equal endorsement.

Featured Article

Does Xi Jinping Represent a Return to the Mao Era? (June 16, 2015, China File)
Following is an edited transcript of a live event hosted at Asia Society New York on May 21, 2015, “ChinaFile Presents: Does Xi Jinping Represent a Return to the Politics of the Mao Era?” The evening convened the scholars Roderick MacFarquhar and Andrew Walder—the publication of whose new book on Mao Zedong was the occasion for the event—with diplomat Susan Shirk and Orville Schell, ChinaFile’s publisher and the Arthur Ross Director for the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Zhou Yongkang, Ex-Security Chief in China, Gets Life Sentence for Graft (June 11, 2015, The New York Times)
President Xi Jinping of China vowed to hunt “tigers” as well as “flies” in his drive to rid the ruling Communist Party of corruption, and on Thursday he defanged the most dangerous tiger yet — Zhou Yongkang, the nation’s former chief of domestic security. Mr. Zhou was convicted of abuse of power, accepting bribes and revealing state secrets, and was sentenced to life in prison.

China Media on Fallen Zhou Yongkang: Move Along, Folks (June 12, 2015, China Real Time)
One of China’s most powerful politicians, Zhou Yongkang, was sentenced to life in prison according to government-sanctioned information on Thursday, an event roughly the equivalent of having former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney thrown into prison after a prolonged and secretive trial. China’s leading newspapers on Friday, however, felt that some other matters were of more critical coverage.

Fears of new crackdown as China holds two former members of rights group (June 15, 2015, The Guardian)
Detention of Guo Bin and Yang Zhanqing fuels fears that country’s crackdown on civil society has entered new phase of repression.

Has Xi Jinping’s Anti-Corruption Campaign Been Derailed? (June 15, 2015, China Change)
For the Zhou Yongkang affair, which has attracted the attention of the world, to be wrapped up in such hasty manner makes one thing very clear: the authorities want to play down the “beat the tiger,” or the anti-corruption, campaign, signaling a significant change in the campaign.

China Asserts More Control Over Foreign and Domestic NGOs (June 16, 2015, China Real Time)
The Chinese party-state is tightening the vise on both foreign and domestic NGOs, sending strong new signals of its determination to repress unwelcome foreign influences and activities that foster the spread of ”Western values.”  A draft Foreign NGO Management Law released last month doesn’t just threaten to damage Chinese civil society, but also demonstrates strong willingness to use legislation to assert authoritarian governance without procedural justice.

How Chinese nationals abroad are transforming Beijing’s foreign policy (June 16, 2015, East Asia Forum)
The concept of ‘protecting nationals abroad’ (haiwai gongmin baohu) became part of the Chinese Communist Party’s priority list at the 18th Party Congress in 2012. But the idea caught the attention of China’s top leadership as early as 2004, with three major attacks against Chinese citizens in Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That China now systematically evacuates nationals from crises and war zones suggests China is becoming more inclined to support international responses when its own interests are at stake.

China steps up controls in unruly Xinjiang as Ramadan approaches (June 16, 2015, Reuters)
Some local governments in China's unruly far western region of Xinjiang are stepping up controls on the Islamic faith followed by the Uighur people ahead of Ramadan, including making officials swear they will not fast.

5 Things About the Hong Kong Vote (June 16, 2015, Wall Street Journal)
Hong Kong’s legislature is expected to vote down a proposal that would let the public directly elect the city’s chief executive in 2017 — but only from a prescreened slate of candidates. The showdown follows city-wide protests and a year and a half of efforts by Hong Kong’s leaders to sell the Beijing-backed election plan. Here are five things to know about the vote.

China calls halt to island building in South China Sea. Sign of compromise? (+video) (June 16, 2015, Christian Science Monitor)
China has earned US opprobrium over artificial enhancement of tiny islands in the Pacific that it seeks to claim as its territory. China has added some 2,000 acres of land, some of which is being purposed as military airstrips. 

Five Denied Bail in Hong Kong Bomb Arrests (June 17, 2015, TIME)
Five of the 10 people arrested in what Hong Kong authorities say is a separatist bomb plot were denied bail Wednesday. If convicted, the suspects face up to 20 years in prison for manufacturing or conspiring to manufacture explosives.

Hong Kong Has Bucked Beijing’s Political Will Before (June 17, 2015, China Real Time)
While the prospect of greater uncertainty looms over the vote, a move by lawmakers to block the 2017 electoral blueprint would be far from the first time Hong Kong has successfully bucked Beijing’s political will.


In Hebei, Where Chinese Bishops Loyal To The Pope Vanish (June 8, 2015, World Crunch)
he village of Cunmoyu (pronounced "Tsunmoyu") and the proud, white domes of its new churches appear well before the destination is reached: Built against a small mountain, it overlooks the dry, brown plains of Hebei, the province around Beijing. But Cunmoyu has another distinctive feature: Almost all of its residents are Catholic.

Authorities demolish huge multi-million dollar church (June 9, 2015, Christian Today)
A huge multi-million dollar cathedral-style church is being demolished in China, the latest church to go under the wrecking ball in a long-running campaign which reflects the growing concern in Beijing about the rise of the Christian evangelical movement.

China Facing Spiritual Void (Column) (June 12, 2015, Bos News Life)
As Christianity grows powerfully in China, it should come as no surprise that many new converts are prominent members of the country’s ruling Communist Party elite, along with their families.

Business as Mission—What I Have Seen (June 12, 2015, ChinaSource Blog)
I’ve witnessed many who have come to work in China with the desire to share their faith. Their stories are instructive.

Building on a legacy (June 13, 2015, World Magazine)
While Taylor helped the West see China as an untapped mission field, the church in Asia has emerged as its own powerful mission-sending organization.

Seeking comfort and career protection, China's senior party officials turn to mythical masters (June 14, 2015, US News)
The former Chinese security czar recently convicted of leaking state secrets did not pass classified documents to a foreign spy or a political rival. Rather, Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the all-powerful Standing Committee of the ruling Communist Party's Politburo, shared the documents with his qigong master, who claims supernatural abilities, according to a verdict made public last week and which also convicted Zhou of massive corruption. It's the latest example of a twisted relationship between the leadership of the party, which nominally espouses atheism, and spirituality.

Crossing the Lines in Wenzhou (June 15, 2015, ChinaSource Blog)
The latest episode in the government’s attack on Christian churches in Wenzhou is the drafting of regulations outlining precise limits on the size and location of religious buildings and the size and placement of crosses.

Nanjing Church Serves “Gaokao” Parents (June 16, 2015, Chinese Church Voices)
This article, translated from Gospel Times, tells of a church in Nanjing that ministers to parents waiting outside a nearby testing center.

Xinjiang Party Chief Calls for the ‘Sinicization’ of Religion (June 16, 2015, China Digital Times)
While addressing a meeting of religious representatives in Urumqi on Sunday, Zhang Chunxian, the CCP’s top official in Xinjiang, said that religion must be “sinicized” in order to combat hostile forces both inside and outside of China.

China sets restrictions on fasting in Xinjiang ahead of Ramadan (June 17, 2015, Shanghaiist)
Some local departments in Xinjiang have banned Uyghur people in the region, including party members, civil servants, students and teachers, from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

Society / Life

China orders inquiry into deaths of children who swallowed pesticide (June 12, 2015, The Guardian)
Public outrage grows after deaths of boy and three girls in China, where 60m children are left behind as their parents look for work in cities.

More Than Half of Chinese Teens Have Tried Alcohol, Survey Says (June 12, 2015, China Real Time)
51% of Chinese junior and senior high students have tried alcohol and 15% of them have been drunk at least once in their lives, according to a new survey by China’s National Institute for Nutrition and Health. The survey, which was released last Friday, was conducted in six major Chinese cities from 2013 to 2014.

More Chinese Couples are Getting Divorced, and They Blame Social Media (June 12, 2015, The Nanfang
China is catching up to the western world in many ways, and unfortunately one of them is high divorce rates. A new report has just found that China’s skyrocketing rates of divorce can be blamed on a number of things, but one of them stands above all the others: social media.

Motherland: In Search of Missing Girlhoods (June 13, 2015, Caixin Online)
When Jennie and Maya were about to enter their final year of high school, they set out to travel to the rural towns in China where each was abandoned as a baby. They were greeted by a record-setting heat wave, so on brutally humid and hot mornings, Jennie and Maya left their air-conditioned Changzhou hotel room to travel by car to Xiaxi or Xixiashu. There, they hung out, rarely in air-conditioned surroundings, with girls their age who grew up in the places that these Americans might have lived as children and teens.

Living Largely Off the Grid in China (June 15, 2015, Sinosphere)
In a modest-looking dwelling shrouded by greenery halfway up one of the highest mountains in eastern China, a young couple have been conducting an experiment in self-sufficiency for about five years.

China Yangtze ship survivor count revised down (June 15, 2015, BBC)
Chinese authorities have revised down the number of survivors of the Yangtze River cruise ship disaster from 14 to 12 people. The miscount was blamed on duplication and confusion between government agencies, said Xinhua news agency.

China's teenage spin doctors (June 15, 2015, BBC)
A week ago, an unusual job advertisement popped up on a Chinese university website. Mianyang University is recruiting volunteer internet commentators, the post explained. The university in southwest China's Sichuan province wanted "patriots who would cheer China's progress" and "rebut online slander about China, using statistics to unpick lies in order to sway the majority". In short, the university wanted to hire students to work as unpaid internet spin doctors.

Are China's fuss-free weddings a sign of cultural modernity? (June 16, 2015, Christian Science Monitor)
As China's wedding costs rise to unprecedented heights, a growing number of couples are looking to more affordable options or, sometimes, no ceremony at all.

Floods reveal plight of "left behind" seniors (June 17, 2015, Xinhua)
Empty-nesters are the most vulnerable when natural disasters strike. One bed-ridden septuagenarian was swept away by flood waters on Sunday, and is still missing, Tu said. "While most elderly villagers struggle with mobility issues, many old people just refuse to leave their ancestral homes," he said. "It's essential we provide adequate care for the elderly to keep them safe." The Ministry of Civil Affairs believes more than half of Chinese households are seniors who live alone without children around. It estimates there will be more than 51 million empty-nesters by the end of this year.

Police at Chinese Train Station Kill Attacker Armed With Brick (June 17, 2015, The New York Times)
A man attacking people with a brick on Wednesday at a train station in the northern Chinese city of Xi’an was shot and killed by the police, according to a post on the microblog of the Xi’an Railway Police. The man, an ethnic Uighur, was wounded and died later at a hospital, the post said. He had been hitting people lined up at a ticket window with a cement brick and had been warned to stop by a ticket seller, it said.

10 crazy photos of Shanghai's flooding (June 17, 2015, That’s Magazine)


Chinese Students Studying Abroad a New Focus of CCP’s “United Front Work” (June 9, 2015, China Change)
At the recently convened Central United Front Work[1] Conference (link in Chinese), Xi Jinping stressed that Chinese students studying abroad are an important component of the ranks of the talented, and they are also a new focal point for the Communist Party’s United Front Work. This is regarded as something new. But I would argue that the United Front Work aimed at students studying abroad starts as early as even before these students enter kindergarten.

Imagine having to answer these questions (June 15, 2015, Outside-In)
In the days following the exam, the questions are usually published online and in local media, triggering a nationwide discussion on what in the world they mean and what the writers of the test are trying to measure and who in their right mind could answer them. Here’s a sampling of essay questions from the exams given in various provinces this year. How would you do?

American Students in China: It’s Not as Authoritarian as We Thought (June 15, 2015, Foreign Policy)
In a recent survey, Foreign Policy asked American students and alumni who had spent time in China to share revealing anecdotes from their experiences in the country. The 385 responses often portray American students struggling to understand a country where behavior that is legal on paper is, in practice, prohibited; or conversely, where ostensibly illegal behavior or speech is often tolerated.

Health / Environment

Relaxing China’s One-Child Policy (June 12, 2015, The New York Times)
With some degree of new-found freedom, most eligible Chinese couples are not choosing to have more children. Like my friends and I in the 1970s, the Chinese seem to be content with one child.

Economics / Trade / Business

Leading China International School Lays Off Employees (June 10, 2015, China Law Blog)
Just got word from a good and highly reliable friend that one of the top international schools in a first tier China city just laid off a number of its employees due to declining enrollment. My friend calls this a “reality check” and attributes it to expats both losing jobs in China and choosing to leave for either personal (see pollution) or business reasons. He says the “great shake out has begun,…”

Idle Home Builders Hold China’s Economy Back (June 11, 2015, The New York Times)
Despite recent signs that housing prices are stabilizing, a backlog of unsold homes and unleased shops means that builders simply are not doing much building.

New cargo train service between China, Europe opens (June 13, 2015, Xinhua)
A freight train service between the northeastern China city of Harbin and Europe was launched on Saturday, opening a new trade route between China and Europe. The train left the railway station in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang Province, at 10 a.m. Saturday, carrying 49 containers of domestic goods such as electronic products and auto parts from northeast and north China, worth 3 million U.S. dollars.

Advice For China Retailers: Keep Calm and Go Online (June 15, 2015, China Real Time)
The biggest lesson companies are learning right now is that China is a tough place if you aren’t successful online, Mr. McKenzie said.

Chinese Skip ‘Smelly’ Cabs in Favor of Free Rides With Uber (June 16, 2015, Bloomberg)
Uber and the clones it spawned are widely considered the next big thing for the technology industry, with venture capital and hedge funds lining up to bet on their prospects. In China, the race to win over hundreds of millions of paying commuters has pushed companies to put market share before profitability, behavior common during the dot-com bubble that peaked in 2000.

Bank of China to Help Set Global Gold Prices (June 17, 2015, China Real Time)
A Chinese bank will for the first time join the group of lenders that sets global gold prices, marking another step in China’s push for a bigger role in international financial markets.

Science / Technology

The Other Side of the Great Firewall (June 11, 2015, TIME)
While the U.S. worries about Chinese hacking, Beijing has built a separate Internet for the 649 million Chinese online.

History / Culture

The 1936 Shanghai Census – Three and a Half Million Folk (June 14, 2015, China Rhyming)
Every time Shanghai does a population census the numbers get more ridiculous and argued over – 18, 19, 23 million or whatever. In 1936 the city topped out at a then impressive 3,500,000 having added 135,000 odd over the last year.

Unbound: China's last 'lotus feet' – in pictures (June 15, 2015, The Guardian)
103 years after foot binding was banned, a few women still live with the severe deformity it caused. Jo Farrell tracked down 50 of them, all in old age, and photographed some for her book Living History: Bound Feet Women of China.

Travel / Food

Map of the 8 Culinary Traditions in China (Chinese Pod Blog)
Chinese cuisine has a history that is steeped in tradition. These traditions vary as you move across the land; influenced by the diverse geography and available resources. China being as big as it is has nearly infinite options for what you may find, even on a village-to-village basis. Even with so many different traditions, eight stood above the rest and today are classified as the Eight Cuisines of China.

China to drop entry permit requirement for Taiwan residents (June 14, 2015, Reuters)
China plans to drop the entry permit requirement for Taiwan residents visiting the mainland, the official Xinhua news agency cited a senior Chinese politician as saying on Sunday.

The best place to see pandas in Chengdu (June 16, 2015, Wild China Blog)
A trip to Chengdu is not complete without seeing China’s cuddly national icon, the panda bear. There are three main options for panda viewing in Chengdu, each with its unique draws. Read on and find out which panda reserve is the best choice for your trip.

Video: Why Din Tai Feng Dumplings are Famous (June 17, 2015, BBC)
Our Taipei correspondent Cindy Sui finds out what makes these dumplings special and why it's been difficult for other Taiwanese companies to emulate the company's success.

Language / Language Learning

How 'Thank You' Sounds to Chinese Ears (June 12, 2015, The Atlantic)
One of the most jarring yet subtle aspects of my experience with Mandarin Chinese was the counterintuitive use—or lack of use—of thank you (xiexie), please (qing), and other softeners like “would,” “could,” “I’m sorry,” and “excuse me” that liberally season vernacular American English.


Why I Publish in China (June 11, 2015, China File)
Most reasonable people believe that foreign engagement in China should be judged on a case-by-case basis. When a foreigner stands up in a Chinese classroom to teach a course in oral English, he is not tacitly supporting the regime’s imprisonment of dissident academics—he’s teaching a course in oral English. In fact, he may reasonably believe that such exchanges serve a small but positive function in a society that’s trying to overcome a long and painful history of isolation.

Articles for Researchers

Wresting order from the chaos (June 2015, Chatham House)
The World Today was born 70 years ago. In this special anniversary edition, we will be looking at what the past can tell us about the present. In our cover story, Kevin Rudd writes that the rules-based global order inherited from 1945 is changing. Will the US and a rising China work together, or against each other?


Chinese Worldview Today – June 23-June 8, Beijing (China Academic Consortium)This summer seminar is led by Dr. Charles Weber, Emeritus Professor of History and Asia specialist at Wheaton College, and Dr. Kevin Yao, Professor of World Christianity and Asian Studies at Gordon-Conwell Seminary.   The two-week intensive seminar and study tour in Beijing and Xian aims to introduce history, society, philosophy and religion to those with an interest in China and long term commitment to serve among the Chinese.  This year’s study program is partnering with leading Chinese scholars for dialogue with participants in order to gain an inside perspective on the country, culture and people. Sponsored by China Academic Consortium For further information contact <cac.errchina@gmail.com>.

Image credit: Quartz

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