ZGBriefs | March 28, 2019

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Chinese authorities shut down the Shouwang Protestant church in Beijing (March 27, 2019, Asia News)
After years of repression, Chinese authorities last Saturday shut down the Shouwang Church, one of Beijing's largest Protestant congregations for failing to register as a "social organisation". Government officials also closed down all of the Church’s subsidiary organisations, seized its assets and questioned more than 20 of its members.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Italy and China in plan for new Silk Road-style trade network (March 23, 2019,The Guardian)
The prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, and the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, have signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) that could lead to Italy’s participation in China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI), an ambitious project that envisages Chinese investment in a network of infrastructure projects connecting Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Podcast: Xi’s Visit to ‘Rival’ Europe (March 24, 2019, China File)
In this podcast, Paul Haenle speaks with Philippe Le Corre, Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Europe and Asia programs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on Xi Jinping’s upcoming trip and shifting perceptions of China across Europe.

U.S. Navy, Coast Guard ships pass through strategic Taiwan Strait  (March 24, 2019, Reuters)
The two ships were identified as the Navy destroyer Curtis Wilbur and the Coast Guard cutter Bertholf, a U.S. military statement said. “The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the statement said. “The U.S. will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” it added.

Who Rules China? Comparing Representation on the NPC and Central Committee (March 25, 2019, Marco Polo)
In short, the NPC serves as an information feedback mechanism that allows the CCP to better “serve the people,” placate anti-government sentiment at the grassroots, and address grievances from various constituencies.

A Chinese Law Professor Criticized Xi. Now He’s Been Suspended.  (March 26, 2019, The New York Times)
One of China’s most prestigious universities has suspended a law professor and placed him under investigation after he published a series of essays that warned of deepening repression under President Xi Jinping, he said on Tuesday.

Xinjiang crackdown must continue, top China leader says (March 26, 2019, The Guardian)
Xinjiang needs to “perfect” stability maintenance measures and crack down on religious extremism, the ruling Communist party’s fourth-ranked leader has said on a tour of the region where China is running a controversial de-radicalisation programme.

China Will Prosecute Former Interpol Leader On Bribery Charges (March 27, 2019,NPR)
"According to Chinese authorities, Meng used his position to seek employment for his wife and connived to use his authority for personal gain," NPR's Rob Schmitz reports from Shanghai for our Newscast unit.


This Chinese Christian Was Charged With Trying to Subvert the State (March 25, 2019, The New York Times)
Last December, he and 100 church members were detained. Although most have been released, Mr. Wang, his wife and 11 others are still being held incommunicado without access to a lawyer. The charges against Mr. Wang and his wife — inciting to subvert state power — typically result in lengthy prison sentences.

Interview With A Ministry Leader – The Lord Is More Gracious To Me Than I Am To Myself (March 25, 2019, China Partnership Blog)
This interview is with a ministry leader who previously co-pastored her church with her husband and now leads a ministry developing theological reflection and writing among China’s house church pastors. She discusses how the gospel has renewed her understanding of human existence, gender, and womanhood; the idols of her heart; and the importance and challenges of her current ministry.

Reconsidering Traditional Teachings in Difficult Times (March 25, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
The gospel is a story of becoming new, of being born again. It is, at its core, a story of divine transformation. In the long history of Chinese religious thought, transformation is also a common motif. Whether grounded in Confucian ideas of moral self-cultivation, Daoist conceptions of immortality, or Buddhist principles of enlightenment, the Chinese are no strangers to being “born of the spirit.” 

Love Allah, Love China (March 25, 2019, Foreign Policy)
Chinese Muslims are struggling to follow their faith amid a growing crackdown.

Vatican negotiator says deal with China on nominating bishops was basis for ‘more concrete dialogue’  (March 26, 2019, South China Morning Post)
The Vatican official who negotiated a landmark agreement between the Holy See and China on bishop nominations said on Monday that the path to normalising Catholic life in the country was “still long” but that a new future was now possible.

Advice for Staffing Sunday School (March 26, 2019, Chinese Church Voices)
“Mrs. Yang” is a popular blogger who receives thousands of views on each of her articles. She recently posted articles about children’s Sunday school. In this article she shares some common views in Chinese Christian circles about who should lead Sunday school. In some areas she also challenges prevailing opinion about singles serving as teachers and why parents should take more responsibility.

Society / Life

How Chinese Youth Are Finding Depth in the Two-Dimensional World (March 23, 2019, Sixth Tone)
Young Chinese may be dazzled by the color and lines of Japanese-influenced manga, anime, and games, but it’s the three-dimensional relationships that draw them in.

Death toll rises to 78 in Chinese chemical plant explosion (March 26, 2019,UPI)
The death toll from a chemical plant that exploded in eastern China rose to 78 as rescuers continue to discover bodies among the rubble.

Worse than doing time’: life on the wrong side of China’s social credit system (March 26, 2019, Inkstone)
For them, daily life is a series of inflicted indignities – some big, some small – from not being able to rent a home in their own name, to being shunned by relatives and business associates.

Sounds of silence: ‘dancing aunties’ use earphones to reduce the noise and increase thepeace  (March 27, 2019, South China Morning Post)
A clip of the women dancing in formation while wearing earphones was published on Weibo by Pear Video on Tuesday, where it attracted tens of thousands of likes and shares.

Why Urban Relocation Alone Can’t Solve China’s Poverty Problem (March 27, 2019, Sixth Tone)
In practice, however, the relocation of poor rural residents to urban areas is often more about what’s best for the local government than what’s best for the poor. And unless officials make adequate preparations for an influx of new, often poorly educated residents, it’s simply resettlement without development.

Click-through: How Would You Do Under China’s Social Credit System? (March 27, 2019,Radii China)
Ever wondered what it’s like to live in a dystopian Black Mirror episode where you can’t ride a train, are banned from leaving the country, and have every aspect of your financial status closely monitored? Well, now you can! Sort of.

Economics / Trade / Business

Video: Ben Harburg: A View of the U.S.-China Trade War from Beijing (March 14, 2019, National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, via YouTube)
Recent challenges in the U.S.-China economic relationship have been well-documented in the United States and debated from every point of view. But how is the trade war viewed by the U.S. business community in China? 

Video: What is the human cost to China's economic miracle? (March 15, 2019, Al Jazeera, via YouTube)
In this episode of Head to Head, Mehdi Hasan challenges Charles Liu, Senior Fellow at Peking University, seasoned Chinese entrepreneur and informal adviser to the Chinese government, on Xi Jinping’s record in power so far, the government’s crackdown on the Uighur Muslim minority, and what role for China if it becomes the 21st century’s military and economic superpower.

China, France sign US$45 billion of deals including Airbus order (March 26, 2019, South China Morning Post)
China and France called for increased cooperation and signed multibillion-dollar deals on Monday, despite French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent swipe at Beijing’s huge investments in Europe.

Great Wall, Ford hitch up to burgeoning Chinese demand for pickup trucks  (March 27, 2019, Reuters)
Pickup demand – both work-related and the newer interest from mainstream consumers – has climbed on the back of an easing in government restrictions and last year China became the world’s second-biggest pickup truck market.


China Now Has an Elite League of 'Red' Universities (March 22, 2019, Radio Free Asia)
Nine universities with impeccable links to the ruling Chinese Communist Party have formed a new league to nurture the next generation of elite 'red' talent, state media reported. Initiated by the Beijing Institute of Technology, the Yanhe Alliance has been joined by Renmin University, the Agricultural University of China and the Beijing Foreign Studies University, which trains people for careers in diplomacy.

Guideline Threatens Punishment Against Home-Schooling Parents (March 26, 2019,Sixth Tone)
Parents can be held legally responsible for sending their children to unlicensed, nontraditional schools, according to China’s education ministry.

Camera Above the Classroom (March 26, 2019, Sixth Tone)
While advocates claim that using facial recognition to monitor students’ in-class behavior can accurately assess attention levels and help them learn more efficiently, most students I spoke with had a different opinion. They showed concern that the school never asked for their consent before harvesting their facial data.

Health / Environment

From Online Doctors to Counting Steps: Top 5 Chinese Health & Fitness Apps (March 25, 2019, What’s on Weibo)
tracking psychical activities and sharing them with friends on social media is something that has become more popular in China, with other types of apps in the health and fitness categories also gaining in popularity.

TCM 101: The Ins and Outs of the 5 Yin Organ Systems (March 26, 2019, Radii China)
TCM conceives the body differently from Western medicine, right down to our inner organs and their functions.

Between a rock and a hard place: China’s health care reforms over the next ten years (March 27, 2019, Asia Dialogue)
Decades of robust economic growth averaging 10 per cent a year since Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening-up in 1978 notwithstanding, by the early 2000s hundreds of millions of Chinese found themselves without health insurance and unable to afford necessary health care, which was only available to those with the ability to pay. 

History / Culture

The Biblical Annotations of Hong Xiuquan (March 19, 2109, Communities of Print)
Fortunately for historians of the Taiping Rebellion, Hong annotated the Taiping Bible and his notes, along with many official Taiping publications, were preserved following the suppression of the rebellion. By looking closely at Hong’s biblical annotations, we can understand his theological priorities and his reasons for rejecting the prescribed doctrines of the missionaries.

How I’m Restoring One of China’s Most Beautiful Villages (March 21, 2019,Sixth Tone)
For China to preserve its architectural heritage, the country must first reconsider its approach to conservation.

Travel / Food

Chinese Takeout: Who Makes China’s Most Sought-After Dumplings? (March 21, 2019,Radii China)
The xiaolongbao dumpling dominates Shanghai eating, and one brand dominates xiaolongbao in Shanghai: Nanxiang Xiaolong.

The real Hong Kong is a vast and wild natural wonder (March 21, 2019,Matador Network)
A little farther away, just beyond the bowl of mainland and island mountains where the bulk of Hong Kongers congregate, you can hike for hours without bumping into another soul and spend days not seeing a single skyscraper.

The Best Hotels in Beijing, the Capital of China (March 26, 2019, Sapore di Cina)
Beijing is an enormous city with more hotels that you can count, which may make choosing where to stay extremely difficult. This guide is a selection of the best hotels in Beijing, whatever your budget may be.

The best things to do in Xi’an beyond the Terracotta Army (March 27, 2019, Matador Network)
With thousands of years of fascinating history and an energetic, contemporary vibe, Xi’an is worth spending a few days exploring before you check out the famous clay warriors.

The Temporary Ruins of Harbin’s Melting Ice Sculptures (March 27, 2019,The Atlantic)
Well, when the festival is over and springtime rolls around, those giant ice castles are left to melt and crumble in place, eventually becoming slushy piles cluttered with steel support rods, cables, and electrical wires that once powered colorful night lighting.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

The Wandering Earth (March 27, 2019, The World of Chinese)
Set in a future where the Earth is facing an expanding Sun, the plot follows a scheme to use giant engines to motor the planet on a multi-generational, 2,500-year journey to a new home in a neighboring solar system. Unfortunately, Earth gets caught in Jupiter’s gravity field en route, and a team of transporters must come up with another plan to save the human race from extinction.

China's Media Interference Is Going Global, Report Says (March 25, 2019, TIME)
The report, China’s Pursuit of a New World Media Order says Beijing is using a variety of strategies including ramping up international broadcasting, undertaking extensive advertising campaigns, and infiltrating foreign media outlets to spread its world view.

Language / Language Learning

Training your Chinese teacher, part 2: Speaking ability (March 26, 2019, Hacking Chinese)
This article will discuss what to look for when finding a teacher, some common problems you may encounter and what to do about them, as well as some suggestions for more advanced learners.

Out of the Fog: A Review of ACTFL Language Proficiency Tests (March 27, 2019,ChinaSource Blog)
ACTFL proficiency testing is descriptive, not prescriptive. If you’d like to get medicine for what ails your language skills, look elsewhere. But if you need an accurate assessment of what you can do in a language, and every language learner does, then the ACTFL offers one of the best options.


Paul French’s “Destination Shanghai” Captures China’s Most Glamorous City in its 1920s and ’30s Pomp (March 25, 2019, Radii China)
The British author, famous for Midnight in Peking, introduces a diverse collection of characters from Shanghai's foreign concessions era in his latest book.

Volume Two of the China Chronicles (March 27, 2019, Missions Catalyst)
Volume two details ministry, challenges, and church growth in Guizhou, today home to 35 million people, including some 2.7 million who identify as Christians. Particularly helpful are the author’s explanations of the province’s minority groups, including the Miao and Nosu, and how success on some fronts helped or hindered the spread of the gospel among others.

Links for Researchers

China’s Pursuit of a New World Media Order (Reporters Without Borders)
China has been going to great lengths for the last decade to establish a “new world media order” under its control, with the aim of deterring and preventing any criticism of itself. Less well known than the Belt and Road Initiative but just as ambitious, this project poses a threat to press freedom throughout the world. 


Worldview Seminar (ERR China)
This course is designed for those who will do ministry among the Chinese, whether in North America or in China. The course surveys the core teachings, history and development of Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Buddhism, folk religions and Christianity in China. Presenters will lecture about the impact of these traditions on Chinese thought and society today. 

Image credit: Beijing Police, by Mathias Apitz, 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