ZGBriefs | September 26, 2019

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Featured Article

Zaha Hadid’s massive ‘starfish’ airport opens in Beijing  (September 25, 2019, The Guardian)
The new mega-airport, the second in Beijing, was designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid in the shape of a starfish with five connected concourses. It is said to be the world’s largest single-building airport terminal. At 700,000 sq metres, with four runways, it is expected to be able to handle 72 million passengers a year by 2025. 

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019, 6:30 p.m.
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Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Chinese journalists to be tested on loyalty to Xi Jinping  (September 20, 2019, The Guardian)
A notice from China’s media regulator has been sent to more than a dozen state-owned news organisations in Beijing over the last month. It instructs employees to prepare to take an exam on the “study Xi” propaganda app, launched earlier this year, in order to have their press credential renewed.

China Has A Lot At Stake As Attacks In Persian Gulf Rise  (September 20, 2019, NPR)
China is the world's largest importer of oil. It buys a lot of crude oil from Saudi Arabia and is investing heavily in Iran. So China is especially vulnerable to instability in the Middle East.

Photographer Captures a Sneak Peek of Dazzling Oct 1 Fireworks Display  (September 23, 2019, The Beijinger)
Beijing residents with a clear view of the Forbidden City were treated to a grand and unannounced firework show last night. The display, which began at around midnight Sunday, was a practice run of the firework show that will usher in the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China on Oct 1. 

Hong Kong’s long summer of discontent: A self-inflicted calamity  (September 23, 2019, Asia Dialogue)
While the intended effects have not materialised for the government, unintended ones have multiplied. An initially single-issue protest has transformed into a social movement.

Video Counters Beijing’s Xinjiang Narrative as Crackdown on Islam Spreads  (September 23, 2019, China Digital Times)
The Guardian’s Lily Kuo reports on recently emerged drone footage of hundreds of blindfolded and shackled prisoners being led from a train by police. The footage, which was posted on YouTube last week, is believed to have been taken in Xinjiang in August of last year.

Incarceration of Christians and Han Chinese in Xinjiang shows broad reach of forced indoctrination campaign  (September 24, 2019, Globe and Mail)
Chinese authorities are sending Christian Uyghurs and even members of the Han Chinese majority to internment camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, an indication that the regime’s indoctrination strategy is broader than previously understood.

Huawei CFO fighting U.S. extradition says her rights were violated  (September 24, 2019, Reuters)
Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou returned to a Vancouver court on Tuesday as her lawyers argued that Canadian authorities abused their powers and violated her rights to gather evidence against her, a claim the government denies.

China 70th anniversary: Pigeon ban and lockdowns as countdown begins  (September 24, 2019, BBC)
One week from now, the People's Republic of China will mark its 70th anniversary with celebrations on a scale not seen in China in decades. Beijing is pulling out all stops and 1 October will be flush with fireworks, fanfare and a huge military parade. To ensure it goes smoothly, authorities have been ramping up security in the capital – and online – for weeks.

‘Freedom is in our mind’: Why Hong Kong protests are still escalating  (September 24, 2019, Christian Science Monitor)
Hong Kong’s government has withdrawn the bill that first sparked protests last spring. But to pro-democracy protesters, that’s not the same thing as being heard – and many are willing to push the envelope until they are.

Iraq to join China’s Belt and Road project  (September 24, 2019, Asia Times)
Iraq will join China’s signature “Belt and Road” infrastructure investment project, the country’s prime minister said Monday in Beijing. Adel Abdel Mahdi made the announcement in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a state visit.

China Wants the World to Stay Silent on Muslim Camps. It’s Succeeding.  (September 25, 2019, The New York Times)
Backed by its diplomatic and economic might, China has largely succeeded in quashing criticism. Chinese officials have convinced countries to support Beijing publicly on the issue, most notably Muslim ones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They have played to the discord within the West over China. And they have waged an aggressive campaign to prevent discussion of Xinjiang at the United Nations.

China warns US that Hong Kong bill to support democracy ‘will harm American interests’  (September 25, 2019, South China Morning Post)
It came after Trump said in a speech at the UN General Assembly  in New York on Tuesday that his government was “carefully monitoring” the situation in Hong Kong, where months of protests have continued to see violent clashes between demonstrators and local police.


A Crackdown on Islam Is Spreading Across China  (September 21, 2019, The New York Times)
This campaign represents the newest front in the Chinese Communist Party’s sweeping rollback of individual religious freedoms, after decades of relative openness that allowed more moderate forms of Islam to blossom. The harsh crackdown on Muslims that began with the Uighurs in Xinjiang is spreading to more regions and more groups.

As Church Growth Slows  (September 24, 2019, Chinese Church Voices)
In recent years, one can clearly feel church growth weaken and slowly lose its energy. Some churches are even showing signs of stagnation and shrinkage. Similar to what I have observed in the church I pastor, the sudden change in overall church direction—slower growth, or even stagnation and shrinkage—are primarily caused by the following difficulties:  

Doors Are Still Open: With an Appropriate Approach  (September 25, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
It’s never easy to give up a well-developed career for a new adventure. I moved out of my comfort zone due to a keen desire to be part of an experiment explring a new way of delivering the gospel holistically in China. God’s bountiful grace has enabled our team to progress fruitfully, one step at a time, through reflections in the realms of the pragmatic, the spiritual, and the biblical.

Determined to Press On, Part 1  (September 25, 2019, China Partnership Blog)
There is uncertainty about the future in China. We don’t know what the future is. These days a lot of people are asking: what is happening in China? There are three things we are facing.

Society / Life

Vessel-shaped 'supertall' skyscraper transforms Beijing's skyline  (September 18, 2019, CNN)
In an era of resurgent national confidence in China, it's of little surprise that the capital's showpiece skyscraper takes its design cues from the country's past. The shape is based on a "zun" — a type of wine vessel, rich in symbolic and ritual significance, that dates back to the bronze age (in fact, the building is known locally as "China Zun").

Closing My Curtains for Xi Jinping and His Grand Parade  (September 23, 2019, The New York Times)
Since early September, the authorities have placed my entire neighborhood, not far from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, on lockdown. Roads are blocked, and the internet has slowed to a crawl. Security officers pat me down every time I enter my apartment building, morning and night.

Zhejiang Family Marries, Divorces 23 Times To Scam Government  (September 24, 2019, Sixth Tone)
The office overseeing an urban village renovation project in the city of Lishui reported the case to the local police last Thursday, saying the family of a patriarch surnamed Pan had been gaming the project’s proposed compensation scheme through an excessive number of marriages and divorces over a period of just two weeks.

Tigers Advance and Farmers Retreat in China’s Northeast  (September 25, 2019, Sixth Tone)
China is taking action to protect its Siberian tigers. But can it do so without endangering the livelihoods of local communities?

How I Got to Know China’s Left-Behind Children  (September 25, 2019, Sixth Tone)
Rural children who grow up apart from their families in the countryside are often stereotyped as shy and emotionally fragile, but this doesn’t tell the whole story.

Chinese ride-hailing company Didi makes stars of its Communist Party drivers  (September 25, 2019, South China Morning Post)
China’s largest ride-hailing company, Didi Chuxing , has launched a branding initiative that allows drivers who are Communist Party members to publicise their membership through its app and on their car’s dashboard. The company, China’s equivalent of Uber, said in a social media article on Friday that the Red Flag Steering Wheel programme was launched for drivers to promote the virtues of party membership.

Court Harnesses the Social Power of WeChat to Shame Debtors  (September 25, 2019, Sixth Tone)
A mini program available through Tencent’s ubiquitous social app targets the friends and family of loan defaulters, hoping to humiliate the latter into paying up.

Economics / Trade / Business

China to send state officials to 100 private firms including Alibaba  (September 23, 2019, Reuters)
China’s top technology hub Hangzhou plans to assign government officials to work with 100 private companies including e-commerce giant Alibaba, according to state media reports, in a move likely to raise concerns over the growing role of the state.

Life in China Is Getting Harder, and Xi Jinping Should Worry  (September 23, 2019, Bloomberg)
Many people spoke of the increased difficulty of getting by day-to-day while avoiding open criticism of the government, which could lead to more trouble in a nation that regularly locks up dissidents. And right now, perhaps nothing is a bigger source of discontent than rising pork prices.

China buys about 10 cargoes of U.S. soybeans after trade talks  (September 23, 2019, Reuters)
The deals for about 600,000 tonnes, slated for shipment from Pacific Northwest export terminals from October to December, were similar in size to a wave of buying earlier this month, two traders with direct knowledge of the deals said.

Can money buy silence? International firms feel the pressure from Beijing during Hong Kong’s political crisis  (September 24, 2019, Asia Dialogue)
As Beijing stiffened its control of the crisis in Hong Kong, multinational corporations were compelled to choose between respect for human rights and company profits.


Chinese city offers 400 teachers US$39,500 a year in bid to attract best graduates  (September 20, 2019, South China Morning Post)
A recruitment advertisement offering schoolteachers in southern China the chance to earn up to 280,000 yuan (US$39,500) a year – more than three times the industry average – has sparked a massive response on social media.

Are Chinese And Western Perspectives Incompatible In Our Post-Truth Times?  (September 24, 2019, Sup China)
We make much ado of “building bridges” and “deepening understanding” between China and the West. But this is easier said than done. Increasingly, we are being reminded that it’s not different values that clash, but different realities.

Health / Environment

Recycling Drive Divides China’s ‘Plastic Kingdom’  (September 19, 2019, Sixth Tone)
When China began implementing sweeping new recycling policies this summer, many plastics firms foresaw challenging times ahead. But for Zhejiang Jiuyuan Plastic Company, business has never been better.

The Dementia Campaigners Getting Communities Involved in Care  (September 21, 2019, Sixth Tone)
As the number of people living with dementia in China soars, campaigners argue that communities need to share the burden of care.

Science / Technology

Revealed: how TikTok censors videos that do not please Beijing  (September 25, 2019, The Guardian)
TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned social network, instructs its moderators to censor videos that mention Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or the banned religious group Falun Gong, according to leaked documents detailing the site’s moderation guidelines.

History / Culture

The Father of Modern China Was Inspired by Lincoln, Not Marx  (September 23, 2019, China Channel)
Dr Sun Yatsen was not a follower of Karl Marx – whose theories of government have shaped China’s modern state – but neither was he a proponent of the liberal theories of Adam Smith or John Stuart Mill. Rather than pick an extreme on the political left or right, Sun Yatsen instead found himself firmly grounded in the moral philosophy of both Confucius and an American inspiration: Abraham Lincoln.

Newly released color footage: the military parade in Beijing on the day of founding of PRC, Oct. 1st, 1949. Filmed by Russian Journalist.  (September 21, 2019, Tong Bingxue, via Twitter)

Airview of color Beijing, 1949, by USSR journalist, a clip from a recent documentary by Russian TV.  (September 25, 2019, Tong Bingxue, via Twitter)

Travel / Food

How China is using tourists to realise its geopolitical goals  (September 19, 2019, East Asia Forum)
Two factors make regulating tourist flows tempting for Chinese policymakers: the size of its international tourism industry and the control China can still exercise over outward tourism. But whether tourism has been an effective political tool is debated.

A Farewell to Nanyuan, China’s Oldest Airport  (September 24, 2019, Radii China)
Beijing has changed from a backward, impoverished imperial capital to a hopeful, forward-looking international metropolis. Nanyuan, however, was phased out as this transformation took place.

These Chinese vloggers are changing how China’s rising middle class sees Africa  (September 24, 2019, Quartz)
Molly says, “I knew that China’s mostly state-ran mainstream media offered a very simplistic, sometimes biased view of the continent, but I had not realized the extent to which it affected everyday people’s opinions.” It was then that she decided that she was going to share her experiences on the continent to show the Africa most Chinese people do not get to see.

Video: Inside Beijing's new mega-airport  (September 2019, CNN)
CNN's David Culver tours the new starfish-shaped Daxing airport, boasting customer service robots and a terminal the size of 97 soccer fields. 

Living Cross-culturally

Those Were the Good Old Days, Right?  (September 23, 2019, ChinaSource Blog)
But, what I especially realized as I read Rachel Kleppen’s article, "Netflix Is Making It Harder to Be a Missionary," was the extent to which we did not have to face the struggles she talks about. While she writes about Netflix putting a damper on doing the “work of incarnation,” we could barely find anything to watch on our 12” rabbit-eared, black and white TV, especially not in a language we could understand in those days.


Peter Waller’s Lost Hong Kong  (September 25, 2019, China Rhyming)
This new book – drawing upon images from a wide range of sources, many of which are previously unpublished – is a pictorial tribute to this lost Hong Kong. Once familiar but now long-gone scenes are recorded, offering a tantalising glimpse back at an era which in chronological terms may be relatively recent, but given the rapidity of change, seems like a distant age.

Links for Researchers

Obstacles to Excellence: Academic Freedom & China’s Quest for World Class Universities  (September 24, 2019, Scholars at Risk Network)
Drawing on academic literature, legislative and regulatory texts, media, human rights reports, interviews with Chinese and foreign experts, and data from SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project, Obstacles to Excellence identifies pressures and threats to academic freedom in China and where China has extraterritorial academic connections,

Image credit: Wikimedia
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