ZGBriefs | November 16, 2023

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Note: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States next Thursday, there will be no ZGBriefs on November 23.

Featured Article

The Fishing Village That Wasn’t and Other Myths About China’s Largest City (November 14, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Shanghai’s opening as a treaty port has become shrouded in myth. What actually happened? And how did it shape the city?

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China-Saudi RMB Settlement Will Insulate the Oil Trade from U.S. Sanctions (November 7, 2023, China File)
Bilateral trade between China and Saudi Arabia has surged in recent years. Since 2013, China has been the largest market for Saudi oil, last year accounting for 21.7 percent of the country’s oil exports. Despite a global trade surplus, China consistently runs a trade deficit with Saudi Arabia.

China’s State Security Departments and Nationwide System (November 9, 2023, The Diplomat)
China’s state security system refers to the Ministry of State Security (MSS) and its network of regional agencies across China. The structure of this system follows the general pattern of the rest of the Chinese bureaucracy. 

A Post-Covid Spring Has Come: The Latest NGO Boom in China (November 13, 2023, Made in China Journal)
A boom in the nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) sector was evident in post-Covid China during my fieldwork in April–June 2023. After the Covid-19 lockdowns were lifted and the leadership change was completed in late 2022, there was an upsurge of NGO events, collaborations, and transnational networking.

Keeping—and Learning—the Peace (November 14, 2023, Christianity Today) (subscription required)
Our disagreements on this subject don’t follow clear partisan or religious patterns. Though Democrats and Republicans are strongly polarized on many issues, when it comes to Taiwan, polling shows mixed views across partisan lines.

Biden’s Goal in Meeting With Xi: Avoid a Spiraling Conflict (November 15, 2023, The New York Times) (subscription required)
When President Biden meets President Xi Jinping of China at a lush estate on the edge of Silicon Valley on Wednesday, his primary goal will be simple: find a way to avoid an increasingly bitter competition with China from tipping into conflict.

Biden and China’s Xi Jinping meet in an effort to smooth tensions (November 15, 2023, NBC News)
The two leaders haven’t spoken in a year, and relations between the countries have soured in ways that raise the risk of unwanted confrontation, U.S. officials said.


Working Together to Reach the Nations (November 9, 2023, China Partnership Blog)
Our goal is very important: we want to win souls for the Lord in this last age. No matter where you come from or what kind of background you have, we have only one goal: gospel-centered mission and gospel-centered church planting. 

Mapping China’s Christian Legacy: The Story of the China Historical Christian Database (November 10, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
If a relatively small sample could produce such new insights, what would become visible if someone looked beyond Hong Kong to all of China, included not just Pentecostal Christians but also Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, and Chinese-initiated movements, and expanded the search from 35 to 400 years (1550-1950)?

Listening in the Quietness: “Be Still and Know That I Am God!” (November 13, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Compared to the noise and bustle of the past, I was struck by the quietness of China this trip. This quietness could be due to the popularity of electric vehicles and the oppressive political environment, or it could be the trauma of the pandemic, or concerns and worries about China’s economic downturn and future… Compared to the past, the Chinese churches also seem to be extraordinarily quiet. 

Society / Life

How Shanghai Turned a Notorious Dump Site Into an Eco-Haven (November 9, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Laogang Waste Disposal Base processes a third of Shanghai’s waste and generates 1.6 billion kWh of electricity yearly, offsetting half a million tons of coal usage.

Chinese graduates hold off career dreams, take temporary government jobs (November 13, 2023, Reuters)
Having failed to find his dream job at a Chinese internet company upon graduation, Peter Liu settled for a role in a state library where there is so little need for his participation that he spends his time studying for a change in his career path. “It’s really hard to get work at big companies,” said the 24-year-old who majored in TV production at a Beijing university before moving back home in the central Henan province.

On China’s Streets, Young Vendors Toil for Money, Friendship, and Freedom (November 15, 2023, Sixth Tone)
In China, relaxing restrictions on night markets and street vendors is encouraging more young people to venture into street vending. While some are trying to turn the traditionally low-status job into a lucrative venture, others are doing it as a hobby or a lifestyle choice.

Economics / Trade / Business

The Fruits of Trade (November 9, 2023, Sixth Tone)
China’s market for imported fresh fruits only really began to develop after the turn of the millennium. China’s entry into the World Trade Organization and subsequent rapid growth accelerated market access and demand, respectively, reshaping global trade networks and turning China into an essential part of the global fruit trade.

Why businesses are pulling billions in profits from China (November 14, 2023, BBC)
Foreign businesses have been pulling money out of China at a faster rate than they have been putting it in, official data shows. The country’s slowing economy, low interest rates and a geopolitical tussle with the US have sparked doubt about its economic potential.

China’s factory output, consumption beat forecasts but property still a drag on economy (November 14, 2023, Reuters)
China’s industrial output and retail sales growth beat expectations in October, but the underlying economic picture highlighted significant pockets of weakness with the crisis-hit property sector continuing to forestall a full-blown revival.

Australia confident China will lift all trade blocks next month (November 14, 2023, Reuters)
Australia said on Wednesday China could lift all its remaining trade blocks by next month as relations between the commodity trade partners stabilise and after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s visit to Beijing earlier this month. Albanese’s government has taken credit for patching up ties with China since coming to office last year. China has lifted most trade blocks imposed amid a 2020 diplomatic dispute after Australia called for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.


Number of Americans studying in mainland China falls sharply, but Chinese students still flock to US (November 13, 2023, South China Morning Post)
Only 211 Americans studied in mainland China during the 2021-22 school year, according to the 2023 version of an annual US government-funded study by the Institute of International Education (IIE). In contrast, from 2018 to 2019, there were more than 11,000 American students in the mainland.

Deadly School Stampede Renews Calls For Scheduling Reform (November 15, 2023, Sixth Tone)
After one student died and five others were injured in a rush to the bathroom, Chinese are once again calling for schools to rethink their short, tightly controlled break periods.

China education: systemic weak points could fracture tech ambitions, US commission alleges (November 15, 2023, South China Morning Post)
A US government agency, as part of its annual report to Congress, has argued China’s educational system is holding back the development of its workforce. Concentration of resources, overemphasis on high-stakes testing and public indifference to vocational schools weighing down long-term progress, report suggests.

Travel / Food

Secrets of the Steppe: A Road Trip Through China’s Northern Borderland (November 15, 2023, The World of Chinese)
A journey through Inner Mongolia’s grassland reveals the enduring pulse of nomadic life.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

In China, Live Music Gigs are Sparking a Street Stall Renaissance (November 13, 2023, Sixth Tone)
With live events in China on the rise again, makeshift stalls outside venues are growing more popular. Recognizing the trend, local governments are now easing regulations to support them.


China Historical Christian Database
The China Historical Christian Database is a new digital tool for the study of Chinese Christianity from 1550 to 1950.

Pray for China

November 17 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Nov. 17, 1979, Christian Assembly leader Chen Biyin (陈必荫弟兄) was released after 23 years in prison. Chen was born into a Christian family in Fujian in 1910. He became a Christian in 1931 and traveled to Shanghai two years later to spend five months studying under Ni Tuosheng (倪柝声弟兄-Watchman Nee). Chen then returned to his home county and became a successful preacher there and in surrounding areas. In 1948, Chen and a number of others traveled to Fuzhou to meet Ni and hear of his new vision by which church members should surrender all their material possessions to the “Jerusalem Mother Church.” Chen moved his family to Fuzhou to implement this vision, which saw prominent businessmen and others transfer immense wealth to Ni and also saw great growth of the church in Fuzhou. The Fuzhou Local Assembly initially followed Ni’s direction to participate in the Three Self; however, after Ni’s arrest in 1952, the increase in political pressure led Chen to withdraw from the Three Self in 1955. He was arrested on Jan. 11, 1956, and spent the next 23 years in various forms of confinement. During the Cultural Revolution, his wife Jiang Liangru (江亮如姊妹) and their six children were all sent down to the countryside for labor reform. When Chen was released at 69, he ministered to visitors, did itinerant preaching, and wrote devotional material. He rested in the Lord’s bosom on Nov. 8, 2007. Pray for Christians in the business world to serve the Lord wholeheartedly and to be wise stewards of what has been entrusted to them. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:20-21

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Image credit: George Liu, via Unsplash
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