ZGBriefs | November 30, 2023

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Featured Article

5 visa-free ways to travel to China by land, sea and air for 72 hours and up to 30 days (November 21, 2023, South China Morning Post)
China only reopened its borders and abandoned quarantine in January after shedding three years of zero-Covid. And in October and November, the Ministry of Public Security, the National Immigration Administration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that travellers from dozens of countries can again enter China through several visa-free schemes.

Sponsored Link

ChinaSource Virtual Connect
In our final virtual ChinaSource Connect event of 2023, we will provide a brief update on the current situation for the Church in China and share updates on recent developments within ChinaSource. We will conclude the event by providing break-out rooms for further discussion, fellowship, and prayer. Feel free to submit questions in advance to events@chinasource.org. This event will be held on Zoom.
Go here to register.

If you or your company/organization would like to sponsor a link in ZGBriefs, please contact info@chinasource.org for more information.

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Five things we learned from the Biden-Xi meeting (November 16, 2023, BBC)
While officials tried to keep expectations low before the meeting between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping on Wednesday, the encounter resulted in agreements on several key issues.

The Power – and Limits – of Xi Jinping (November 18, 2023, The Diplomat)Xi may have more power than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, but even he can’t fully implement his policy preferences.

Video: Biden and Xi at APEC 2023: What Was Achieved and How It Shapes U.S.-China Relations? (November 21, 2023, National Committee on U.S.-China Relations)
Following the summit, how will U.S.-China relations evolve over the coming months? In an interview filmed on November 17, 2023, analyst and linguist Titilayo Ogundele joins the National Committee to discuss the impact of Xi’s visit and what we can expect to happen in the bilateral relationship.

China’s Press Under Xi Jinping Thought (November 22, 2023, China Media Project)
State media coverage of a ceremony yesterday to honor the recipients of China’s most prestigious journalism awards makes clear that the most prized asset in China’s press is control.

China’s enormous surveillance state is still growing (November 23, 2023, The Economist) (subscription required)
Officials argue that such measures protect the public. China’s abundance of cctv cameras, many equipped with facial-recognition technology, “leave criminals with nowhere to hide”, boasts the People’s Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece. Chinese people report feeling safe from violent crime, so there is merit to these claims. But the cameras also protect the party.

No Class War Please, We Are Communists (November 29, 2023, China Media Project)
The latest target in China’s ongoing – and seemingly never-ending – internet rectification campaign include content that “incites class antagonism.” How did a Communist Party that lived and breathed class struggle for decades get to this point?

How the U.S. courted the Philippines to thwart China (November 29, 2023, Reuters)
Manila-based political analyst Julio Amador III described the U.S. outreach as “unprecedented love-bombing” aimed at resetting the U.S.-Philippines relationship. Marcos’ predecessor, the populist firebrand Rodrigo Duterte, was openly hostile to the United States and attempted to bring his country closer to communist China during his six-year term.


Chinese Christianity Endures, Part 1: Studying the 18th-Century Church under Authoritarian Rule (November 17, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Following decades of what we now recognize as relative freedom, conditions for Christian flourishing in China today appear to be deteriorating dramatically. Religious policy in China’s “New Era” is reverting back to the ruling elite’s instinctive distrust of all religion (zongjiao 宗教) as heterodox—as demanding allegiance to an alternative authority that is not just politically, religiously, or even ideologically different, but ultimately culturally other.

When Less Is More (November 20, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
The measures that have caused the church to become less visible and less vocal are prompting Christians outside China to rethink how they hear from China’s church. Those who continue to rely on traditional sources of information risk becoming like the proverbial driver searching for their lost car keys under a lamppost because the light is better, while the keys sit undetected in a dark parking lot several meters away. 

China closing hundreds of mosques in northern regions, rights group says (November 21, 2023, The Guardian)
Chinese authorities have closed or altered hundreds of mosques in the northern regions of Ningxia and Gansu, homes to the highest Muslim populations in China after Xinjiang, as part of broader efforts to “sinicise” China’s religious minorities, according to a report.

J.O. Fraser and the Making of the Lisu Bible (November 22, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
In the remote mountains and ancient forests of China’s Nujiang Grand Canyon, near the Myanmar and Tibet borders in Yunnan province, live the Lisu people (傈僳族). One of the country’s 55 ethnic minorities, the community of about 900,000 is majority (80%) Christian, and the faith has been present among the people for over a century. The history of the sowing, germination, flowering, and fruiting of the gospel among the Lisu and the development of their written language trace back to the 1910s, with a missionary from England named James Outram Fraser.

Working Our “Initiate Conversation” Muscle (November 27, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Initiating a conversation after conflict can be difficult for many of us; it is a muscle that needs to be exercised in order to grow stronger. Wang Jia’s story of how her father proactively approached her after an intense conflict illustrates the challenge and need for us to exercise this important muscle.

The Mountains are Shorter, Part 2 (November 29, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Here we examine two other pieces of the puzzle, namely, China’s changing bureaucracy and the advance of the surveillance state. Together these developments have dramatically altered the landscape for believers serving in China.

Society / Life

Across China, an Unseen Rural Workforce Is Shaping the Future of AI (November 24, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Data labeling jobs in rural areas are empowering women and the marginalized while also aiding poverty alleviation. But as advanced AI begins to eclipse traditional methods, the future demand for such human-driven jobs faces uncertainty.

Economics / Trade / Business

Pondering the BRI’s alleged new roads (November 24, 2023, East Asia Forum) Facing an uncertain future, another popular contemporary refrain is that the BRI is being rebooted. Beijing has shifted towards what analysts characterise as a ‘smaller, greener and more beautiful’ initiative featuring solar and wind power, ICT infrastructure and ports. As for the supposed geopolitical ambitions embodied within the BRI, the situation looks rather bleak for China with fewer heads of state attending the October 2023 BRI Forum.

West’s de-risking starts to bite China’s prospects (November 27, 2023, Reuters)
Foreign investors have been sour on China for most of this year, but data released over the past month has provided clear evidence of the negative impact de-risking strategies are having on the world’s second-largest economy. 


Surge in Chinese Students Using AI for Academic Edge: New Survey (November 22, 2023, Sixth Tone)
While many students admit to utilizing AI for learning and creativity, a majority also expressed concerns over risks of unfair competition, misinformation, and copyright breaches.

Can U.S.-China Student Exchanges Survive Geopolitics? (November 28, 2023, The New York Times) (subscription required)
The flow of students between the countries has been a mainstay of their relationship, even when ties have soured. Now these exchanges, too, are under threat.

The Rise and Fall of Confucius Institutes in the US (November 28, 2023, The Diplomat)
Will the controversial Chinese government-funded programs rise again under another name?

Health / Environment

Moderna begins work on China mRNA manufacturing site (November 27, 2023, Reuters)
U.S. vaccine maker Moderna began construction of its first facility in China this month to manufacture mRNA medicines, the company said on Tuesday. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine has yet to be approved in China, but the company said in July it had signed a deal with the city government of China’s financial hub Shanghai to work towards opportunities for it to research, develop and manufacture mRNA medicines in the country.

Child respiratory sickness overloads China’s paediatric clinics – reports (November 29, 2023, The Guardian)
A surge in respiratory illnesses in China, particularly among children, has reportedly swamped paediatric units in city hospitals, while authorities have urged calm, attributing it to a post-lockdown wave of illness. Many hospital wards are full, according to state and other media reports in China.

Travel / Food

Chinese celebrity chef offends China for third time with egg fried rice video (November 29, 2023, The Guardian)
A Chinese celebrity chef has apologised after he was accused of insulting the memory of Mao Zedong’s son by posting a video about how to cook egg fried rice. Wang Gang, who has more than 3.3 million followers on Weibo and more than 2 million on YouTube, faced a torrent of criticism by viewers who accused him of deliberately publishing his cooking tutorial around the anniversary of the death of Mao Anying as an act of mockery.

Language / Language Learning

The Toe-Curling World of Awkward Chinese Internet Slang (November 29, 2023, The World of Chinese)
From accidentally sending personal messages to work supervisors to being forced to perform in front of elderly relatives at a family gathering, no matter what Chinese netizens feel uncomfortable about, there’s a phrase to describe the depths of their despair.

Links for Researchers

Humanism, a Modest Existential Threat to Xi Jinping’s Ideological Security State (China Heritage)
This following discussion of frustrated humanism and the abiding spirit of decency that is not suborned by narrow politics, marks Robert Daly’s comments on Xi Jinping’s China off from the pelagic vastness of much of the flotsam and jetsam produced by China watchers, analysts, academics, and pontificators of all persuasions. 


Online Course: Helping Your Friend Thrive in China (Thriving Turtles)
Each year thousands of students come from China to study in Australia. Some of them will respond to the gospel. Two out of three will return home to China within five years. Sadly 50-80% of those who become Christians will studying overseas will abandon their faith within a year of returning. This course will examine the issues that cause returnees to believe that Jesus has no place in their lives in China. We will look at some strategies to change this as well as some practical things that can be done. This course should take around 6-8 hours total over a two week period. This course does not include live video conferences or webinars. It contains a variety of other activities including (written) discussion forums. You should plan to do some work on the course each day, but you are free to work in your own time. There are no real-time components to the course.
Course dates: 22 Jan – 2 Feb 2024: 
Early Bird closes 12 Jan: 
Registrations close 19 Jan
Course fee: Early Bird $35AUD Regular $40AUD

Online Course: Discipling People With a Chinese Worldview (Thriving Turtles)
We spend a lot of time sowing the seed of God’s word into the lives of students. We want to see it take deep root, build a firm foundation and change lives. However, so often we find that things get lost in translation. We struggle to know how to apply scripture in a way that brings deep conviction and life-changing understanding.  This course builds on the culture values and distance course to unpack key aspects of traditional Chinese thinking, religion and worldview and consider ways these can be addressed in ministry. This course is 10 hours over a two week period. This course does not include live video conferences or webinars. It contains a variety of other activities including (written) discussion forums. You should plan to do some work on the course each day, but you are free to work in your own time. There are no real-time components to the course. This course is at the intermediate level so we recommend you have taken a foundation level course or have some previous background before taking this course. 
Course fee: Early Bird $45AUD Regular $50AUD
Course dates: 22 Jan – 2 Feb 2024: 
Early Bird closes 12 Jan: 
Registrations close 19 Jan

Pray for China

December 2 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
Zhang Guotao (张国焘先生) was a founding member of the Chinese Communist Party and a leading figure for many years before losing a power struggle to Mao Zedong during the Long March. He then defected to the Nationalist government, but moved to Hong Kong after the Civil War ended in 1949. He and his wife Yang Zilie (杨子烈女士) moved to Canada in 1968; the year before Zhang’s death, they were visited twice by old acquaintances—acclaimed Christian scholar Zhang Lisheng (章力生先生) and his wife Guo Lingyi (郭令宜女士). On the second visit, Zhang Guotao and Yang Zilie were baptized into the Christian faith. Zhang died on Dec. 3, 1979. Pray for China’s current leaders to learn as the king of mighty Assyria did—to repent and humbly accept that God’s ways are right and just. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Jonah 3:6

A Prayer Calendar for Advent (November 28, 2023, ChinaSource)
We are excited to offer an Advent calendar, to help believers across the globe join together in asking for God’s mercy and thanking him for his blessings on Christians in China. Each day includes either an intercessory item or a praise item to focus on. You can use it in your personal or family devotional time or with a small group. In addition, please share this calendar with others in your network who are passionate about prayer.
Download the full Advent Calendar
Download the printer-friendly version

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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