ZGBriefs | May 18, 2023

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Featured Article

The Transformative Power of Deep Listening (May 2023, Lausanne Global Analysis)
This article invites evangelical leaders to cultivate the art of listening and (re)imagining first and foremost by the grace of the Spirit through the means of three key aspects: the verbal, the body, and the silence. Only then can we listen and respond collectively to who God is and what God is doing in the world, and ultimately participate in the global mission of God (missio Dei) in a broken and divided world.

Sponsored Link

Free Webinar: WeChatting to the Glory of God-Serving China Through Digital Engagement (ChinaSource)
Many people think that, due to security concerns, nothing of a spiritual nature can be said or done online in China. As always, when it comes to China, reality is quite a bit more complicated. Despite restrictions and an increasingly tight environment, there are still creative ways that Christians are using the internet for evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, and encouragement. In this webinar, we will present a picture of what God is doing through four different ministries involved in digital engagement.  We have invited four speakers who have extensive knowledge and experience in this burgeoning field, all of whom are involved in developing innovative digital engagement strategies. 
Date: May 31, 2023 
Time: 7–8:30PM (US CDT) 
Online via Zoom

Register on Eventbrite

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Chinese activist sentenced to eight years on subversion charges (May 12, 2023, The Guardian)
A Chinese court has sentenced a prominent rights activist to eight years in jail on subversion charges in what he said was a “score-settling” punishment for his two decades of rights advocacy. Yang Maodong, who goes by the pen name Guo Feixiong, was sentenced on Thursday by the Guangzhou intermediate people’s court for “inciting subversion of state power,” his brother Yang Maoquan wrote on social media. Repeated phone calls to the court went unanswered on Friday.

‘Beijing’s Global Media Offensive’ (May 15, 2023, China File)
Over the past several years, there has been an active debate about Chinese influence overseas. Amidst allegations that Beijing has influenced foreign elections and politicians, state newswire Xinhua has expanded into one of the largest news agencies worldwide, and state-linked media companies have taken over Chinese-language media sources internationally. 

China sentences 78-year-old US citizen to life in prison for spying (May 15, 2023, BBC)
John Shing-Wan Leung, who is a permanent resident in Hong Kong, was jailed on Monday. The court in the south-eastern city of Suzhou gave no further details of the allegations against him. Leung was arrested in the city two years ago by a local bureau of China’s counterintelligence agency, a news release from the court said.

What is China’s strategy for Central Asia? (May 16, 2023, DW)
China will host leaders from five Central Asian countries to boost economic and trade ties with the region. With Russia hit by sanctions, Central Asia is becoming more prominent in international affairs and trade.

China asks embassies to avoid ‘propaganda’ in apparent reference to pro-Ukrainian displays (May 17, 2023, AP)
Foreign embassies in Beijing have been asked by the Chinese government to avoid displaying “propaganda” in an apparent response to shows of support for Ukraine. [… ] The verbal request didn’t mention Ukraine, according to the diplomats, but flags and placards set up by embassies of Canada, France, Germany and other governments are the only public displays by most foreign missions other than tourism advertisements.

Liz Truss in Taiwan calls for ‘economic Nato’ to challenge China (May 17, 2023, The Guardian)
Former British PM says Taiwan is ‘on the front line of the global battle for freedom’ during trip that China has called a ‘dangerous political show’.

Beijing tightens control over rural China with training campaign for thousands of village chiefs (May 17, 2023, South China Morning Post)
According to a report in People’s Daily on Tuesday, 212 village party secretaries and village committee directors attended the four-day, in-person training course in Beijing from April 24. Tens of thousands of rural cadres joined the sessions via video link in classrooms set up at provincial and county-level party schools.


An Elephant in the Room: Face (May 15, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Quoting a common Chinese saying, Li Jun described face to me as an essential element in Confucian culture: “树活一张皮,人活一张脸,” which translated means: “A tree lives because of its skin; [without skin, it is naked]. It’s the same for a person: a person cannot live without face.”1Among the Christians I interviewed in China, there was wide agreement that face often influences the start of a conflict and can keep a conflict from being resolved. So why does face have such a profound impact on conflict?

Christ’s Incomparable Power: Thy Kingdom Come (May 15, 2023, China Partnership Blog)
Christ himself is the Word of God, and he is stronger than any earthly authority. Modern believers do not need to be afraid when they face persecution or pressure, because the resurrection of Jesus, the Word made flesh, proves that God has already won.

Observation: Three Pastors Become Employees During Pandemic, Reflecting Decline and Transformation of Traditional Church (May 17, 2023, China Christian Daily)
There are three brothers who were once influential pastors but have now taken on roles as migrant workers or street vendors. The transformative effects of the three-year pandemic have not only impacted their daily lives but have also altered social dynamics.

Society / Life

Investing in Tourism in Xinjiang, Beijing Seeks New Ways to Control the Region’s Culture (May 12, 203, China File)
The Xinjiang government’s efforts to expand tourism and the resulting uptick in spending are an important part of what appears to be a new stage in Beijing’s strategy to secure control over Xinjiang and reshape the region’s culture and inhabitants to resemble the Han-dominant parts of the country.

‘My time in the UK has been a disaster’: Hongkongers fear deportation after years left in limbo (May 12, 2023, The Guardian)
As of December 2022, there were 160 Hongkongers in the UK awaiting decisions on their asylum applications, more than double the number in December 2020. And 13 Hongkongers were either deported or left the UK voluntarily after being rejected for asylum in 2020 and 2021.

The Father-Son Duo Winning Over China’s Marathon Scene (May 16, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Inspired by marathoner Dick Hoyt, who ran together with his disabled son, a Chinese courier and his son have taken the running world by storm.

China fines comedy troupe $2m for joke about the military (March 17, 2023, BBC)
A Chinese comedy troupe has been slapped with a 14.7m yuan ($2.1m; £1.7m) penalty over a joke about the military that invoked a slogan from President Xi Jinping.  The quip, which likened the behaviour of a comedian’s dogs to military conduct, irked authorities. They said Shanghai Xiaoguo Culture Media Co and comic Li Haoshi had “humiliated the people’s army”.

A Chinese photographer captures his family’s immigration journey to America (May 17, 2023, Washington Post)
“I felt it’s worth recording our life in America,” he said. “I have seldom documented my family cohesively, and observed them closely enough. They were water and air to me in the past, important, but sometimes unnoticeable.” He called the project “Fresh off the Boat” — the name of a sitcom following a Taiwanese family who has immigrated to the United States.

Economics / Trade / Business

Yuan Slides Past Seven in New Warning Sign for China’s Economy (May 17, 2023, Yahoo! News)
The currency weakened past the key threshold in both onshore and offshore trading after data this week showed factory output, retail sales and fixed-asset investment all grew at a slower pace in April than economists forecast. The nation’s benchmark stock gauges are trailing their major Asian peers this quarter, while sovereign bonds have rallied on expectations of more easing.

China’s Jilin to ship goods via Vladivostok (May 17, 2023, Asia Times)
Chinese commentators said Russia is permitting China to use Vladivostok – or Haishenwai, as it’s named in Mandarin – as a transit port because it has faced setbacks in the Ukraine war and needs to lean towards China to boost its economy. Some “patriotic” writers even said the new arrangement is a big step for China to recover the Qing Dynasty’s Far East city, which became a part of the Russian Empire in 1860.

China dominates the solar power industry. The EU wants to change that (May 17, 2023, NPR)
Now, Europe aims to make solar power its biggest source of energy by the end of this decade. That would mean tripling the amount of energy generated by solar by 2030. For Germany, it would mean resurrecting a solar power industry that last experienced a boom more than a decade ago and has since succumbed to competition in China, which has come to dominate the market.

China’s home prices rise at slower pace as demand ebbs (May 17, 2023, Reuters)
China’s new home prices rose for the fourth straight month in April but at a slower pace, heightening fears that pent-up demand after the country’s economic reopening is fading. Economists say more policy stimulus may be needed to ensure the recovery stays on track after a batch of recent data showed imports contracted sharply, factory gate prices fell again and industrial output and retail sales missed forecasts.


Families Are Abandoning China’s Rural Schools. Here’s Why That Matters. (May 15, 2023, Sixth Tone)
In the 1990s, millions of rural Chinese left their homes and poured into cities in search of work, leaving hollowed-out villages in their wake. Three decades later, jobs aren’t the only reason residents are abandoning the countryside: With many rural schools struggling, families are hunting for better options elsewhere.

Hong Kong removes hundreds of politically sensitive books from public libraries (May 16, 2023, Radio Free Asia)
Hong Kong authorities have removed hundreds of books from the shelves of the city’s public libraries in recent weeks, including books referencing the 1989 Tiananmen massacre that ended weeks of pro-democracy protests around China, according to authors and the public library catalog.

Science / Technology

Can the World Make an Electric Car Battery Without China? (May 16, 2023, The New York Times) (subscription required)
Despite billions in Western investment, China is so far ahead — mining rare minerals, training engineers and building huge factories — that the rest of the world may take decades to catch up. Even by 2030, China will make more than twice as many batteries as every other country combined, according to estimates from Benchmark Minerals, a consulting group.

History / Culture

The Making of Yunnan (May 13, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Historian Yang Bin shares his thoughts on Yunnanese history, his unique approach to the region, and how border areas shape a state.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

China shuts 100,000 fake news social media accounts, ramps up content cleanup (May 17, 2023, Reuters)
 The cleanup comes as China and countries across the globe grapple with an onslaught of fake news coverage online, with many implementing laws to punish culprits.

Language / Language Learning

On the Character: 劳 (May 11, 2023, The World of Chinese)
While the form of the character has been simplified, its meaning has expanded to indicate toil (辛劳 xīnláo), work or labor (劳动 láodòng), and associated feelings like fatigue (疲劳 píláo).


A visual history of Maoism (May 11, 2023, The China Project)
Maoist campaigns — and to a large extent, the Mao era itself — were as much visual as they were literary. Stefan Landsberger recognized this, and collected a large stash of Chinese propaganda posters that would eventually become one of the most unique books in the China space.

Links for Researchers

2022 Report on International Religious Freedom (May 15, 2023, U.S. Department of State)
The annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom – the International Religious Freedom Report – describes the status of religious freedom in every country. The report covers government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals, and U.S. policies to promote religious freedom around the world. The U.S. Department of State submits the reports in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

Pray for China

May 18 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On May 18, 1928, Handel’s Messiah was performed in Beijing by Yenching University students under the direction of Prof. Bliss Wiant (范天祥). After a Christmas 1951 performance in Beijing,  Messiah was not performed publically in China until 1998 in Tianjin. Beginning in 2001, Christian conductor Timothy Su Wenxing (苏文星弟兄) directed several public performances in Beijing and other cities; however, public performances have been effectively banned since the conclusion of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Pray for the hearts of Christian musicians and worship leaders to overflow with praise of the Loving Heavenly Father. And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

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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