ZGBriefs | September 10, 2020

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Featured Article

China doubles down against foreign teachers spreading Christianity  (September 6, 2020, South China Morning Post)
New regulations underscore ban against unauthorised promotion of religion in the classroom and require new overseas hires to complete 20 hours of study on the country’s political system. Authorities are closing what little space there was to discuss the Bible and faith, observers and insiders say.

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New Issue of the ChinaSource Quarterly: China’s Registered Church: One Body, One Spirit, One Hope
As Brent Fulton points out, we often gloss over the “vibrant dimensions of Christian life” evident in so many registered churches. We hope that the articles in this issue serve to open the doors a bit wider to see what God is doing.

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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China’s Second-generation Ethnic Policies Are Already Here  (September 7, 2020, Made in China Journal)
In his recent analysis of the situation in Inner Mongolia, Chrisopher Atwood (2020) ties the government’s response there to the so-called ‘second-generation ethnic policies’ (第二代民族政策). Earlier events in Qinghai, Xinjiang, and the TAR also seem to emerge from this new approach, thus prompting the question: what are these second-generation ethnic policies?

China and India accuse each other of firing shots as border tensions escalate  (September 8, 2020, CNN)
The incident is reportedly the first time shots have been fired along the Sino-Indian border in more than four decades, but both sides have blamed the other for violating bilateral agreements and taking “provocative” actions.

Cheng Lei: China says journalist ‘endangered national security’  (September 8, 2020, BBC)
An Australian journalist detained in China for weeks is being held on national security grounds, China has said. Cheng Lei, a presenter for China Global Television Network (CGTN), is suspected of “criminal activity endangering China’s national security”. She has been detained since 14 August.

How China’s strained relationship with foreign media unravelled  (September 9, 2020, The Guardian)
The treatment of Birtles, Smith and Cheng under the guise of “national security” has also added to fears Beijing had broken a silent contract to at least give the appearance of respecting the freedom of foreign press and was now willing to not only expel people, but also use them as bargaining chips in hostage diplomacy.

China-EU relations: Liu He set to promote Beijing’s global data security initiative at Thursday’s talks (September 9, 2020, South China Morning Post)
Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He is expected to promote Beijing’s new global data security initiative when he meets a senior European Commission (EC) official on Thursday in a bid to counter Washington’s efforts to curb Chinese tech around the world.

Anger in China as doctor who died of Covid-19 omitted from citizen awards  (September 9, 2020, The Guardian)
In a lavish ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, recognised a select group of citizens for their contributions to the country’s fight against Covid-19 and praised his party’s resilience when faced with such “an extraordinary and historic test”.

U.S. has canceled more than 1,000 visas for Chinese nationals deemed security risks  (September 9, 2020, Reuters)
The acting head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, said earlier that Washington was blocking visas “for certain Chinese graduate students and researchers with ties to China’s military fusion strategy to prevent them from stealing and otherwise appropriating sensitive research.”


5 Thoughts on How the Church Grows  (September 7, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
However, by comparing these results with those of the 2007 “Spiritual Life Study of Chinese Residents” and the report in the “Blue Book of Religion 2010,”2 I can put forward the following five propositions for consideration.

Opening the Doors a Bit Wider (September 7, 2020, ChinaSource Quarterly)
The Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). This is the name of the Chinese government oversight agency for Protestant churches. It is also the name that refers to those Protestant churches that have registered with and report to the government. Also, as I discovered in many conversations with “Three-Self” pastors, it is a name that causes them difficulties. 

The Three-Self Patriotic Movement: Divergent Perspectives and Grassroots Realities  (September 7, 2020, ChinaSource Quarterly)
Why do Chinese Christians today hold such starkly different views of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) association and its official churches? Are the TSPM and its churches “compromised,” as some house church leaders claim? To answer these questions, it helps to return to the origins of the Three-Self idea, sketch how Communist victory led to the creation of the Three-Self association, and look at how grassroots official churches operate today.

New Media and the Church: How WeChat Changes the Dynamics between the Registered Church and Other Believers  (September 7, 2020, ChinaSource Quarterly)
When all of China’s churches were suddenly shutting their doors and adjusting to non-gathered worship, legality, geography, and size were not the only factors that determined their individual experiences. The church’s willingness and adaptability to using new media for the work and mission of the church also played a significant role.

The 996 Work Culture  (September 8, 2020, Chinese Church Voices)
China is a busy place. That’s admittedly an understatement, especially to people who have traveled to or lived in China’s urban areas. As China’s economy has grown, demands on the labor force have grown as well. Today it is almost expected that workers will work long hours and often six days a week. China’s hectic and fast-paced work culture has earned the unflattering moniker “996.” To help readers understand 996 work culture, Li Lujun in the TSPM journal Tianfeng unravels the 996 work schedule and shares how Christians ought to respond.

Society / Life

China’s widening divide  (September 3, 2020, Mercator Institute for Chinese Studies)

Beijing’s promise of “moderate prosperity” holds more for urban than rural areas, says Mayya Solonina. The pandemic has only increased disparities between town and country.   

Tianjin Cracks Down on Condos for the Dead  (September 3, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Resembling an ordinary apartment complex, Jing’an Cemetery had been operating as a popular but illegal business for the last decade.

China’s birth rate problems underlined as Ningbo projects 27 per cent drop in newborns for 2020  (September 8, 2020, South China Morning Post)
One of the most populous cities on China’s east coast predicts that the number of local births will plummet by 27 per cent this year from 2019, further signalling that the country is facing a demographic crisis.

‘Sit, Eat, Wait for Death’: Life in the Shenzhen Sticks  (September 8, 2020, Sixth Tone)
The migrant workers at the Sanhe job markets have a motto: “Work for a day, party for three.” As romantic as it sounds, the reality is many would rather be almost anywhere else.

China Wants Marriage Registration to Be ‘More Ceremonial’  (September 9, 2020, Sixth Tone)
According to a guideline jointly published Wednesday by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the All-China Women’s Federation, obtaining marriage registration certificates — usually done at local civil affairs bureaus — should become “more ceremonial” by including rituals such as exchanging vows in the presence of prominent citizens or government officials as witnesses. Previously, couples only needed to file an application and provide other essential documents in person, with no witnesses required.

Economics / Trade / Business

U.S. readies bans on cotton, tomato imports from China’s Xinjiang  (September 8, 2020, Reuters)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have prepared orders to block imports of cotton and tomato products from China’s western region of Xinjiang over accusations of forced labor, though a formal announcement has been delayed.

Xinjiang: US to block key exports from Chinese region  (September 9, 2020, BBC)
The proposed bans include cotton and tomato products which are two of China’s major commodity exports. […] The proposed bans could have a far-reaching impact for US retailers, clothes makers and food producers. China produces about 20% of the world’s cotton with most of it coming from Xinjiang. 


Chinese students face increased scrutiny at US airports  (September 5, 2020, BBC)
As the US tightens its scrutiny of Chinese nationals over espionage concerns, screening selected departing Chinese students and researchers appears to be Washington’s new measure to counter economic espionage. Some of the students’ electronic devices were taken away for further examination and not returned for weeks.

Health / Environment

China unveils tighter coronavirus testing rules for travellers from the US  (September 5, 2020, South China Morning Post)
From September 15, all passengers will have to provide negative coronavirus test results within three days –rather than the previous two weeks – of the flight to be allowed to board, according to the Chinese embassy in Washington. […] Foreigners will also have to send the results of the nucleic acid test, a health declaration and copies of their passport to the embassy or a consulate for review, a process that should take one working day, the embassy said on Friday.

China shows off Covid-19 vaccines for first time  (September 7, 2020, AFP)
China has put its homegrown coronavirus vaccines on display for the first time, as the country where the contagion was discovered looks to shape the narrative surrounding the pandemic. China has put its homegrown coronavirus vaccines on display for the first time, as the country where the contagion was discovered looks to shape the narrative surrounding the pandemic. 

Experimental COVID-19 Vaccines Given to Hundreds of Thousands of Chinese  (September 8, 2020, Sixth Tone)
Medical workers, border inspectors, members of the military, staff at transport hubs, and Huawei employees have all had access to domestically developed vaccines that are still undergoing clinical trials.

Science / Technology

Forget TikTok. China’s Powerhouse App Is WeChat, and Its Power Is Sweeping.  (September 4, 2020, The New York Times)
A vital connection for the Chinese diaspora, the app has also become a global conduit of Chinese state propaganda, surveillance and intimidation. The United States has proposed banning it.

History / Culture

Solar Terms 101: Collect White Dew and Stay Hydrated During Autumn Dryness  (September 7, 2020, The Beijinger)
The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 节气 jiéqì solar terms based on seasonal changes and natural phenomenon. They play an important role in guiding agricultural activities, even to this day. But even city-dwellers like us can enjoy them. Each solar term has its own associated customs, traditions, and even recipes.

600 Years and 24 Emperors Later, Forbidden City Celebrates a Milestone  (September 9, 2020, The Beijinger)
The Forbidden City turns 600 this year. Over one million laborers toiled 14 years to build the palace for the Yongle Emperor [r. 1402-1424] of the Ming Dynasty, completing construction in December 1420. 

Travel / Food

Great Wall: get to know China’s most iconic structure  (September 1, 2020, Lonely Planet)
Cloaked in legend and mystique, the Great Wall of China crosses mountains, grasslands and desert on its tireless course across what used to be China’s northern frontier.

Beijing opens its skies to international flights  (September 3, 2020, Christian Science Monitor)
For the first time since March, travelers from designated countries can fly to Beijing. China has gone weeks without new cases of local infections of COVID-19. Elsewhere across Asia, numbers continue to spike in India and South Korea reports a new surge.

The world’s longest glass-bottomed bridge just opened in China  (September 4, 2020, Matador Network)
A 1,726-foot-long bridge was completed by the Architectural Design & Research Institute of Zhejiang University in the Huangchuan Three Gorges Scenic Area of southern China. The bridge, which spans the Lianjiang River, has officially been recognized by Guinness World Records as the longest glass-bottomed bridge in the world.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

What Do Chinese Viewers Think of Disney’s “Mulan” Remake?  (September 5, 2020, Radii China)
The reviews for the latest Disney “Mulan” release are in and Chinese netizens are not impressed by the performances or the film’s plot.

Disney criticised for filming Mulan in China’s Xinjiang province  (September 7, 2020, BBC)
Disney is under fire for shooting its new film Mulan in parts of China where the government is accused of serious human rights abuses. The final credits thank a government security agency in Xinjiang province, where about 1m people – mostly Muslim Uighurs – are thought to be detained.

Over 160 rights groups call on IOC chief to revoke 2022 Beijing Winter Games  (September 9, 2020, Reuters)
It is the largest coordinated effort following several months of similar calls from individual rights groups, and comes as Beijing is facing increased international backlash over policies including its treatment of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang and new security laws in Hong Kong.

Living Cross-culturally

In Exile—Still Learning  (September 4, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
But in the midst of chaos—with no return date in sight, anti-Chinese attitudes all around us, friends who we love sick or dying on both continents—how do we live as story-formed exiles?

No Language Requirement  (September 9, 2020, ChinaSource Blog)
From my first moment in worship services outside the US I have loved to hear people pray in their heart language. It always hits me—as the ever-struggling language student—that God understands what they’re saying. My faith is strengthened by hearing people call out to God in faith, cry (yes, with tears) for something, praise him, beg him, thank him for I know not what. How had he made himself real to them?


Understanding World Christianity: China: A Book Review  (September 7, 2020, ChinaSource Quarterly)
Understanding World Christianity: China is not a magnum opus, in the sense of a paradigm-shifting argument for which a scholar comes to be known. Instead, it represents a lifetime of service, listening, and observation, bringing out the multi-perspectival essentials of Chinese Christianity, and presenting the complex web of discoveries in a concise and clear format. Chan deftly manages details with panoramic scope and provides thoughtful analysis of many key issues in Chinese Christianity today. His own quotation of a veteran Sinologist talking about watching China is an appropriate conclusion: “Expect the unexpected.”

Links for Researchers

HAI Fellow Shazeda Ahmed: Understanding China’s Social Credit System (August 31, 2020, Stanford University)
In her role as a Stanford HAI and Center for International Security and Cooperation fellow, she’s specifically examining how technology firms and the Chinese government are constructing China’s social credit system, the initiative to build databases and information sharing procedures that monitor the behavior of individuals, corporations, legal institutions, and government representatives, with the end goal of building a society where those individuals and corporations follow the law. 

Nationality /  (September 4, 2020, Made in China Journal)
Modern China has inherited not only a large territory but also many ethnic groups from the Manchu Qing Empire it overthrew in 1912. How to ‘stretch the short, tight, skin of the nation over the gigantic body of the empire’ has been a question confronting both the successive governments of the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Pray for China

September 11, 2020 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Sept. 11, 1953, missionary John G. Magee (马吉) passed away. In 1937 he took films and photos documenting the horrors of the Nanjing Massacre (南京大屠杀), and he was credited with saving thousands from being killed. Pray for the Prince of Peace to be glorified by those who lives have been transformed in Nanjing through His atoning death. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. Acts 5:41-42.

Image credit: Rex Pe, via Flickr
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