ZGBriefs | October 3, 2019

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Featured Article

An app in exile  (September 26, 2019, World)
In July, a 6-year-old Chinese Bible app called WeDevote marked a major milestone: 10 million installations. With its slick design, respect for copyrights, and curated Bible reading plans and devotionals, WeDevote stands apart from other Bible applications for smartphones and tablets available in China.

Sponsored Link

Religion in China Today: Back to the Center of State and Society
A presentation featuring Beijing-based, Pulitzer Prize winner 
Ian Johnson
Tuesday, October 29, 2019, 6:30 p.m.
​Regents' Hall – Lewis Towers, Loyola University Chicago
111 East Pearson St., Chicago, IL

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

China needs strong leadership or will 'crumble,' policy paper says  (September 26, 2019, Reuters)
China’s cabinet news office said in a white paper that the country’s success since the Communists took power 70 years ago was down to the party’s leadership.

Death of Chinese activist in police custody prompts calls for investigation into torture  (September 27, 2019, The Guardian)
Wang Meiyu, 38, was detained in July after he stood outside the Hunan provincial police department holding a sign that called on Xi and Chinese premier Li Keqiang to resign and implement universal suffrage in China. He was later charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a vague offence often given to dissidents.

A Birthday Letter to the People’s Republic  (September 28, 2019, China File)
I am writing to you from a foreign land in a foreign tongue, with a body that used to be inside yours. This is not to be a short message, where a simple “Happy Birthday” would suffice. I am writing to you to rewind time, to shift space, to bridge oceans; to touch the severed cord, and to trace the knotty ties.

'They don't understand Hong Kong': clash of ideologies looms on China's 70th anniversary  (September 29, 2019, The Guardian)
Analysts say a catastrophic confrontation is inevitable, because the crisis is essentially the manifestation of a clash of political ideologies.

Special Report: China quietly doubles troop levels in Hong Kong, envoys say  (September 30, 2019, Reuters)
Three of the envoys said the contingent of Chinese military personnel in Hong Kong had more than doubled in size since the protests began. They estimated the number of military personnel is now between 10,000 and 12,000, up from 3,000 to 5,000 in the months before the reinforcement.

China anniversary: How the Communist Party runs the country  (September 30, 2019, BBC)
As the People's Republic of China celebrates its 70th anniversary, we look at what role the party plays and how it runs China.

At 70, People's Republic Of China Faces Economic And Political Headwinds  (September 30, 2019, NPR)
Domestically, structural economic challenges are accumulating. China's economy is growing at its slowest pace in nearly 30 years — exacerbated in no small measure by a recalcitrant trade war with the United States and a swine flu epidemic that has caused prices of pork to soar.

The PRC Just Reached the Average Age of China’s Past Dynasties  (September 30, 2019, China Channel)
If history tells that tense times lead to in-fighting at court, it also teaches that any cracks in the Emperor’s armor tend not to bode well for the people. Dynastial change and challenge has historically come with loss of public life.

In photos: China celebrates 70th National Day  (October 1, 2019, CNN)

China celebrates 70 years of People’s Republic – in pictures  (October 1, 2019, The Guardian)

In Pictures: China marks 70th anniversary of the founding of People's Republic of China with military parade  (October 1, 2019, South China Morning Post)

In Pictures: China’s National Day Parade Features Pomp and Artillery  (October 1, 2019, The New York Times)

China's Communist Party marks 70th anniversary of its rule with military parade (video) (October 1, 2019, Washington Post, via YouTube)

China's Ambassador To U.S. Reflects On 70 Years Of Communist Party Rule  (October 1, 2019, NPR)
"We have had our own setbacks over the years," Cui Tiankai tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "But generally speaking, as a whole, we have gradually found a path for China's development that works for China."

Xi Jinping Is the Life and Soul of the Party  (October 1, 2019, Foreign Policy)
Within China, Xi’s ascendency has triggered the frenetic construction of the intellectual and ideological scaffolding needed to support the leader’s grandiose ambitions for both his leadership and their country.

China’s Neo-Maoist Moment  (October 1, 2019, Foreign Affairs)
Yet Xi has revived the methods and symbols of Maoism not in service of a return to the past but in order to advance his own transformative agenda, one that seeks to ensure that all political, social, and economic activity within, and increasingly outside of, China serves the interests of the CCP.

China’s Global Message: We Are Tough but Not Threatening  (October 2, 2019, The New York Times)
With the parade and policies like the militarization of the South China Sea, Mr. Xi and other Communist Party leaders want to tell the world: We are ready to fight and to seize or protect what we deem is ours. They want to show that China is not the same nation they say was humiliated by European powers and Japan from the 19th to 20th centuries.

5 Bad Things in China’s Future (and 3 Good Ones)  (October 2, 2019, Foreign Policy)
For outside observers, the question of China’s future political trajectory remains paramount. It may continue to slide toward totalitarianism—or perhaps pull back toward the kind of limited liberalism it seemed to be moving toward in the 2000s. While the record of analysts in predicting such paradigmatic changes is abysmal—thanks as much to authoritarian opacity as to our own epistemic shortcomings—imagining possible futures is critical to how the rest of the world deals with China.

Hong Kong protest: City reels from 'one of its most violent days'  (October 2, 2019, BBC)
An 18-year-old protester was shot in the chest with a live bullet – one of six live rounds fired by police. Protesters – some armed with poles, petrol bombs and other projectiles – fought pitched battles with police in several parts of Hong Kong. In all police made 269 arrests, more than on any day since protests began.


An app in exile  (September 26, 2019, World)
WeDevote is China’s most popular Bible app, but Communist officials keep trying to shut it out of the country.

Threescore and Ten Years: A Special October 1st National Day  (September 30, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
Many of the socio-economic indicators which show China’s progress in the last 70 years have assisted the growth of churches. Changes such as increased literacy and education levels, greater ease of transportation, and easier communication have been positive for the spread of the gospel among Chinese society. Today there are flourishing websites, chat groups, cellphone apps, and other means for sharing Christian content and teaching. 

Cults and the Rural Church  (October 1, 2019, Chinese Church Voices)
This article from China Christian Daily describes the threat of cults in China today, noting that many rural areas are especially at risk for false teaching. The danger of cults, says the author, cannot be taken lightly.

Yachen Gar Demolition Has Displaced As Many as 6,000 Monks and Nuns  (October 1, 2019, Radio Free Asia)
China’s ongoing demolition at the Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist center in Sichuan province has removed “five to six thousand homes” and led to the eviction of a similar number of monks and nuns, a source in the region told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday.

4 Key Factors Influencing Cultural Adjustment and Retention of Chinese Missionaries  (October 2, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
Twelve major themes emerged from his research and interviews with Chinese workers. However, in this post, I will only highlight what Laughlin calls the “four key conclusions” of his study.

Society / Life

Documentary: My American Surrogate  (September 24, 2019, The New York Times)
Qiqi is among the growing number of entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the surge of foreign couples — in her case, from China — looking not just to have their babies in this country, but also to find American women to carry those babies to term. 

Barred From Owning Land, Rural Chinese Miss Spoils of Country’s Success  (September 26, 2019, The New York Times)
Lack of ownership means farmers cannot buy, sell or rent plots to create economically viable larger tracts, or use the land as collateral for loans, limiting their ability to raise capital. And while they can leave the land to work in cities, their lack of property rights means they cannot use the land help finance their new lives.

The Last Shepherds of Qilian  (September 27, 2019, Sixth Tone)
In 2017, Gansu and Qinghai provinces announced plans to create a 50,000-square-kilometer national park, Mount Qilian National Park, to better protect local wildlife. The new park’s boundary cuts right through the middle of Bianma Village, Ma’s hometown.

Are China’s grandparents reaching their limits on free childcare?  (September 28, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Millions of Chinese children are raised by their grandparents but some seniors are demanding compensation.

Aerial Footage Shows Shanghai’s 16 Districts  (September 29, 2019, Sixth Tone)
In honor of the PRC’s 70th anniversary celebrations, Shanghai released a new video capturing aerial views of all 16 of its districts.

Face of China: the retro appeal of Chairman Mao – in pictures  (September 30, 2019, The Guardian)
Many in China may prefer to forget the chaotic and bloody decades under the rule of Chairman Mao Zedong, but 70 years after he founded the People’s Republic his face is on memorabilia in shops across the country. The Great Helmsman has had a kitsch makeover, appearing on everything from posters, fans and ornaments to mugs and plates.

Fugitive on run for 17 years found living in cave by a drone  (September 30, 2019, BBC)
Chinese police have arrested a fugitive who'd been on the run for 17 years, after they used drones to spot his cave hideout. The 63-year old, named Song Jiang by the police, had been jailed for trafficking women and children but escaped from a prison camp in 2002. He had been living in a tiny cave cut off from human interaction for years.

San Francisco tour guide charged with carrying U.S. secrets to China  (September 30, 2019, Reuters)
A San Francisco tour guide has been charged with being an agent of the Chinese government, accused of picking up U.S. national security secrets from furtive locations and delivering them cloak and dagger style to Beijing, federal prosecutors said on Monday.

The Rich Off-Roaders Riding to the Rescue Across Rural China  (October 1, 2019, Sixth Tone)
China’s off-road enthusiasts style themselves as selfless knights in shining, four-wheeled armor, but others take a less charitable view.

Economics / Trade / Business

Will The Trade Conflict Confound China’s Ambitions?  (September 30, 2019, Carnegie-Tsinghua)
China’s economy faces uncertainty and choppy waters in the years ahead, a trend that the trade conflict with the United States seems likely to deepen.

China’s Path Forward Is Getting Bumpy  (October 1, 2019, The Atlantic)
The Khorgos Gateway was once touted as one of the most ambitious projects in the Belt and Road Initiative, but it has come to represent the limits of Beijing’s global push.

Samsung ends mobile phone production in China  (October 2, 2019, Reuters)
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has ended mobile telephone production in China, it said on Wednesday, hurt by intensifying competition from domestic rivals in the world’s biggest smartphone market.


The Problem with China’s PhD Programs? They’re All Academic  (September 25, 2019, Sixth Tone)
Given the country’s grim academic job market, universities are doing their doctoral students a disservice by not preparing them for life outside the ivory tower.

Seeking excellence: Why Chinese students choose the UK for higher education  (October 1, 2019, Asia Dialogue)
Universities need to realise that international students are not in the UK simply in order to build their CVs. Their aspirations towards excellence also apply to other aspects of their university education, notably their desire for broader experiences and self-building. 

Science / Technology

This Is China's New Spacecraft to Take Astronauts to the Moon (Photos)  (October 2, 2019, Space.com)
China is developing a next-generation spacecraft for human spaceflight that would allow astronauts to travel to the moon and other deep-space destinations. 

History / Culture

A Brief History of Beijing's Oct 1 Parades  (September 30, 2019, The Beijinger)

70 years of the People's Republic of China in five graphics  (October 1, 2019, CNN)

This Is What China Looked Like 70 Years Ago  (October 1, 2019, Buzzfeed)
In 1949, Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People's Republic of China, ushering in 70 years of massive social and political upheaval under communist rule.

Mao Zedong proclaims the establishment of the People's Republic of China – archive, 1949  (October 1, 2019, The Guardian)
Yesterday was an epoch-making occasion in the history of Asia, with Mao Tse-tung, chairman of the Central People’s Government Council of the People’s Republic of China, formally proclaiming the inauguration of the new regime. 

Travel / Food

Chinese Takeout: A Bite of New York Chinatown’s Oldest Dim Sum Parlor  (September 26, 2019, Radii China)
From morning until night, Nom Wah Tea Parlor serves dim sum in a quaint, diner-like setting, replete with mahogany red banquettes and waiter service. The establishment has changed hands several times over the course of more than a century, but its popularity has never waned, even as dim sum joints continue to saturate New York City. 

Confucius in Qufu  (September 29, 2019, The World of Chinese)
Though Confucius defined the course of Chinese society for the last two millennia, Confucian scholars are still debating if his beliefs count as a life philosophy or a religion. Due to this mix of lore and reality, following in the footsteps of this master can be a bit tricky, but there is no better place to begin than in his hometown of Qufu (曲阜).

Next stop: Croatia. Chinese travellers skip Hong Kong for niche destinations over National Day break  (September 30, 2019, South China Morning Post)
Chartered flights and niche destinations such as Croatia and Malta are growing in popularity as Hong Kong falls out of favour with mainland Chinese holidaymakers over the National Day “golden week” break.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway: China’s Road Through the Sky  (October 2, 2019, Wild China Blog)
For those that did want to make the journey, flying was generally the only option. However, due to air travel’s low capacity and high cost, tourism in this remote corner of China was, largely, prohibitive. That is, until the Qinghai-Tibet Railway was constructed in 2006, transforming Tibet’s travel industry – and wanderlusters – forever.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

LISTEN: China in 70 Songs  (September 30, 2019, Radii China)
Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, RADII contributor Krish Raghav has put together a remarkable playlist of a song (or two) for each year of the country’s existence.

Chinese Moviegoers Flock to Patriotic Films on National Day  (October 2, 2019, Radii China)
But throughout the rest of the country, citizens sat down to enjoy a different kind of show: Party-approved patriotic cinema. A trio of films exploring Chinese officially-sanctioned national themes earned a total of 646 million RMB (90.3 million USD) on Tuesday, the day of their official debut.

Links for Researchers

Confucius Institutes and the Corporate Sector: An Emerging Avenue for Chinese Communist Party Foreign Influence?  (September 26, 2019 China Brief)
Although seemingly innocuous and even beneficial to some businesses and their employees, these interactions present a new set of risks and challenges for governments, educators, parents and others concerned about the potential negative consequences of growing Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence in their schools, economies, and political systems.

Image credit:  Joann Pittman

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 of Northwestern-St. Paul …View Full Bio