ZGBriefs | March 16, 2017

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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. Please go here to support ZGBriefs.

Featured Article

Living loud in China's lively public spaces (March 11, 2017, BBC)
This country that I love is many things, but quiet is not one of them. There are plenty of bustling cities – rammed with millions of people – where you could be frowned upon for disrupting others with a raised voice: Seoul, London, Tokyo… especially Tokyo. China does not have those cities.

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Overseas NGO Law

China’s Implementation of the Overseas NGO Management Law (March 6, 2017, China Development Brief)
The rule of law will be the crux for the implementation of the Overseas NGO Law. This will not only determine the effects of the implementation of the law, but also represent a milestone in the creation of a Chinese rule of law that is integrated with the international community.

Putting the Overseas NGO Law in Perspective (March 12, 2017, NGOs in China)
The Overseas NGO Law does not mean the end of an independent civil society in China. It does mean another period of adaptation in which both foreign and Chinese NGOs will have to figure out how to operate in this new environment. Moreover, we should remember that the long view cuts both ways. It is not just about NGOs adapting, it is also about Chinese authorities adapting to the new law and finding a way to make it workable. 

From Grey to Grey: Foreign NGOs Feel Their Way Forward in China (March 15, 2017, From the West Courtyard)
While the new law makes it technically possible for foreign organizations to register and function effectively, only time will tell whether those who are currently in the throes of registration will be successful. In the meantime, many feel as if they’ve just moved from one grey area to another.

Introduction to Special Issue on NGOs in China (China Policy Institute)
The Overseas NGO Law that came into effect on 1st January 2017 has already triggered news columns, heated discussions and movements within the NGO sector in China. There has been debate surrounding the rationale and likely outcomes of the law. Does the law represent another battle in the struggle between authorities and non-state actors? And does implementation affect all sectors equally? In this special issue we offer a spectrum of opinion on the new law and the general landscape for NGOs in China.

The Overseas NGO Law and its Effects on Chinese NGOs’ Contribution to Global Development (China Policy Institute)
Although it may be early to make assessments of the law on overseas NGOs operating in China and more directly on Chinese NGO sector, we seek to extrapolate further in this article by considering the effects of such political environment on the role of Chinese NGOs making a global impact.

China’s NGO Regulations and Uneven Civil Society Development (China Policy Institute)
I contend that the law is the latest in a series of actions to drive a wedge between foreign actors and Chinese civil society, rendering Chinese NGOs dependent on China’s state for funding. Chinese civil society includes relatively independent NGOs as well as government-organized NGOs (“GONGOs”), and China’s state is using laws such as the Overseas NGO Law to strengthen state-backed GONGOs and subordinate the actions of independent NGOs to serve the state’s interests.

Special Section: National People’s Congress

What’s Under Discussion at One of China’s Biggest Political Gatherings (March 10, 2017, The New York Times)
They talk about their policy ideas with the local media too, and coverage of their proposals and the online comments they attract provide glimpses into some of the issues on the minds of Chinese today.

China in 2016: By the Numbers (March 13, 2017, From the West Courtyard)
On March 5, Premier Li Keqiang delivered the 2016 government work report at the opening session of the annual National People’s Congress in Beijing. As government work reports go, it follows a very strict script: listing of all the glorious accomplishments of the past year and then setting forth all the glorious things that the government will accomplish this year. 

China's political propaganda gets a digital makeover (March 14, 2017, BBC)
China has been trying and failing for years to get its people, especially its young people, to care about its political system. Could it now be close to working out how to do just this?

The many things China doesn’t want: highlights from Li Keqiang’s press conference (March 15, 2017, South China Morning Post)
Beijing doesn’t want trade war nor chaos at its doorstep. It also doesn’t want Asean nations to take sides on the South China Sea, or further calls for Hong Kong independence, among other things.

Who's up, down and out at China's congress? (March 15, 2017, BBC)
China's National People's Congress (NPC) is largely a rubber stamp for policy but it is still closely watched for indications of who is on the rise or on the way out in Beijing.

Xi Jinping Pushes Legal Overhaul That Would Bolster State Power (March 15, 2017, The New York Times)
Now, President Xi Jinping is reviving the idea of a national civil code as he seeks to remake China’s justice system. His government has embraced the code as a tool to fight corruption and fickleness in the courts, as well as to formalize state power on issues as varied as free speech and parental responsibility.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China: Xi Jinping wants ‘Great Wall of Steel’ in violence-hit Xinjiang (March 10, 2017, The Guardian)
Chinese president Xi Jinping has urged security forces to erect a “Great Wall of Steel” around the violence-hit western region of Xinjiang after an apparent spike in bloodletting that authorities blame on Islamic extremists and separatists. Xi issued the traditional military rallying call on Friday, during a session of the national people’s congress, China’s annual rubber-stamp parliament, in Beijing. 

What is the one-China policy? (March 14, 2017, The Economist)
That is a legacy of the Chinese civil war, which resulted in the overthrow of the ROC by Mao Zedong in 1949. Its defeated government fled to the Chinese province of Taiwan, where it continued to call itself the government of all China. Since then there have been, in effect, two Chinas, both claiming the same territory (unlike the People’s Republic, the ROC also includes Mongolia within its theoretical borders, but it treats it as a different country).

China Has Begun New Construction Work on Disputed South China Sea Island (March 14, 2017, TIME)
China has started fresh construction work in the disputed South China Sea, new satellite images show, a sign that Beijing is continuing to strengthen its military reach across the vital trade waterway.

North Korea: What Is China Thinking? (March 14, 2017, The Atlantic)
With the alternatives appearing either infeasible or unthinkable, China is likely to stick with its current policy for the foreseeable future, despite the fact that this is unlikely to reverse the dangerous dynamics on the Korean peninsula.

Tillerson to press China on North Korea in tough first Asia trip (March 15, 2017, Reuters)
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson faces a tough first trip to Asia this week when the former oil executive will seek to reassure nervous allies facing North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threat and press China to do more on perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting President Donald Trump.

China to boost marine corps by 400pc to enforce growing world influence (March 15, 2017, news.com.au)
Chinese officials have stated this is to protect arterial maritime trade routes and enforce its growing overseas interests. This includes plans to deploy detachments to secure the ports of Djibouti, on the strategically significant Horn of Africa maritime chokepoint, and Gwadar in southwest Pakistan.

How Does China’s Imperial Past Shape Its Foreign Policy Today (March 15, 2017, China File)
Now, with China on the rise again, are Beijing’s leaders looking to establish a new hegemony by drawing on the playbook of the distant past, when China’s neighbors were forced to pay tribute.


What Christianity in China Is Really Like (March 9, 2017, The Gospel Coalition)
So the goal of understanding what China is really like must be tempered. Or at least approached in a way that allows for ambiguity and recognizes the enigma of the subject. Toward that goal and in that spirit, here are five things helpful to understand about the church landscape in China.

Why China’s Hui Muslims Fear They’re Next to Face Crackdown On Religion (March 9, 2017, South China Morning Post)
While the Chinese government has cracked down on religious activities among the Muslim Uygur community in Xinjiang ( 新疆 ), citing the threat of Islamic extremism, ethnic Hui Muslims more closely integrated with Han Chinese society have been able to enjoy much greater religious freedom. However, growing Islamophobia in China has seen both groups targeted by online attacks at a time when anti-Muslim rhetoric is on the rise across the world.

China detains two South Korean pastors for helping North Korea defectors: report (March 10, 2017, CNN)
When Brian and Jeri Wilson brought home their 10-year-old adopted son Jason, formerly known as JiaJia, for the first time last year, the couple quickly realized they needed to move.

China's Communist Party hardens rhetoric on Islam (March 12, 2017, Al Jazeera)
China's ruling Communist Party has hardened its rhetoric on Islam, with top officials making repeated warnings about the spectre of global religious "extremism" seeping into the country, and the need to protect traditional Chinese identity.

Why You Don’t Need to Be a Communist to Serve the People (March 14, 2017, Chinese Church Voices)
Can Christians join the Communist Party? Should Christians join the Communist Party? These questions were posted online recently by a Chinese Christian on Zhihu, China’s version of Quora (a question and answer website). The questions sparked chatter among the online Christian community and also prompted a response from the official social media account of the Communist Youth League of China.

Society / Life

Why Is China So … Uncool? (March 8, 2017, Foreign Policy)
The country's got all the right stuff to be a soft-power giant. But Beijing won't get out of its own way.

The Surprise About Shanghai’s Traffic Crackdown: It’s Working (March 11, 2017, Sixth Tone)
When Shanghai kicked off China’s biggest overhaul of local traffic management one year ago, residents reluctantly complied, and waited for the police presence at major intersections, the angry whistle-blowing, and the on-the-spot fines for traffic violations to gradually melt away — the usual course of events for such crackdowns. But at a press conference in November 2016, Yang Xiong, at the time the mayor of Shanghai, revealed that the drive had not gone away; it had had far-reaching ramifications.

To Be Demolished Is Glorious: China's Resettlement Industry (March 14, 2017, The Little Red Podcast)
China is a world leader in resettlement, having resettled 80 million people since 1949. Before 2020, a further 100 million people will be moved for environmental protection, poverty relief and development. So who ultimately benefits from China's massive resettlement programmes? And has China invented an entirely new academic discipline – resettlement science – to provide academic respectability to its far-reaching resettlement campaigns.

China’s Crime: By the Numbers (March 15, 2017, The World of Chinese)
Court statistics revealed in a work report at a recent People’s Congress event are, at first glance, as dry as you would expect from one of China’s least-interesting meetings. They do, however, provide a handy snapshot into the types of crime the courts are dealing with at each level.

Unexpected? Lhasa is China’s “Happiest City” of the Year (Again) (March 15, 2017, What’s on Weibo)
Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, is China’s “happiest city” of the year, according to a national poll by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. The outcome is the same as that of various years before. Although many experts think the results are biased, Weibo netizens are more concerned about something else.

Beijing’s Dancing Grannies Put on Headphones (March 15, 2017, Sixth Tone)
Square dancing the early evening away is a quintessential hobby for countless Chinese retirees. But while getting their social exercise on, they’re sometimes a nuisance to peace and quiet-loving neighbors. Fortunately, Beijing’s community workers — low-level, semi-governmental employees — may have found a solution: They’ve outfitted the neighborhood cohorts of “dancing grannies” with radio-equipped headphones, allowing them to square dance in silence.

Economics / Trade / Business

China’s New Laws on Employment of Foreign Recent Graduates (March 12, 2017, China Law Blog)
These rules apply to foreign graduates who obtained their master’s degree or higher education in China and to foreign graduates who received advanced degrees from a well-recognized foreign institution (whatever that means). 

After $225 Billion in Deals Last Year, China Reins In Overseas Investment (March 12, 2017, The New York Times)
China struck $225 billion in deals to acquire companies abroad last year, a record-breaking number that signaled to the world that Chinese business leaders were hot to haggle. Now, China — with a worried eye on the money leaving its borders — is telling some of its companies to cool it down.

A Mountain of Debt: Is China's Economy Going To Crash? (March 13, 2017, The National Interest)
China bears have had their fears reconfirmed over the nation’s mountainous debt by none other than the nation’s central bank governor. Is the world’s second-biggest economy heading for a crash?

As China's Coal Mines Close, Miners Are Becoming Bolder In Voicing Demands (March 14, 2017, NPR)
A dozen workers from the mine fill a tiny room decorated only with a portrait of Chairman Mao. They're big, brawny men, and working in their hometown mine is the only job they've ever known. All are employees of Longhua Harbin Coal Company, a subsidiary of China National Coal Group, the third-largest coal mining company in the world. Longhua has told the mine's 4,000 workers they'll all be out of a job by year's end. The mine will be shut, wiping out the town's main source of revenue.

China has finally developed a taste for lobster—and it’s keeping Maine fishermen flush with cash (March 15, 2017, Quartz)
But the economic boom in China has given the country’s swelling ranks of rich people a chance to expand their culinary horizons. For Maine’s lobster industry, the crustacean craze couldn’t have come at a better time.


In ‘Maineland,’ Chinese High School Kids Live the American Dream (March 14, 2017, Sixth Tone)
In a sunny room somewhere in Maine, in the American northeast, a Chinese boy plays the piano. The tones he strikes sound melodious, but also a little melancholic. The boy is Harry, one of the protagonists of the documentary “Maineland.” As one of the many “parachute kids” who enroll at U.S. private schools as young teenagers, Harry left his family and comfortable middle-class life behind in China and moved to a whole new world.

Health / Environment

China's confirms sixth bird flu outbreak at duck farm in Hubei province (March 14, 2017, Reuters)
China confirmed a bird flu outbreak, the country's sixth case since last October, at a duck farm in central Hubei province, according to a Ministry of Agriculture statement on Tuesday. The outbreak in Daye, a city of more than 900,000 people, was confirmed as a case of the H5N6 strain of the virus, the ministry said in the statement on its website.

Source of Mekong, Yellow, and Yangtze Rivers Drying Up (March 14, 2017, China File)
In 2015, the Chinese government announced plans to set up a new nature reserve in the Sanjiangyuan (“three river source”) region of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. This area is a key source of fresh water for Asia and is known for the rich biodiversity of its high-altitude, arid ecosystem. It is also one of the areas in the world most vulnerable to climate change.

Science / Technology

Is Google another step closer to being unblocked in China? (March 10, 2017, South China Morning Post)
If negotiations go through, Google Scholar may be search giant’s first service to re-enter world’s biggest internet market, Chinese lawmaker reveals.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

China’s first successful home-grown boy band is incredibly wholesome (March 14, 2017, Quartz)
Chinese entertainment companies and talent agents have been trying to create a home-grown megastar boy band for years. Now, it seems that they have finally succeeded, with a teenage boy band called The Fighting Boys, who sing about homework, winning a Nobel prize, and occasionally, songs like “We’re the future of Communism.”

History / Culture

The Chinese Logic Puzzle (March 9, 2017, Medium)

“A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Winston Churchill’s famous remark concerning Russia may apply equally well to China. To Western observers, China and Chinese behavior certainly has appeared confounding over the centuries, but we can be sure that Western behaviors have been equally confounding and challenging for the Chinese to understand.

Should China move its historic monuments? (March 14, 2017, CNN)
In recent years, the practice of taking apart inconveniently located historic structures and reassembling them elsewhere has become a national specialty, with a whole industry emerging to cater to this engineering feat. Some firms slide buildings into their new position on rails. Others dissemble them from roof tile to foundation and rebuild them in a new continent.

Travel / Food

Finding Four Sisters: secret valleys of the Sichuan Himalaya (Lonely Planet)
A few hundred kilometres west of Chengdu, deep in the Sichuan wilderness of western China, four magnificent mountains stand side-by-side, dominating the provincial skyline with their soaring peaks. Named after this towering quadruplet, Four Sisters Mountain National Park is composed of three major valleys that cut into the eastern escarpment of the Trans-Himalaya range.

Visiting China as a Vegetarian (March 9, 2017, Wild China Blog)
We’ve put together a guide to help you navigate China as a vegetarian and enable you to try as much as possible of the diverse cuisine, armed with key phrases and a list of delicious dishes to sample.

How to Travel in China by Bus: Our Guide (March 10, 2017, Sapore di Cina)
Traveling by bus in China is normally the cheapest way, and is sometimes the only way to get around. Despite that, traveling by bus also involves multiple complications, and it’s not very recommendable for inexperienced travelers.

Why Pu'er, A Complex Tea, Draws Rapt Fans And Big Dollars (March 14, 2017, NPR)
Pu'er is a "slow" beverage, intended to be sipped, aged and savored like fine wine. And, much like a fine wine or a Dom Perignon, pu'er has established brands, labels and revered productions that can reach iconic status.

China Drinks Its Milk (March 15, 2017, The World of Chinese)
On World Consumer Day, we look at the history and controversial health claims of China's milk-based drinks.

Language / Language Learning

A student’s guide to comprehension-based learning (March 9, 2017, Hacking Chinese)
The big idea is to give yourself plenty of input you enjoy and can understand without painful struggle, both listening and reading. There is no need to stress about memorizing vocabulary — if your goal is Chinese proficiency, that is.

Another 12 Common Errors in Chinese English Dictionaries (March 16, 2017, carlgene.com)


An Anti-Management Management Book (March 10, 2017, From the West Courtyard)
But this book is a little bit different. It does have some of that jargon I find personally repellent, but it is a short and straightforward read with one profound insight at its core: so much of what we do in the name of ministry is driven by worldly rather than kingdom priorities. In many ways, this is an anti-management book.

The Rushing on of the Purposes of God: Christian Missions in Shanxi Province since 1876, Part II (March 11, 2017, Global China Center)
This lively narrative combines broad historical vision with fascinating “micro” studies that fill out the overall story. The author has done a great deal of research, and draws upon letters, official mission archives, mission histories, missionary biographies, ethnological studies, both English and Chinese documents, secular works of history, pro- and anti-missionary perspectives, Chinese and Western writers, contemporary information, and his own rich personal experience. This makes for a work of unusual breadth, depth, and insight.

The End of the Asian Century (March 13, 2017, China File)
Historian and geopolitical expert Michael Auslin argues that far from being a cohesive powerhouse, Asia is a fractured region threatened by stagnation and instability. Here, he provides a comprehensive account of the economic, military, political, and demographic risks that bedevil half of our world, arguing that Asia, working with the United States, has a unique opportunity to avert catastrophe—but only if it acts boldly.

Image credit: Shanghai, China, by Gabriel Garcia Marengo, 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