ZGBriefs | May 17, 2018

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Featured Article

How China is trying to impose Islam with Chinese characteristics in the Hui Muslim heartland (May 14, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Calls to prayer are now banned in Yinchuan on the grounds of noise pollution – Nanguan has replaced its melodious call with a piercing alarm. Books on Islam and copies of the Koran have been taken off the shelves in souvenir shops. Some mosques have meanwhile been ordered to cancel public Arabic classes and a number of private Arabic schools have been told to shut down, either temporarily for “rectification” or for good. 

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

How Xi Jinping Views the World (May 10, 2018, Foreign Affairs)
Because of the opacity of the Chinese political system, this is hard to answer with real certainty. But clear patterns are beginning to emerge.

Podcast: Small NGOs particularly vulnerable under new NGO law (May 6, 2018, Mercater Institute for Chinese Studies, via SoundCloud)
When China’s law on non-governmental organizations went into effect in early 2017, observers worried that many international NGOs would pull out as a result. Almost 18 months on, the picture is mixed as Jessica Batke of ChinaFile has found out.

Do American Companies Need to Take a Stance on Taiwan? A ChinaFile Conversation (May 11, 2018, China File)
How should American companies respond to these types of requests from the Chinese government? And does the White House’s response help American interests in China?

Building the Party’s Internet (May 11, 2018, China Media Project)
The federation’s establishment is a clear sign of the growing involvement of the Chinese Communist Party in private internet firms, and further reflection of the broader trend of closer Party governance and scrutiny of all forms of media.

What Keeps Xi Jinping Awake at Night (May 11, 2018, The New York Times)
The recently released 272-page book of Mr. Xi’s remarks on “national security” includes previously unreleased comments that give a starker view of the president’s motivations than found in most Communist Party propaganda. Here is a selection.

Central and Regional Leadership for Xinjiang Policy in Xi’s Second Term (May 11, 2018, China File)
Whether regional Party Secretary Chen Quanguo himself is the progenitor of increasingly repressive measures now employed in Xinjiang, or whether he is simply the most ruthless tool by which to implement them, he is still the logical endpoint of the Party’s broader policy trajectory.

Jiang Shigong on ‘Philosophy and History: Interpreting the “Xi Jinping Era” through Xi’s Report to the Nineteenth National Congress of the CCP’ (May 11, 2018, The China Story)
This essay by Jiang Shigong 强世功(b. 1967), published in the Guangzhou journal Open Times (开放时代) in January 2018, aims to be an authoritative statement of the new political orthodoxy under Xi Jinping 习近平(b. 1953) as Xi begins his second term as China’s supreme leader.

What Really Happens in China’s ‘Re-education’ Camps (May 15, 2018, The New York Times)
The Chinese authorities are cagey and evasive, if not downright dismissive, about reports concerning such camps. But now they will have to explain away their own eloquent trail of evidence: an online public bidding system set up by the government inviting tenders from contractors to help build and run the camps.

China says military exercises intended to threaten Taiwan (May 16, 2018, South China Morning Post)
A Chinese government spokesman said on Wednesday the country’s military exercises around Taiwan were intended as a direct threat to the self-governing island’s government over moves Beijing sees as cementing its independence from the mainland.

Podcast: China and North Korea Relations (UPenn Center for the Study of Contemporary China)
In this episode, the Harvard Kennedy School's John Park, a leading expert on security issues relating to Northeast Asia, discusses with Neysun Mahboubi the complex relationship between North Korea and China, with special attention to the economic dynamics at play since China established diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1992.


Interview with A Nanjing Pastor – Live Out the Gospel Before Sharing It (May 5, 2018, China Partnership Blog)
As sharing the gospel with strangers becomes increasingly difficult in China, we now focus more on helping and training believers to live out their faith in their network of relationships, to live out their Christian stories in their real lives and to share the gospel with all around us.

China to Target Religious Activities of Foreign Nationals with Revised Rules (May 9, 2018, RFA)
Existing regulations from 1991 already bar Chinese citizens from attending temporary religious gatherings organized by foreign religious groups, while foreign religious organizations are banned from any venue not previously authorized for religious purposes. Now, the government is asking for input on a new set of administrative guidelines to "protect the public interest," according to a notice posted on the Administration's official website on Monday.

Henan suppression is 'systematic and planned' (May 10, 2018, UCA News)
The recent crackdown on various Catholic and Protestant communities was the result of more than two years of organization and preparation at provincial, city and county level through the Chinese Communist Party's increasingly powerful United Front Work Department, Professor Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the Divinity School at the Chinese University of Hong Kong told ucanews.com.

Church and China 'face conflict over religious clampdown' (May 11, 2018, UCA News)
An academic has warned that continued suppression of religion in China will lead to new conflicts between the church and the state. Professor Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, was speaking after religious cadres from other Chinese regions visited Henan province to study its systematic program of repression.

China Blocks a Memorial Service to Sichuan Earthquake Victims (May 12, 2018, The New York Times)
On Friday night, the police detained Wang Yi, a Protestant pastor whose independent church planned to hold a memorial service on Saturday morning in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, his wife, Jiang Rong, said. He was released on Saturday night after about 24 hours in detention, she said later.

Interview: ‘I know China’ – Cardinal Zen sticks to his guns in fight against Vatican deal with Beijing (May 13, 2018, Hong Kong Free Press)
Zen, officially an emeritus bishop, hardly shows any signs of retiring as he still has a busy schedule and blogs about Catholic affairs in English, Chinese and Italian. Zen speaks with a strong voice, but because he can no longer hear well, he often put his hand around his left ear and leaned forward to hear questions during the interview.

Christians and Confucians on Human Nature: A Reader Responds (May 14, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
In short, a strong parallel is evident in the many aspects of Confucius’ teachings and the redemptive gospel in addressing the inadequacy of the human condition. However, what has fallen short in Confucius’ solution was his optimism in the very nature of humanity that needs restoration. If the root cause of the human dilemma lies within humanity itself, then we will need external non-human intervention to help us root out the source of our plight. 

When the Police Come Knocking: A Guide for Churches (May 15, 2018, Chinese Church Voices)
Wang Yi posted this article, “When the Police Come Knocking (House Church Edition),” only a couple weeks prior to his detention. Here Wang Yi details specific guidelines and legal advice for pastors and church staff on how the church should respond to government intervention, including what to do when the police come knocking at your door.

Society / Life

Chinese Robocalls Bombarding the U.S. Are Part of An International Phone Scam (May 10, 2018, NPR)
If you live in a part of the country that has a large Chinese immigrant population, you may have recently received a robocall in Mandarin — or even several of them. The calls seem to be blanketing certain phone exchanges without regard to the national origin of the recipients.

The Destructive Earthquake That Gave China’s Charities New Life (May 11, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Besides the destruction it left in its wake, its legacy is as much defined by the charity it inspired. Soon after the earthquake struck, volunteers and donations poured into the hardest-hit areas in Sichuan province from all over the country. Overall charitable donations reached 100 billion yuan (then $14.7 billion) for the year — triple the figure from the previous year.

China’s Last Cave Dwellers Fight to Keep Their Underground Homes (May 13, 2018, The New York Times)
When armed bandits prowled this remote, mountainous stretch of the southwestern province of Guizhou in the chaotic years before the founding of modern China, the ethnic Miao villagers hid in the region’s enormous caves. And there they have remained, even after China was united under Communist rule, grinding out an existence of profound rural poverty and isolation.

China’s ‘Social Credit System’ Isn’t What It Sometimes Seems—So Far (May 14, 2018, New America)
China’s Social Credit System has been the topic of widespread and often misinformed discussion. In a new paper, Rogier Creemers of the University of Leiden, also a China Digital Economy Fellow at New America, examines primary source material in depth, outlining what is known and putting the emerging system in the context of long-term trends in Chinese governance. 

Video: The Reborn of Beichuan: Stories of Recovery after the Sichuan Earthquake (May 15, 2018, China File)
For many families in China, losing one child means losing an only child. The Reborn of Beichuan follows the journey of two families from the devastated city of Beichuan as they try to restore normalcy to their lives and struggle to move past the loss of their children.

Stop saying China is becoming “Western” (May 16, 2018, Jackson Wu, via Patheos)
This remark often carries a critical, condemning tone as if expressing outrage on behalf of Chinese people. From this perspective, every tall building and iPhone is indirect proof of America colonizing China through its cultural might.

Economics / Trade / Business

Can China’s ‘WeChat Diaspora’ Pioneer Mobile Payment in the US? (May 10, 2018, Sixth Tone)
The mobile payment systems fine-tuned in China — and now propelled to success in the U.S. by certain Chinese restaurants — have the potential to help America’s small businesses revolutionize monetary transactions with their clients. 

China’s economic growth story will be cut short under Xi Jinping, research firm predicts (May 14, 2018, South China Morning Post)
China’s growth will slow to 2 per cent by the end of the next decade from 6.9 per cent last year, a London-based research firm has predicted, painting a gloomy picture for the world’s second biggest economy.

As U.S.-China Trade Talks Begin, ZTE Is in The Spotlight (May 15, 2018, NPR)
But the case of ZTE highlights the importance of high tech in the U.S.-China trade disputes, as well as how the two countries look at the role of government in the economy.

The Gap Apologizes for Shirts Showing Map Of China Without Disputed Territories (May 15, 2018, NPR)
The Gap has apologized for selling T-shirts that depicted what it called an "erroneous" map of China, which showed only the country's mainland — without several disputed regions that Beijing regards as Chinese territories. The U.S. clothing retailer announced that the T-shirt has been "completely withdrawn from the Chinese market and completely destroyed."

Warning sounded over China's 'debtbook diplomacy' (May 15, 2018, The Guardian)
China’s “debtbook diplomacy” uses strategic debts to gain political leverage with economically vulnerable countries across the Asia-Pacific region, the US state department has been warned in an independent report. […]  The paper identifies 16 “targets” of China’s tactic of extending hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to countries that can’t afford to pay them, and then strategically leveraging the debt.


How The ‘Gaokao’ Rewards Students for Being Rich (May 14, 2018, Sixth Tone)
China has programs targeting students from rural or impoverished backgrounds, but the bonus point system undermines all initiatives that aim to help poorer children achieve academically.

Health / Environment

Rising Infertility Could Thwart China’s Baby Boom Ambitions (May 15, 2018, Sixth Tone)
The country’s infertility rate is now 10 to 15 percent, according to Li Yuan, the director of the reproductive health center at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital. Li discussedinfertility at a press conference on Sunday for the 30th anniversary of China’s first baby born through in vitro fertilization.

Why China is Hooked on Snake-Oil Health Supplements (May 15, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Many Chinese health care items are marketed as supplements for things that the body lacks. This ties in with another TCM precept, namely to balance the opposing forces of yin and yang within the body. As the body ages and undergoes inevitable wear and tear, these imbalances leave it more susceptible to disease.

Science / Technology

Video: Flight of imagination: Chinese firm breaks record with 1,374 dancing drones (May 2, 2018, Reuters)
Lighting up the sky of Chinese ancient city of Xi'an, 1,374 illuminated drones broke a Guinness World Record on Sunday (April 29) for the most unmanned aerial vehicles simultaneously airborne.

Inside Shanghai's robot bank: China opens world's first human-free branch (May 14, 2018, The Guardian)
Xiao Long, or “Little Dragon”, is not your typical employee – she’s a robot at China’s first fully automated, human-free bank branch. As guardian of the bank, she talks to customers, takes bank cards and checks accounts (she comes complete with a PIN pad) and can answer basic questions. 

The Robotics Industry in China (May 14, 2018, China Briefing)
According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), China has had the most industrial robots in operation globally since 2016. By 2020, China is expected to produce 150,000 industrial robot units and have 950,300 industrial robots in operation.

How China's Tech Revolution Threatens Silicon Valley (May 14, 2018, The Atlantic)
A look inside Beijing's booming start-up scene shows how ubiquitous the country's tech culture is.

History / Culture

These Were China’s Top 10 Archaeological Finds in 2017 (May 10, 2018, Radii China)
To give an idea of what the lay of the land looks like, here are the top 10 archaeological finds inside China last year, as reported by CASS’s Institute of Archaeology.

How Stalin Elevated the Chinese Communist Party to Power in Xinjiang in 1949 (May 11, 2018, Wilson Center)

Film: 1940s Travelogue on Sichuan (Tong Bingxue, via Twitter)

Travel / Food

Video: 5 Types of Chinese Noodles (April 26, 2018, Transparent.com)
It’s no secret that China loves noodles. The country is home to so many different noodle dishes, it’ll make your head spin! It seems like each city has its own unique noodle dish. Some are more famous than others and can be found all over the country.

Will P.F. Chang’s ‘Chinese food for Americans’ be a big bang hit in China? (May 14, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Fans of The Big Bang Theory in China have long wanted to try out the Asian-themed US casual dining restaurant chain that features in the American sitcom.

China Sichuan Airlines pilot 'half sucked out of plane' survives (May 15, 2018, BBC)
Captain Liu Chuanjian said the Airbus A319 had been cruising mid-air when a deafening sound flooded the cockpit. "There was no warning," he told the Chengdu Economic Daily. "The windshield just cracked and made a loud bang. The next thing I knew, my co-pilot had been sucked halfway out."

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Marvel get its first official Chinese superheroes (May 11, 2018, BBC)
The first ever Chinese superheroes have officially entered the Marvel universe. Aero and Lin Lie are just two of a batch of Chinese characters making their debut in graphic novels this week. Co-authored by Marvel and NetEase, one of China's biggest online comic platforms, they are a clear push by Marvel to attract more fans across the lucrative Chinese market. We may even see them interacting with Marvel heroes like Hulk and Iron Man.

Language / Language Learning

New text game for Chinese learners: The Magistrate’s Gallery (May 15, 2018,Hacking Chinese)
Here’s a demo of me playing the most recent game, called the Magistrate’s Gallery. In the video, I explain how the game works and I also play the game and explain what’s going on.

Living Cross-culturally

How to Return Overseas from Furlough (in 55 easy steps) (May 11, 2018, A Life Overseas)

Links for Researchers

Three Generations of Changing Gender Patterns of Schooling in The People’s Republic Of China (April 2018, ADBI Working Paper Series)
In this paper we take advantage of data spanning three generations of Chinese families to examine the evolution of educational attainment for boys and girls and importantly the relative levels of schooling of each gender. 

Getting it Wrong: Chinese Strategy in the South China Sea (May 15, 2018, China Policy Institute)
One of the abiding criticisms of American military policy in the post-Cold War era is that it lacks a strategy.  This seems particularly true of American strategy, or lack thereof, in the Pacific. By contrast, the Chinese government appears to have a very clear strategy of mutually reinforcing military and economic expansion throughout the world.


Review of Religion and Chinese Society (BrillVolume 5, Issue 1, 2018)

Image credit: Wikimedia
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