ZGBriefs | November 15, 2018

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Featured Article

Forty Years on, Is China Still Reforming? (November 9, 2018, China File)
What does this common but vague expression actually mean to Xi? And is Beijing actually reforming and opening up, or stagnating and closing down?

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Why Chinese civil servants are happy to occupy Uyghur homes in Xinjiang  (November 9, 2018, CNN)
Many of them believed that dominating all aspects of Uyghur life was the only way to move forward with the project of the Chinese nation.

Selling U.S. China Policy  (November 9, 2018, Council on Foreign Relations)
Notwithstanding the rhetoric of competition and containment, the administration has recognized that the true challenge China presents is not fundamentally one of a rising power threatening to replace an established power. Instead it is the challenge that China poses to the fundamental principles embraced by market democracies globally: free trade and open markets, freedom of navigation, and good governance (as defined by the rule of law, transparency, and individual civil and political liberties).

Podcast: Why South Africa’s Large Chinese Population is Known as the “Quiet Community”​  (The China Africa Project)
Known as the “quiet community,” the Chinese in South Africa have built complex social and business networks that largely exist outside of the margins of the country’s fractious racial and political landscape.

Young Activists Go Missing in China, Raising Fears of Crackdown  (November 11, 2018, The New  York Times)
The activists, describing themselves as ardent communists who fervently believe in the ideals of Marx and Mao, have waged an unusual campaign against inequality and corporate greed that has gained traction at some of China’s top schools.

Families Of The Disappeared: A Search For Loved Ones Held In China's Xinjiang Region  (November 12, 2018, NPR)
In the past year, the office, run by a Kazakh rights organization called Atazhurt, has collected more than 1,000 testimonies from ethnic Kazakhs and Uighurs whose families have disappeared into a network of internment camps across the border, a few hundred miles away in the Chinese region of Xinjiang.

Pence: It’s up to China to avoid a cold war (November 13, 2018, The Washington Post)
If China wants to avoid an all-out cold war with the United States and its partners, it must fundamentally change its behavior, according to Vice President Pence. The United States, he assured me, won’t back down.

China's Building Spree In Poor Nations: Does It Really Help The Local Economy?  (November 13, 2018, NPR)
Development experts and Western politicians have raised many questions: What is China's goal in building all this? Are these projects well-constructed? And are they actually beneficial? Now the AidData team at the College of William & Mary is using night lights to shed some light on that last question.

U.S. senators alarmed if China gets control of Djibouti port  (November 14, 2018, Reuters)
Two prominent U.S. senators expressed alarm on Tuesday about the military and political consequences if China gains control of a port terminal in Djibouti, and said they were concerned it could further boost Beijing’s influence in East Africa. 


On the Trail of Sichuan’s Catholic Past  (November 7, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Earlier this year, I set out to tour Sichuan’s Catholic sites, hoping to better understand the religion’s place in Sichuanese history. I began my journey with Dengchigou Church — the site where, approximately 150 years ago, resident priest Armand David first introduced the giant panda to the Western world.

Religion in China is highly diverse by region, research shows  (November 9, 2018, Purdue University News)
Another surprising finding: Protestantism has become the predominant religion in many counties north of the Yangtze River in the eastern part of China. In some counties, Catholic churches outnumber sites of other religions.

Reflections from a Three-Self Pastor on the Challenges Faced by the Church in China  (November 13, 2018, Chinese Church Voices)
Currently, the Chinese government is strengthening its control over both house churches and Three-Self churches. I see the Chinese church arriving at a crisis of identity. Christianity’s role in Chinese society, as well as its purpose and function, are not very clear. Both the house church and the Three-Self church face this problem.

Advantages and Challenges for Indigenous Researchers (1)  (November 14, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
Also, as cultural insiders, we have a tacit knowledge of the culture and can capture the subtler levels of meaning from the behavior and language of our respondents. There are cultural and contextual nuances in how people answer interview questions that are more accessible to us.

Society / Life

Ultimate City: Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (With Photographic Tour) (November 6, 2018, New Geography)
The Pearl River (Zhujiang) Delta has developed into the world’s ultimate city (Figure 1). More people live in the urbanization there than in any space of similar size in the world (Figure 2). Once home to separate urban enclaves comprising 9 million residents in 1980, the now adjacent urban areas of the Pearl River Delta are home to 55 million residents…

Economics / Trade / Business

By the Numbers: Was Singles’ Day a Success in 2018?  (November 12, 2018, Radii China)
Alibaba generated 30.8 billion USD of Gross Merchandise Volume on 11.11 2018. That’s an increase of 27%, compared to 2017’s 25.3 billion USD, and of course it’s Alibaba’s highest earnings yet.

Singles Day 2018: China’s Record Sales May Mask Economic Vulnerability  (November 12, 2018, China Briefing)
Although Singles Day 2018 saw record sales, the rate of growth this year is down from the 39 percent recorded in 2017; the shopping preferences in fact point to more conservative spending habits.

Why China’s E-commerce Model May Not Work Elsewhere  (November 8, 2018, Sixth Tone)
One reason local officials may have been hesitant to make predictions about the model’s widespread applicability has to do with the origins of Shandong’s first rural e-commerce villages.


China wants universities to raise academic standards and put more pressure on students  (November 9, 2018, South China Morning Post)
In a bid to lift academic standards, universities are now required to apply much tougher penalties for plagiarism, data manipulation and students who submit work that is not their own.

Chinese parents lament losing sleep over children’s homework  (November 12, 2018, South China Morning Post)
While various local governments have issued orders to reduce schoolwork, parents still often take to social media to vent about all the extra work they do for their children’s education.

Health / Environment

China Braces for Vaccine Shortage as Flu Season Approaches  (November 7, 2018, Sixth Tone)
Less than four months after China’s last major health crisis, parts of the country are facing a dire shortage of flu vaccine as peak season approaches. In the southern city of Guangzhou, flu vaccines for children are almost completely out of stock…

In China, Desperate Patients Smuggle Drugs. Or Make Their Own.  (November 11, 2018, The New York Times)
It’s a desperation born out of necessity. China’s aging population is increasingly stricken with deadly diseases like cancer and diabetes, but many can’t find or afford drugs.

China postpones lifting ban on rhino and tiger parts after outcry  (November 13, 2018, BBC)
China has said it is postponing its easing of a ban on the trade of tiger bones and rhino horn, following a wave of protests from environmental groups. Rhinos and tigers are both endangered in the wild and China had prohibited their trade in 1993.

Science / Technology

At China’s Internet Conference, a Darker Side of Tech Emerges  (November 8, 2018, The New York Times)
China’s tech industry is becoming more serious about grappling with its products’ unintended consequences — and about helping the government.

China’s new jet engine suddenly takes air combat in a whole new direction  (September 10, 2018, South China Morning Post)
An upgraded version of China’s J-10 fighter jet stole the limelight at the country’s biggest air show this week. The J-10 variant has manoeuvrability and combat capability that, until now, were the preserve of the United States and Russia.

China and Russia suspected of hijacking Google internet traffic in ‘war game experiment’  (November 13, 2018, South China Morning Post)
An internet traffic diversion that sent data through Russia and China disrupted Google services on Monday, including search and cloud-hosting services and its bundle of collaboration tools for businesses.

China scours social media, erases thousands of accounts  (September 13, 2018, Reuters)
China’s top cyber authority has scrubbed 9,800 social media accounts of independent news providers deemed to have posted sensational, vulgar or politically harmful content on the Internet, it said late on Monday.

History / Culture

Video: Beijing in 1966  (November 9, 2018, Everyday Life in Maoist China)

The Meaning of Gifts  (November 9, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
The stress and confusion lie not simply in what gifts should or should not be given and what occasions require gift-giving, but in the deeper meaning of the act of gift-giving. What is being communicated by giving a gift, or by not giving a gift?

Canton, in southern China, after Japanese occupation in 1939, a video from BRITISH PATHÉ.  (November 13, 2018, Tong Bingxue, via Twitter)

The inside story of the propaganda fightback for Deng Xiaoping’s market reforms in China  (November 14, 2018, South China Morning Post)
Deng Xiaoping’s push for “reform and opening up” launched China’s rise from the wreckage of the Cultural Revolution to the world’s second-biggest economy. To mark the 40th anniversary of the start of the process, the South China Morning Post takes an in-depth look at the forces that shaped that transformation

Travel / Food

World's first underground hotel to open in Shanghai this month  (November 13, 2018, China Daily)
Located 30 kilometers from the center of the east China metropolis Shanghai, the hotel is built near the Sheshan Mountain National Forest Park and Chenshan Mountain Botanic Gardens. The hotel has been built in a formerly abandoned quarry that plunges 80 meters below the ground level. Of the 18 floors in the hotel, 16 of these are underground, while two floors are completely underwater inside the hotel's 10-meter deep aquarium.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

China's Van Goghs: A Film Review (November 12, 2018, ChinaSource Blog)
China’s Van Goghs is a documentary about the oil painters in Dafen village, the largest oil painting village in the world. Located in Shenzhen, China, this village is home to many businesses that replicate famous artwork, particularly Van Gogh’s paintings.

The Village-Grown Dialect Film Festival  (November 13, 2018, Sixth Tone)
For the past three years, the village has hosted the Zurong Dialect Film Festival, China’s first to celebrate the country’s dialects. The country is host to over 130 languages with countless regional variants, according to the Ministry of Education. However, dialects differ so greatly that Chinese speakers often cannot even understand them.

Language / Language Learning

Back-Translating China  (November 13, 2018, The World of Chinese)
In October, the latest edition of Oxford English Dictionary welcomed the phrase “add oil” to the annals of authoritative English expressions. Recognized as a Hong Kong English phrase, literally translated from the Chinese jiayou (加油, “go for it”), the phrase’s inclusion caused Chinese citizens to marvel at the growing influence of “Chinglish” in the Anglosphere.


Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping  (September 30, 2018, China File)
Drawing on an array of sources, Sulmaan Wasif Khan chronicles the grand strategies that have sought not only to protect China from aggression but also to ensure it would never again experience the powerlessness of the late Qing and Republican eras.

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