ZGBriefs | March 19, 2015

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Featured Article

Hot Pot or Pizza: Chinese Students in the U.S. Aim to Bridge the Cultural Divide (March 18, 2015, China Real Time)
“My ‘Foreign’ Roommate: Muge & Katherine,” is an 11-minute video produced by Ms. Miao and a few other Wisconsin students showing an imaginary but realistic first week in the life of two roommates, one Chinese and one American. The video comes at the right time as the number of Chinese students studying at U.S. universities is increasing. Last year, according to a report from the Institute of International Education, 274,000 Chinese students studied at U.S. colleges, an increase of about 75 percent in the last three years.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Is China Really Cracking Up?: A ChinaFile Conversation (March 11, 2015, China File)
On March 7, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by David Shambaugh arguing that “the endgame of Chinese communist rule has now begun…and it has progressed further than many think.” Shambaugh laid out a variety of signs he believes indicate a regime on the cusp of failure. Do you agree with his assessment? Why or why not?

China to hold 'open trial' for felled domestic security tsar (March 13, 2015, Reuters)
China will hold an "open trial" for fallen domestic security tsar Zhou Yongkang, the head of China's top court said, state media reported on Friday, in an attempt to show transparency though the super-sensitive trial will likely be far from open.

China considering one-child policy changes: premier (March 15, 2015, AFP)
China is considering further changes to its family planning laws, Premier Li Keqiang said Sunday, after a relaxation in the "one child policy" failed to see significantly more babies being born. […]  Li told reporters that Beijing would assess the reform along with "China's economic and social development situation" before any possible change in regulations. "Both the pros and cons will be weighed," he said, adding that "improvements, adjustments" would only be made in accordance with legal procedures.

Q. and A.: David Shambaugh on the Risks to Chinese Communist Rule (March 15, 2015, Sinosphere)
Some experts have endorsed his view that China’s outward order and prosperity mask profound risks for the ruling party. Others have argued that the party is more robust, politically and economically, than Prof. Shambaugh asserts. In an interview, he answered some questions raised by his essay.

Chinese Premier Vows Tougher Regulation on Air Pollution (March 15, 2015, The New York Times)
Premier Li Keqiang of China said on Sunday that the government was failing to satisfy public demands to stanch pollution and would impose heavier punishments to cut the toxic smog that was the subject of a popular documentary belatedly banned by censors.

China’s Selective Authoritarianism (March 16, 2015, China Real Time)
Unlike some other countries with an authoritarian bent, notably Singapore, where the state not only restricts political freedoms but also heavily regulates social practices and moral norms, China’s current governance system is perhaps best described as selective authoritarianism. In this system, the state concentrates its power and resources on policing activities and behavior that are seen as potentially threatening to the existing political order, but otherwise cares much less about social or moral order.

Is China’s Xi Pushing Too Hard or Just Enough? Q&A With Scholar David Lampton (March 17, 2015, China Real Time)
The Xi leadership is heir to Deng Xiaoping’s grand bargain with the Chinese people—citizens downplay political demands in exchange for continued economic growth. If growth slows too much — and no one is sure how much is “too much” — then the social compact is off, with dangerous social and political repercussions. But Xi’s current circumstance is even more challenging. Even if growth continues at a fairly brisk pace, the demands of Chinese people for breathable air, potable water, a social safety net, and self-expression continue to rise. The reality is that the old grand bargain is already dead, and Xi is desperately trying to meet these rising quality of life demands without the Party losing power.

China's Secret Plan to Track Militants and Bring Them Home (March 18, 2015, Bloomberg)
Days after Indonesia arrested four Uighur terrorism suspects in September in the country’s east, China dispatched three intelligence officers to ask authorities to hand them over. While Indonesia initially demurred, China has now secured a preliminary agreement for the men to be returned after a trial in Jakarta, according to Irfan Idris, a senior official at Indonesia’s anti-terrorism agency. The four, who are yet to be charged, face potential execution if repatriated.


China urges Vatican to face reality in ordination (March 13, 2015, Global Times)
Beijing on Thursday urged the Vatican to face the historical tradition and reality of Catholics in China, after the Vatican reportedly suggested a joint review on bishop ordination. "China is always sincere in improving ties with the Vatican and has been making continuing efforts to this end. We are willing to have constructive dialogue with the Vatican … We hope the Vatican can create favorable conditions for the improving of relations," Hong Lei, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Global Times.

China Says It Will Decide Who the Dalai Lama Shall Be Reincarnated As (March 13, 2015, TIME)
Earlier this week, on the sidelines of China’s annual parliamentary session, Zhu Weiqun, head of an influential ethnic-and-religious-affairs committee, insisted that it was the Chinese government responsibility to designate the Dalai Lama’s successor.

Confronting the Cults (March 13, 2015, ChinaSource Quarterly)
Since this particular cult has been ruthless in its attacks on unregistered churches in China, the current government crackdown comes as somewhat of a relief to China’s Christians. But it is a double-edged sword. As has happened during such crackdowns in the past, Christians who are otherwise law-abiding citizens will likely get caught up in the net as officials, who have no way of distinguishing one religious group from another, go trawling for cult activity.

The War against Cults in China (March 13, 2015, ChinaSource Quarterly)
China has been experiencing a major revival of religious faith—especially Buddhism and Protestant Christianity—since the Mao days when all religious expression was completely suppressed. However, at the same time there has been an upsurge in cults, many of them quite bizarre. This is nothing new.

Combating the Cult Almighty God Church (March 13, 2015, ChinaSource Quarterly)

The house churches in China have suffered much under cultic infiltration, especially from AGC, (formerly known as Eastern Lightning or EL), now the largest and most powerful heretic cult in China. While the government has the power and means to restrain AGC’s criminal activities quickly, we want to explore how the vulnerable house churches are able to protect themselves against their crafty infiltration and evil attacks. The purpose of this essay is to examine the impact on, and response of, house churches to AGC’s activities.

Discerning a Cult (March 13, 2015, ChinaSource Quarterly)
The following article is excerpted from a course being developed for use in China that teaches about cults. It deals with the characteristics of cults that will help a believer in Christ to discern between an orthodox church and a cult.

A Field Study of “The Church of Almighty God” Cult (March 13, 2015, ChinaSource Quarterly)
In early 2013, China’s official media first labeled “Eastern Lightning,” more recently known as “The Church of Almighty God,” as a cult. Thus, the group entered the public arena and began to gain public awareness. However, due to the difficulties and risks involved in doing a field study of such a secretive organization, researchers have found it problematical to study. Following are the findings of a research study on this cult that we conducted over several years that concluded in 2012.

Living Out Theology To The Utmost, Part 1: A Chinese House Church Pastor Visits American Churches (March 16, 2015, China Partnership)
Forgive my bluntness, but China’s house churches have been lacking in comprehensive theological infrastructures for quite some time. Lacking in a clear theological confession, this limits the [church’s] ability to dialogue with and influence the circumstances around them. This, plus the influence of pragmatism, has turned many pastoral practices into neither fish nor fowl, causing many churches to hit developmental bottlenecks.

What Are Our Young People Thinking: Post 95 Generation (March 17, 2015, Chinese Church Voices)
‪Post-95 youth have grown up during China's fastest economic growth, during a post-Reform Era age of globalization, and the Information Age. Moreover, it has been an era marked by a significantly reduced birthrate and significantly increasing per capita GDP. Many were born in the city and their parents were too busy working to care for their children. The vast majority of them are growing up in a virtual fantasy world constructed by television, cartoons, the Internet, and social networking sites.

Photo Essay: Meet the Tibetan Buddhists of the Yellow Hat Order (March 18, 2015, TIME)
The Canadian photojournalist, who lives in South Asia, has spent time with Tibetan Buddhist communities in India, Nepal and Bhutan, but never, until this month, in China. “In my work I am most drawn to people living at the periphery,” he says. “So often, the narrative on China is the story of economic growth and modernization. While the Great Prayer ritual dates back centuries it is still an integral part of Tibetan tradition today.

Society / Life

China’s Hidden Children (March 12, 2015, The Diplomat)
It might seem impossible that 13 million children could escape the notice of the central Chinese government, but this is exactly what was revealed in the 2010 census. A population the size of a small country has been denied birth registration and the corresponding proof of identity known as the hukou (household registration) by local Chinese governments. This document is usually necessary for children to access education.

A Rare Look Into One’s Life on File in China (March 15, 2015, The New York Times)
But there is another, largely invisible mechanism of social control that governs hundreds of millions of urban residents: the dang’an, or personal file, that documents matters mundane and profane. The dossiers start with a citizen’s middle-school grades, whether they play well with others and, as they become adults, list their religious affiliations, psychological problems and perceived political liabilities.

The ghost children: In the wake of China’s one-child policy, a generation is lost (March 15, 2015, Globe and Mail)
In 1980, China introduced the one-child policy. In the process, it created a lost generation – second and third children who went unregistered, couldn’t go to school, and who continue to live in the shadows. Nathan VanderKlippe explores the human and economic costs of one of the biggest social experiments in history,

U.S.-China 'bromance' sparked by stolen iPhone moves China's netizens (March 18, 2015, Reuters)
It was a rare, if bizarre, moment of tenderness in the otherwise tense US-China relationship: an American journalist embracing the Chinese man who had been using his stolen iPhone. Matt Stopera and Li Hongjun met for the first time on Tuesday night at an airport in southern China, in the latest chapter of what some Chinese are calling an international "bromance".


China’s Top Schools Get Middling Marks for Transparency  (March 12, 2015, Tea Leaf Nation)
On Mar. 11, a think tank affiliated with the Chinese government released its first-ever Chinese university transparency index, ranking 115 schools based on their willingness to disclose information about everything from the employment rate of graduates to joint programs with foreign schools. Peking University, arguably the most prestigious university in China, and the 39th-best university in the world according to U.S. News & World Report, didn’t even crack this list’s top 50, lagging far behind a number of obscure local schools.

Private Schools, on the Rise in China, Are Now in Beijing's 'Crosshairs' (March 13, 2015, Asia Society)

Chinese Education Minister Yuan Guiren has been issuing dire warnings about the threat of foreign ideas on China’s college campuses, calling for a ban on textbooks that promote “Western values” and forbidding criticism of the Communist Party’s leadership in the classroom. Getting less attention, however, is how forthcoming reforms to the country’s private schools present another battlefield for ideological control in China’s education system.

Hong Kong fears Beijing crackdown on academic freedom (March 17, 2015, The Guardian)
Scholars in Hong Kong are growing concerned that the territory’s cherished academic freedom is coming under renewed attack from China in the aftermath of last year’s student-led pro-democracy protests. Attacks in Communist party-backed newspapers on a leading liberal professor, reports of government interference in academic appointments, and renewed calls for “patriotic education” to be introduced into schools have stirred up emotions in the former British colony.

Returning graduates face tight domestic job market (March 18, 2014, China Daily)
Graduates from domestic universities are being favored in the job market over those who studied overseas, prompting experts to suggest that returnees should hunt for jobs that fit their advantages. At a job fair held over the weekend in Beijing, some of the returnees were turned down for employment because enterprises favored domestic college graduates, according to Beijing Evening News.

Health / Environment

Where Beijing’s Trash Is Reborn (March 12, 2015, Sinosphere)
For the past year, I’ve been photographing the fringes of Beijing, the areas just beyond the tentacles of one of the world’s most extensive subway networks, where the city just meets the countryside. These areas — extensions of Beijing, where I’ve been based for the past eight years — are often rough and ready and feel a world apart from this capital city.

Economics / Trade / Business

China’s Golden Age For Foreign Companies Is Over (March 15, 2015, China Law Blog)
There is no disputing that China’s golden age for foreign companies doing business in China is over. China today is just not nearly as favorable or easy for foreign companies as it was ten years ago. It just isn’t.

China new home prices post sixth consecutive decline (March 17, 2015, CNBC)
China new home prices registered their sixth straight month of annual decline in February, as tepid demand continued to weigh on sentiment despite the government's efforts to spur buying.

Video: Hands-on with an Apple Watch rip off (March 17, 2015, BBC)
China has long had a reputation for being a place where you can buy counterfeit versions of almost anything. True to form, a knock-off version of the Apple Watch has already hit China's streets.

Video: Fashion wars: China takes on the West (March 17, 2015, BBC)
Masha Ma is one of a new wave of fashion designers to emerge from China in recent years. They are part of a wider movement that is challenging the notion that the country is better at making things than inventing them.

Why Chinese Tourists Are Wild Over Japanese Drugs (It’s Not Just the Quality) (March 18, 2015, China Real Time)
Caps on drug prices and fear about quality aren’t the only things driving consumers to buy overseas. Many more innovative, foreign drugs are not covered by medical insurance in China, making them difficult for Chinese consumers to afford.

History / Culture

Photos of a forgotten China drop in one man's lap (March 17, 2015, PRI)
Have you ever had one of those moments where you couldn't believe your luck? Perhaps a promotion at work? Finding much-needed cash in the couch cushions or on the ground? Or, how about being at that perfect time at that perfect place when you're handed something of historical value? That happened to Joseph Ho while he was working the front desk at the Chinese Historical Museum in San Diego. "This gentleman came in with materials he wanted to donate to the museum and he told me that his parents were Presbyterian missionaries in China. And that he was born in China in 1934."

Walled City of Dreams (March 18, 2015, The World of Chinese)
To the unlicensed dentists and doctors who plied their trade in their ramshackle clinics, prostitutes, triad gangsters, and fugitive Kuomintang soldiers, the Kowloon Walled City (九龙城寨) was an unregulated, tax-free oasis that shielded them from interference from the Hong Kong authorities. But, right up until its evacuation and subsequent destruction in 1993 and 1994, the majority of the inhabitants simply called it home.

Science / Technology

China's top 10 mobile apps by monthly active users (March 17, 2015, China Daily)
China's Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd owns half of the country's top 10 mobile applications by monthly active users, according to a report released by Internet consultancy Analysys International. The report showed that Tencent's popular mobile messaging apps WeChat and QQ ranked No 1 and No 2 in China with monthly active users of 383 million and 316 million in December respectively. Let's take a look at the top 10 mobile applications by monthly active users.

The Constant Adaptations of China’s Great Firewall (March 17, 2015, China Real Time)
China’s Great Firewall is one of the most sophisticated Internet filters in the world. It’s also constantly changing in response to new technologies and events.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Killing Crowds in Two Languages: Q&A With Comedian Joe Wong (March 16, 2015, China Real Time)
Comedian Joe Wong is a rare breed – someone who’s managed to tickle funny bones on both sides of the Pacific after abandoning a successful career in the sciences. The funnyman grew up in a rural part of northeast China, went to the U.S. for a Ph.D. and now bills himself as the “All-American Immigrant.” He has done stand-up comedy on TV show Late Night with David Letterman and the Ellen DeGeneres Show and has roasted U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at the 2010 Radio and Television Correspondents dinner. Known in China as Huang Xi, he has his own weekly TV show here, wrote a book about his experiences in China and America and still finds time to do stand-up comedy.

Travel / Food

Chinese Tourists Expected to Spend $264 Billion a Year by 2019 (March 11, 2015, Skift)
Buy your holiday now, before a wave of 174 million Chinese tourists snap up the best bargains.

Already the most prolific spenders globally, the number of Chinese outbound tourists is tipped to soar further as the millennial generation spreads its wings.

Where’s ZGBriefs? (March 13, 2015, ChinaSource Blog)
Since 2002, I have had the privilege of compiling the ZGBriefs Newsletter each week. I travel a lot, which means that I have to pull it together wherever I happen to be on a Wednesday or Thursday. As I was putting it together last week, I got to thinking about all the different places that I have worked on ZGBriefs. In the 13 years that I have been editing ZGBriefs, I have put the newsletter together in the following locations:

As Chinese Tourism Increases, American Museums Adapt (March 18, 2015, The New York Times)
Museums of all sizes and types across the United States are trying to cater to the Chinese. The efforts include audio tours and maps in Mandarin; acceptance of UnionPay, a Chinese credit card; and promotion on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform.

Harbin latest to allow 72-hour visa exemption (March 18, 2015, China Daily)
Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang province, will allow 72-hour transit visa exemptions for foreign nationals from next month, local authorities said. Foreigners will be able to visit without visas when en route to a third country or region. Following Shenyang and Dalian, Harbin will be the third city in the three northeast provinces to embrace the policy.


Writing China: Michael Schuman, ‘Confucius and the World He Created’ (March 13, 2015, China Real Time)
Michael Schuman, a China-based author and journalist, has spent 19 years living and working in Confucian societies in East Asia. He is the author of Confucius And the World He Created. China Real Time’s Andrew Browne spoke with him by email.

The Remarks of Xi Jinping: hot, or not? (March 18, 2015, China Media Project)
The overwrought coverage of The Remarks of Xi Jinping in official Party media, generously seasoned with servile remarks from various ministerial officials, hardly suggests bestselling confidence in the work’s broader appeal. But whatever the case, I heartily recommend The Remarks of Xi Jinping. The book offers important insight into the way the Chinese Communist Party has in recent years progressively turned to traditional Chinese culture — or in fact, a myopic reading of traditional culture — to shore up its own legitimacy.

‘The Barefoot Lawyer’: Q&A With Blind Chinese Activist Chen Guangcheng (March 18, 2015, China Real Time)
Recently, Mr. Chen published The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man’s Fight for Justice and Freedom in China,” his account of the escape and the extraordinary life he led prior to it. China Real Time’s Josh Chin recently caught up with Mr. Chen on the phone and talked to the activist about his childhood, life in the U.S. and what the drama in the embassy taught him about the role of “face” in U.S.-China relations.

Articles in Chinese

基督教在中国所面对的重大挑战——现代性、民族主义和传统文化 (March 13, 2015, Pacific Institute for Social Sciences)

全国人大代表圣辉法师:建议尽快制定宗教法 (March 13, 2015, Pacific Institute for Social Sciences)


China and Hong Kong’s Heresy: Church of the Almighty God (Eastern Lightning) (March 13, 2015, ChinaSource Quarterly)
This course, written by a Chinese seminary lecturer with extensive experience working with churches in mainland China and Hong Kong, deals with the background, growth, teachings, and tactics of the Church of Almighty God (Eastern Lightning).

Image credit: Labrang Monastery Monks, by Jeroen Pots, 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