ZGBriefs | March 2, 2017

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Featured Article

Focusing on religious oppression in China misses the big picture (February 28, 2017, CNN)
Protestantism is booming and Chinese cities are full of unregistered (also called "underground" or "house") churches. These are known to the government but still allowed to function. They attract some of the best-educated and successful people in China. And they are socially engaged, with outreach programs to the homeless, orphanages, and even families of political prisoners. To me, this is an amazing story and far outweighs the cross-removal campaign, which basically ended and seems to have had no lasting consequences.

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Overseas NGO Law

An Interview with the Guangdong Overseas NGOs Administration Office (February 9, 2017, China Development Brief)
Even though the Ministry has released a guideline on foreign NGO registration and the relevant directories, many are still unclear about the detailed rules; most notably, how to register with the police to set up representative offices and what legal procedures to follow to conduct temporary activities. In order to answer these questions, NGOCN went to the Office of Overseas NGOs Administration of the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Bureau and consulted with a policeman there.

China’s New Realities and the Overseas NGO Law (March 1, 2017, From the West Courtyard)
There is no “one size fits all” approach for organizations seeking to deal with the new law. Foreign NGOs will likely require a portfolio of approaches depending on the nature of the work, where it is being done, and the degree to which they are willing and able to work with officials at various levels.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China’s North Korea Problem (February 23, 2017, The New Yorker)
“The Chinese are deeply frustrated and want to do something, but they get stuck when they look at the options,” said Paul Haenle, the director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, in Beijing, and a former White House representative at the stalled six-party talks, which were aimed at curtailing North Korea’s nuclear program. “If they put economic pressure on the North and it implodes, they lose the buffer zone and refugees flood in. If they apply political pressure, then China could become the enemy,” at least in Kim Jong-un’s eyes, “and then the missiles that were directed at the U.S. and its allies are suddenly pointed at them.”

How will Xi shake up the CCP? (February 26, 2017, East Asia Forum)
Will Xi move to fundamentally restructure power in the upper echelons of the CCP, by abolishing the PSC and making himself the chairman? Only time can tell. But what is sure is that his overriding aim is to strengthen the party and make its leadership more effective.

China reacts with anger, threats after South Korean missile defense decision (February 28, 2017, Reuters)
Chinese state media have reacted with anger and boycott threats after the board of an affiliate of South Korea's Lotte Group approved a land swap with the government that allows authorities to deploy a U.S. missile defense system. The government decided last year to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, in response to the North Korean missile threat, on land that is part of a golf course owned by Lotte in the Seongju region, southeast of Seoul.

China 'anti-terror' rallies: thousands of troops on streets of Urumqi (February 28, 2017, The Guardian)
Thousands of troops have poured on to the streets of one of west China’s most important cities for the second time in just over a week, as a senior Communist party leader heralded an “all-out offensive” against terrorism in the violence-stricken region. More than 10,000 rifle-toting forces gathered at the heart of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, for the latest in a series of spectacular mass “anti-terror rallies”.

Video; Everything Under the Heavens (February 28, 2017, China File)
From the former New York Times Asia correspondent and author of China’s Second Continent, an incisive investigation of China’s ideological development as it becomes an ever more aggressive player in regional and global diplomacy.

Bloody Islamic State video puts China in cross-hairs (March 1, 2017, AFP)
Islamic State militants from China's Uighur ethnic minority have vowed to return home and "shed blood like rivers", according to a jihadist-tracking firm, in what experts said marked the first IS threat against Chinese targets. The threat came in a half-hour video released Monday by a division of the Islamic State in western Iraq and featuring militants from China's Uighur ethnic group, said the US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which analysed the footage.


The Christian Holy Mountains in Shenzhen (February 23, 2017, China Christian Daily)
Holy mountains serve as cemeteries for the church.  Burying the dead collectively has been a revolution in modern interment since it does not require Feng Shui (geomancy).  It also saves space, easy to manage, pleasant to see, and contains the Chinese concept of filial piety.  The Christian Holy Mountains of Shenzhen have been widely accepted by the local Chinese society since the liberation of New China.

What’s behind the rapprochement between China and the Vatican? (February 23, 2017, East Asia Forum)
On the part of the Vatican, the change is clearly generational, and reflects the personal priorities of Pope Francis. Although policy since the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s has subjected Catholics to the laws and customs of secular authorities, decades of mistrust, dating back to the open persecution of the Chinese Church during the 1950s, have left China a rare outlier.

St. Paul’s Church (February 24, 2017, Outside-In)
Amy and I slipped quietly into the pew at the old St. Paul’s Church in Qingdao, now known simply as Guanxiang Road Christian Church. An usher, who for some reason was dressed in a gleaming white suit that seemed more suitable for a night out in Las Vegas than a Chinese church, spotted us, smiled, and came over to where we were sitting. Uh-oh, I thought. He’s going to ask us to leave.

Friendship and Discipleship (February 27, 2017, From the West Courtyard)
For those in the US (and other countries where Chinese students are enrolling) who are involved in outreach ministry to international students in general, and Chinese students these trends are sobering. The need for reaching out in friendship to international students is high, as is the need for strong discipleship of new believers before they return home.

Have We Failed Returnee Christians? (Part 1) (February 28, 2017, Chinese Church Voices)
Brother Sang Shang, a returnee himself, highlights the difficulties returnee Christians face in an article on Gift of the Magi. He criticizes overseas churches for their “utilitarian” approach to evangelism that falls short in preparing Chinese for their return to China. He also notes how the Chinese church is ill-prepared to minister to these returnees.

As atheist China warms to the Vatican, religious persecution 'intensifies' (March 1, 2017, CNN)
From an altar in a dingy backyard four hours from Beijing, Paul Dong is conducting mass. He's also breaking the law. Dong and his parishioners are among millions of illegal Christians worshiping in officially atheist China.

Individualism with “Chinese Characteristics”? (March 1, 2017, Jackson Wu)
“Traditional” views of Chinese culture as so Qing dynasty. That’s what Danny Hsu argues in his recent article in Missiology. In many respects, Hsu is right. My saying this might surprise some people. Last year, he directly challenged my work in a published article. And, yes, he reiterates his criticism in this recent essay.

Video: Flying Tridents (Ian Johnson, via YouTube)
The "flying trident" (飞叉) pilgrimage association 眾友同樂開路聖會 run by Zhang Wenli (张文礼). This is one of the best family-based associations. Here we see Zhang's daughter performing at the 2013 temple fair.

Society / Life

China Wants to Attract More Foreigners (of a Certain Kind) (February 23, 2017, The New York Times)
China has generally issued a few hundred green cards per year, and the recent uptick illustrates how the authorities are seeking to attract more foreign investors and celebrities, even though most recipients are still ethnically Chinese, analysts said.

Stories From Chinese Millennials – Interview With a Political Idealist, Part 1 (February 23, 2017, China Partnership Blog)
Though I have been trying to engage Chinese students for a decade, I still find myself learning about the world from which they come. Recently, I’ve been conducting a number of interviews with students I’m particularly close to. None of these students are professed Christians, though they are all in various stages of spiritual seeking. All are interested in the Bible and the Christian God and have been variously committed to Bible studies while in the United States.

China's answer to its ageing crisis? A university for 70-somethings (February 24, 2017, The Guardian)
They call it the ‘grey wall of China’, an ageing time bomb in the world’s most populous country. One region sees the answer in getting old people back into college

The Routine Farewells of Left-Behind Children (February 25, 2017, Sixth Tone)
Siqi is one of many left-behind children in Xiangshuitan. According to Lü Xueqian, the dean of studies at the Xiangshuitan Central Primary School, more than 300 of the school’s 500-plus students live with their grandparents because their parents have left to seek employment elsewhere. “They lose confidence and find it hard to focus in class,” Lü said. “It takes a long time for them to recover from the sorrow of their parents’ departure.”

China Considering Financial Rewards to Encourage Second Children (February 27, 2017, Bloomberg)
The government is considering measures such as "birth rewards and subsidies" to help encourage more people to have another child, Wang Peian, vice-minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said at a conference on Saturday, according to a report Tuesday by the state-run China Daily.

Photos: Getting haircuts for good luck (February 27, 2017, China Daily)
Traditionally, Chinese do not cut their hair in the first lunar month, but get haircut starting from the Longtaitou Festival, which falls on the second day of the second lunar month every year. It is called "dragon raising its head" because the dragon is traditionally regarded as the deity in charge of rain.

China's London Tower Bridge: 6 other copies of famous structures (February 28, 2017, Straits Times)
Some Chinese cities believe that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but they also seek to improve on the originals. Suzhou's copy of London's Tower Bridge has gained both love and hate since it was built in 2012, with two more towers than the original, and complete with elevators.

Economics / Trade / Business

China Employment Compliance and Audits: THE New Big Thing (February 26, 2017, China Law Blog)
China is serious about improving the situation for its workers. I repeat, China is serious about improving the situation for its workers. I feel the need to repeat this because many foreign companies doing business in China believe decreasing economic growth will lead the government to favor foreign employers. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

'Made in China' isn't so cheap anymore, and that could spell headache for Beijing (February 27, 2017, CNBC)
As China's economy expanded at breakneck speed, so has pay for employees. But the wage increase has translated to higher costs for companies with assembly lines in China. Some firms are now taking their business elsewhere, which also means China could start losing jobs to other developing countries like Sri Lanka, where hourly factory wages are $0.50.


China’s top colleges to face ideological inspections (February 23, 2017, South China Morning Post)
The Communist Party’s top discipline and anti-graft watchdog is to dispatch inspection teams to China’s top-tier universities to check whether they are toeing the party line as the country’s college campuses fall under increasingly tight ideological control.

Concern Rises Over Top-Tier Universities’ Rush to Grab Nations’ Best Brains (February 28, 2017, Caixin)
A race among Chinese universities to attract the best brains with fat paychecks and millions of yuan in housing allowances is threatening colleges in the country’s impoverished central and western regions with a loss of talent. Triggering the battle was a draft plan published in January by three central government agencies, including the Ministry of Education, that calls for the transformation of a handful of Chinese universities into world-class institutions by 2020.

How Chinese Education Leaves Mothers Overburdened (March 1, 2017, Sixth Tone)
In the context of China’s fast-paced, stress-inducing cities like Shanghai, the phrase “widowed parent” is much more likely to be used by exasperated, exhausted mothers, especially when referring to the lack of fatherly involvement in their children’s upbringing and education.

China Economy Draws More Students Back From Abroad (March 1, 2017, The Wall Street Journal)
In recent years, Chinese students have increasingly opted out of the education system at home and gone abroad. Now, as China is eager to point out, a greater share of them are also coming back. (subscription required)

Fujian School Bans Foreign Shoes to Halt Students’ One-Upmanship (March 1, 2017, Sixth Tone)
Foreign shoes were given the boot at a secondary school in eastern China in an effort to cure students of their sneaker fever. According to a February post on Hupu.com, a popular internet forum on sports, a teacher told parents in a group chat message that students would only be allowed to wear domestic shoe brands.

Health / Environment

Two more H7N9 human infections reported in China (February 25, 2017, China Daily)
A man has died from the H7N9 strain of bird flu in South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. The 60-year-old died on Thursday, according to a Friday statement by the regional health and family planning commission. It is the third H7N9 human infection reported in Guangxi this year.

Science / Technology

Here's What 4 Million Solar Panels in China Look Like From Space (February 28, 2017, Science Alert)
The world's largest solar farm covers 10 square miles (26 square kilometres) and now has 4 million solar panels. It's the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in China, which has the capacity to generate 850 megawatts of electricity - enough to power roughly 140,000 homes.

Travel / Food

Oodles of Noodles and Capital Culture Await in Xi'an (February 26, 2017, The Beijinger)
As a former capital of China for nearly 1,000 years until the Tang Dynasty and the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, you can barely move around Xi'an without tripping over something fascinating and ancient.

A Snowy Wall (March 1, 2017, Outside-In)
We may be snowless this winter here in the Twin Cities, but there was snow in the mountains outside of Beijing earlier this month. Dutch photographer Tom van Dillen captured the beauty of the Great Wall under a blanket of snow with his drone.

Language / Language Learning

Chuan, Chuanr, Chuan'r, Chuan'er? How to Correctly Transliterate Beijing's Favorite Street Snack (February 27, 2017, The Beijinger)
Everybody eats it, and nobody seems to know how to spell it: The ubiquitous and delicious bits of lamb or other animal bits pressed on a stick and fired over a charcoal grill. You know it as 串儿 or, possibly, chuan’er, or chuanr, or chuan’r … 


Mission to China: How an Englishman Brought the West to the Orient (February 21, 2017, China Rhyming)
Walter Medhurst is remembered in this new biography of the intrepid missionary, adventurer, printer, writer, translator, teacher and nineteenth-century pioneer to China by John Holliday.

Learning More About China: Books (February 28, 2017, REL2 in China)
This blog gives you a glimpse of what China is like, but it is only one glimpse at a large, diverse, and complicated country.  Several times while I was in the U.S. I was asked about what books I recommend about China.  

Links for Researchers

Searching for meaning in a hybrid and fractured world: Contemporary Chinese cultural identity and its implications for missiology (December 7, 2016, Missiology, via Sage Journals)
Few societies have experienced the pace of change that China has in the last half century. Massive ideological and socio-economic shifts, along with the more recent forces of globalization, have produced a culture that is now hybrid and fragmented. Thus, it is simply no longer viable, or even wise, to continue to think of Chinese culture primarily in terms of “traditional” or Confucian.

Religious Revival, Repression, and Resistance under Xi Jinping (Freedom House)
The present study is a detailed examination of the dynamics of religious revival, repression, and resistance in China today, as well as their recent evolution and broader implications. The report focuses on seven communities that together account for over 350 million believers: the country’s officially recognized religions—Buddhism (Chinese and Tibetan), Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam—as well as Falun Gong, the largest of several banned qigong practices, new religious movements, and quasi-Christian sects.

The Atheist Manifesto (February 26, 2017, Chublic Opinion)
The harsh criticism of religion by Marx does not stop a large number of Chinese from embracing the teaching of Buddha, the message of Jesus Christ or the words of Mohammed. If anything, the “value vacuum” left by the retreat of a fanatic Maoist ideology since the death of the Chairman has increasingly been filled by religion, demonstrated by skyrocketing numbers of new converts.

Image credit: Joann Pittman, via Flickr

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource 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