ZGBriefs | June 27, 2019

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Featured Article

Shanghai Sacred: inside China's religious revival – photo essay  (June 20, 2019, The Guardian)
Photographer and anthropologist Liz Hingley uncovers the spiritual landscape ofChina’s largest city, revealing the spaces and rituals of this cosmopolitan megalopolis that is home to 26 million people – and to religious groups from Buddhism to Islam, Christianity to Baha’ism, Hinduism to Taoism.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Hong Kong's Leader Backpedaled, But Here's Why The Opposition Movement Continues (June 19, 2019, NPR)
Yet the issue has laid bare a broader crisis beyond the extradition bill. Hong Kong is reckoning with its tricky relationship with the Chinese authorities in Beijing, in a clash between two starkly different systems.

Friendlier Days for North Korea and China? Maybe Not (June 21, 2019, The New York Times)
But behind the public bonhomie, there was little to suggest that the visit — which lasted barely 24 hours — heralded any real change in the relationship between the North and its one major ally. 

A fly-on-the-wall account of what China tells American bigwigs (June 22, 2019, The Economist)
China’s rulers now accept that they face more than a Trump problem. They concede that bipartisan suspicion of China in America will intensify in the run-up to the elections of November 2020, and will continue afterwards, whoever wins.

Hong Kong protests: How tensions have spread to US (June 23, 2019, BBC)
The protests in Hong Kong have heightened tensions between the territory and China, and generated headlines the world over. They have also deepened unease many thousands of miles away – on US campuses.

China says will not allow Hong Kong issue to be discussed at G20 summit (June 23, 2019, Reuters)
“What I can tell you for sure is that G20 will not discuss the Hong Kong issue. We will not allow G20 to discuss the Hong Kong issue,” Zhang said, when asked whether Trump and Xi would discuss Hong Kong at the G20. “Hong Kong is China’s special administrative region. Hong Kong matters are purely an internal affair due China. No foreign country has a right to interfere,” Zhang said.

Dealing with Local Officials in a Changing China: An Update (June 24, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
By placing approval and review procedures on line, the state is able to use software design to force officials to commit to particular decisions. Replacing a paper form with blanks on it with an automated online form with pull-down menus forces official decisions and reports to conform to predetermined entries, thus drastically restricting official “room to maneuver.”

The history of securitisation in Xinjiang (June 25, 2019, East Asia Forum)
A long view of Chinese–Central Asian relations helps to illustrate, in particular, how Beijing’s approach to internal security actually stemmed from its economic policy and regional diplomacy. This is evidenced in three significant shifts on internal security in Xinjiang in 1988, 2001 and again in 2005.

China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier passes through Taiwan Strait (June 25, 2019, South China Morning Post)
The Liaoning, along with its five escorts, entered the highly sensitive waters from the South China Sea, heading towards its home port of Qingdao in eastern China, the Taiwanese defence ministry confirmed in a statement on its website.

China’s Hidden Navy (June 25, 2019, Foreign Policy)
The evidence shows that supposed fishing boats around contested islands are part of an extensive maritime militia.

Deal Or No Deal? The Stakes Are High For Trump-Xi Trade Talks (June 26, 2019, NPR)
Like many observers, Goodman thinks the likeliest course is a temporary truce that leaves existing tariffs in place, but postpones additional taxes on Chinese imports while the two sides go back to the bargaining table.

UK says 1984 Hong Kong rights treaty with China is as valid as ever (June 26, 2019, Reuters)
Britain’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday it would continue to defend its position over Hong Kong after Beijing accused the UK of interfering in China’s internal affairs.


With Hymns and Prayers, Christians Help Drive Hong Kong’s Protests (June 19, 2019, The New York Times)
Christianity has had a striking influence in demonstrations against a proposed law that would allow extraditions to mainland China.

Is It Time for a New Approach to Leadership? (June 21, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
In addressing the rise of leadership abuse of power and the systemic corruption that can hide within an increasingly institutionalized church body, I wonder if one solution may be a new paradigm for leadership. Let me offer one idea. At the heart of abuse of power and institutional corruption is a high-control attitude. When leaders see themselves as owners of their church or ministry, they will justify whatever power is needed to succeed. Ownership and control are destroying leaders in the west, and I wonder if the same is now happening in China. 

Unofficial HK protest anthem “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” banned on Chinese streaming platform  (June 24, 2019, Shanghaiist)
When users recently searched for the hymn on QQ Music, they received a message saying that there were no matching results. Other Chinese music streaming platforms, including Kuwo, Xiami, and NetEase, also did not carry the song.

US Continues to Condemn China’s ‘War on Faith’ (June 24, 2019, Christianity Today)
The US State Department is taking new steps to call out China as one of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom. Last week, both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback rebuked the world’s most-populous country for ramping up what Brownback called its “war on faith.”

Honoring Our Parents According To God’s Will, Part 3: Facing Difficulties As People Who Have Been Loved  (June 25, 2019, China Partnership)
As Christians, we must work diligently for the eternal benefits of the souls of the parents who raised us. We must also care for their physical and emotional needs in every situation according to God’s will. What, then, are some ways in which society helps us to care for the elderly? And how should Christians and churches seek God’s will in specific situations and act according to it? 

Advice for Parents on the Eve of College Entrance Exams (June 25, 2019, Chinese Church Voices)
Recently, high school seniors across China sat for the infamous gaokao, or National College Entrance Examination. While pressure on students during this time is extremely high, parents of students also feel intense stress over their child’s performance. This article from Gospel Times attempts to reassure Christian parents that their child’s worth is greater than results of the exam.

The Church in Ankang (June 26, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
Finding the Ankang Church was a challenge. I flagged down a taxi near the hotel and the driver said he knew the address I gave him. But when we got there, there was no church. The taxi driver didn’t seem to want to deal with this situation, and told me to get out and ask someone.

Society / Life

Identity Crisis (June 23, 2019, The World of Chinese)
According to an April report by CNR, authentic Chinese ID cards, many lost or stolen from their original holders, can easily be bought on social-media channels such as WeChat and Tencent QQ for as little as 500 RMB (35 USD). Millions of lost or stolen ID cards are sold annually, China Youth Daily reported in 2015; police in the city of Tianjin registered over 190,000 such losses in 2014 alone.

Faking Street Photography: Why Staged “Street Snaps” Are All the Rage in China  (June 25, 2019, What’s on Weibo)
It looks as if they are spontaneously photographed or filmed by one of China’s many street photographers, but it is actually staged. Chinese online influencers – or the companies behind them – are using street photography as part of their social media strategy. And then there are those who are mocking them.

China’s War On Western Names (June 25, 2019, China Media Project)
In practice in recent days, acting on this sense of “cultural confidence” means pushing a revolution in place names, expunging names that are excessively foreign, exaggerated, strange or redundant. When it comes to the West, in particular, it is about clearly distinguishing between the Montagues and the Capulets, between us and them — and so, out with the Hollywoods, Viennas and Victorias.

50 Shades of Pale (June 25, 2019, The World of Chinese)
Umbrellas on a sweltering day. Adverts for whitening treatments. Middle-aged women swimming in head-to-toe wetsuits and face-kinis. Yes, it’s summer in China, and everyone’s trying to get the perfect beach body: White, ideally the palest possibleshade.

Chinese authority uses social media to identify illegal social organizations (June 26, 2019, China Daily)
The Ministry of Civil Affairs on Wednesday launched a mini-program on Chinese social media Wechat for citizens to identify and report illegal social organizations. The mini-program collects basic information for more than 830,000 social organizations in China, with 2,301 national social organizations included, according to the ministry.

Economics / Trade / Business

World’s Top Bicycle Maker Says the Era of ‘Made in China’ Is Over (June 17, Bloomberg)
Giant is part of a growing number of global firms that are pivoting production out of China in reaction to the increasingly hostile trade relations between the two superpowers. Intel Corp. this week became the latest to say it’s reviewing its global supply chain, while Li & Fung Ltd., the world’s largest supplier of consumer goods, said the trade war is spurring it to diversify away from China.

Digitally China Podcast: Inside Huawei’s “Wolf” Culture (June 20, 2019, Radii China)
To take a closer look at the company — at a more human-scale — we decided to dive into the people and the unique “wolf” culture of Huawei, from its dark history of employee suicides to inspiring “war” stories, where company staff have braved earthquakes and civil wars to serve clients.

China’s migrant workers worried by dwindling jobs, low pay, as US trade war impact runs deep (June 21, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Fewer jobs and lower pay within the manufacturing sector could hurt China’s long-term plan of relying on domestic consumption to boost the economy, as stagnated income levels for the country’s 280 million migrant workers could limit their spending power.

Taiwan’s bike makers bank on e-bikes to power them to the top in wake of US-China trade war  (June 26, 2019, South China Morning Post)
After years of shifting production to the mainland, the island’s manufacturers have been given a new lease of life. A surge in demand for e-bikes from Europe combined with US tariffs could help Taiwan regain its position as the number one producer of cycles.

What Hong Kong Protests Mean For Business (June 26, 2019, Global Finance)
Tensions over the proposed extradition treaty do not bode well for Hong Kong's future as a hub of international trade and finance.

China bans all meat from Canada alleging forged customs certificates (June 26, 2019, CNN)
The Chinese embassy in Canada announced the move in a statement Wednesday, saying the decision had been sparked by the discovery of "ractopamine residues" in a batch of pork sent by Canadian company Frigo Royal on June 3.


China’s Education Authority Calls for More Electives, Choice (June 21, 2019, Sixth Tone)
China wants more high schools to offer the elective courses known as “zouban” — literally “roaming classes” — in order to better meet students’ diverse developmental needs and interests, an official with the country’s top education authority said at a press conference Thursday.

China orders halt to history tests for students seeking credits for US university courses (June 21, 2019, South China Morning Post)
The suspensions come as Beijing ramps up efforts to expunge educational history content that is not approved by the Chinese Communist Party. Negative interpretations of topics like the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the Sino-Japanese war and the South China Sea are strictly censored in China, where cyber laws make it a criminal offence to share non-sanctioned history online.

Toilet revolution and boutique hotels on curriculum at China party school (June 23, 2019, Reuters)
Tracing its history back to 1933 and the early days of the Communist revolution, the school takes in the top tier of party officials who are destined for greater things, teaching them leadership, decision making, party history – and how best to implement Xi’s instructions.

The Highest Exam (June 26, 2019, Sup China)
The gaokao is the most formidable test in the world. Literally “the high exam,” it is China’s National College Entrance Examination, taken every year by nearly 10 million students. It represents the best and worst of the country, inducing the most aspirational of dreams and deepest cycles of despair.

Health / Environment

The era of compulsory garbage sorting begins (June 24, 2019, China Daily)
Shanghai's regulation requires people to sort trash into four categories – dry garbage, wet garbage (kitchen waste), recyclables and hazardous waste. Individuals who fail to do so may be fined up to 200 yuan ($29.11), while companies and institutions face fines of up to 50,000 yuan.

Science / Technology

Here’s What China Will Be Doing With Its New Space Station (June 20, 2019, Radii China)
How does DNA mutate in space? How are dust clouds and incipient stars arranged in the outer reaches of the cosmos? These are the questions scientists aboard the China Space Station (CSS), set to be completed around 2022, will attempt to answer.

China’s Communist Party Is Making Its Own (Virtual) Reality (June 21, 2019, Foreign Policy)
After a cadre dons the RoboCop-like headset and opens the bright-red “Guidelines of the Chinese Communist Party,” select passages of text come alive—commands such as “the party rules all” burst out, with flowery backgrounds and moving animations to match.

Special Report: Inside the West’s failed fight against China’s ‘Cloud Hopper’ hackers (June 26, 2019, Reuters)
Teams of hackers connected to the Chinese Ministry of State Security had penetrated HPE’s cloud computing service and used it as a launch pad to attack customers, plundering reams of corporate and government secrets for years in what U.S. prosecutors say was an effort to boost Chinese economic interests.

History / Culture

Dam in Distress (June 20, 2019, The World of Chinese)
It’s one of the deadliest structural failures you’ve never heard of. […] Indeed, few outside of Henan province remember the 1975 incident, which occurred just a decade before the infamous Reactor 4 meltdown in Pripyat, Ukraine, 1986. At the time, the Cultural Revolution had isolated China from the world’s gaze, the death tolls from disasters were treated as state secrets.

Travel / Food

Chinese Takeout: War of the Wontons (June 20, 2019, Radii China)
While two warring wonton brands battle it out in court for the same name, we sat down and tried them both.

Chinese Cookbook: Learn How to Make Mapo Doufu (June 20, 2019, The Beijinger)
This week I cooked mapo tofu, one of the first dishes I ate when I moved to China. Silky tofu in a Sichuan spicy sauce with tender minced pork always seemed to be a part of the selection of huge plates of food that Chinese friends would order when out at a restaurant, and I’ve been hooked ever since. 

Red Rabbit (June 21, 2019, The World of Chinese)
At 60 years old, White Rabbit candy is a time-honored brand in PRC terms. Now, the “White Rabbit 60th Anniversary Tour,” a traveling exhibition hosted by Shanghai’s Guan Sheng Yuan Group, is coming to a mall near you, celebrating nostalgia and six decades of sweet childhood memories.

China’s top online media execs go on 'red tourism' study tour (June 25, 2019, Inkstone)
Leaders from the likes of Baidu, ByteDance, Sina and more than 40 other tech companies traveled to the southeastern province of Fujian this week as part of a “red tourism” tour. The color red is closely associated with Communism. The annual tour is organized by the city of Beijing’s internet watchdog, which monitors and regulates the companies. The trips are in line with the party’s desire to strengthen its presence at major private companies.  

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Born Again: China’s Girl Groups and the Life Cycle of a Stardom (June 21, 2019, Sixth Tone)
China’s idol industry went from boom to bust in the blink of an eye. Now some girls are fighting their way back to the top.

Language / Language Learning

Mandarin Companion: Easy to read novels in Chinese (June 19, 2019, Hacking Chinese)
Mandarin Companion offers a series of readers, currently on three levels with twelve books in all. That means that they are accessible from a very early stage, but are still useful well up into the intermediate stage:

Saving China’s Dialects? There’s an App for That  (June 25, 2019, Sixth Tone)
Rather than diminishing dialects, they believe new technology can protect them and keep them relevant, even in the face of globalization and longstanding attempts to establish a countrywide lingua franca in China.

Writing “biang” (June 26, 2019, Sinosplice)
My daughter has just finished first grade in a Chinese elementary school. I’ve been absolutely blown away by how many characters she has learned in her first year (that’s a topic of an upcoming post). Just the other day, we were having a conversation (mostly in English) about what characters we thought were “hard.” It was interesting getting her perspective, because it was totally different from mine. We didn’t agree at all on which ones were “hard.”

Living Cross-culturally

We Spent Our Best Years Overseas. And They Were Hard. (June 25, 2019, The Gospel Coalition)
The church—both those who go and those who send—must acknowledge the hardships that cross-cultural workers face. And we must stand ready to help those who go as they walk through various valleys.


From foot-binding to feminism: a millennial charts China's rapid change (June 20, 2019, The Guardian)
Karoline Kan’s memoir Under Red Skies charts the very different lives of three generations of women in her family. She talks about a giddying journey.

China, Trade and Power: Why the West’s Economic Engagement Has Failed (June 24, 2019, China File)
Few people could tell you what happened on December 11, 2001, yet China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) will define the geopolitics of the 21st century. What were Western leaders thinking at the time? This book tells the story of the most successful trading nation of the early 21st century. 

Links for Researchers

The Third Magic Weapon: Reforming China’s United Front (June 24, 2019, War on the Rocks)
The United Front Work Department and the surrounding policy system exist to rally social groups and individuals to support the Chinese Communist Party and its objectives. From the party’s Politburo Standing Committee down to its grassroots committees, united front work involves thousands of members, social organizations, and fronts. Wherever the party is found, be it a government ministry or a party committee in a joint venture, the united front system is likely to be operating.

Image credit: Alex Berger, via Flickr
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