ZGBriefs | September 28, 2023

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Featured Article

Leading Chinese university becomes first to remove English requirements for students (September 22, 2023, South China Morning Post)
Xian Jiaotong University says students will no longer have to pass the College English Test to receive a place or to graduate. There is an ongoing debate about the use of such language tests, with some critics arguing that they are of limited practical value for many people in China.

Sponsored Link

Online Book Club (ERR China)
On November 1, Joann Pittman will facilitate an online book club discussion for ERRChina/CAC. The book is The Importance of Living, by Lin Yutang. Written in 1937, “Yutang’s prescription is the classic Chinese philosophy of life: Revere inaction as much as action, invoke humor to maintain a healthy attitude and never forget that there will always be plenty of fools around who are willing-indeed, eager-to be busy, to make themselves useful, and to exercise power while you bask in the simple joy of existence.” (Amazon description)

Click here to join the discussion on August 9, 2023 at 7:00pm (US CDT).

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 and Zambia: A New Chapter Beyond Debt? (September 22, 2023, The Diplomat)
The Zambian president’s visit to China moved the relationship beyond debt and reset to a focus on growth.

China coast guard deploys ‘floating barrier’ to cut off disputed South China Sea shoal (September 24, 2023, The Guardian)
The Philippines has accused China’s coast guard of installing a “floating barrier” in a disputed area of the South China Sea, saying it prevented Filipinos from entering and fishing in the area.

China goes on charm offensive at Asian Games, but doesn’t back down from regional confrontations (September 26, 2023, AP)
Signs around Hangzhou billed the city as a “paradise on earth” while China adopted the motto “heart to heart” for the Asian Games, which feature some 12,000 competitors – more than the summer Olympics – from across Asia and the Middle East.

Why Xi Jinping Doesn’t Trust His Own Military (September 26, 2023, Foreign Affairs)
Allowing the PLA a high degree of independence helps ensure its political compliance with Xi and the party, yet with no civilian checks and balances, it also creates the conditions for malfeasance and poor accountability to fester. Although the details of the recent purges are still murky, they reflect Xi’s lack of confidence in some of his most senior officers.


Building a Biblical Church: The Institution Is Not the Goal (September 21, 2023, China Partnership Blog)
Pastor Wu Jing continues this series, fleshing out why and how his congregation chose to become a part of a larger church institution. He also talks about how being a part of a more established confession impacted the daily life and practice of believers in his body.

From Despair to Hope (September 25, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
As I spent more time with my new Christian friends, I felt I could trust people again, the people who had put their faith and life in the only God. I decided to follow Jesus because of truth and love. Since then, it has been my mission to share the only hope with the people I grew up with and people like them. Amidst many tears and witnessing the wondrous works of the Holy Spirit, I rejoiced as a dozen members of my family found their way to Christ.

‘A jealous god’: China remakes religions in its own image (September 26, 2023, Al Jazeera)
Two people were allegedly detained by the Chinese authorities for organising a group pilgrimage from China to Mongolia in connection with the pope’s visit. Another group of Chinese Catholics made up excuses to enter Mongolia for the pope’s visit but were concerned about potential consequences. According to Liu, pressure is mounting on China’s Catholics who number as many as 10 million people in a country that is officially atheist.

Unveiling the Crisis of Chinese Youth: Involution, Unemployment, and the Power of Faith (September 27, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
From 2023 onwards, many scholarly observers of contemporary Chinese society have been paying attention to the approximately 20% unemployment rate among those aged 16-25. Recently some scholars have pointed out that if other unique features of post-pandemic Chinese society are combined with the youth phenomenon of “lying flat,”1m, then the youth unemployment rate reaches a jaw-dropping 46.5%. 

Society / Life

“Elderlies” in Their Thirties: The Growing Interest of Chinese Youth in Nursing Homes (September 22, 2023, Whats on Weibo)
Some Chinese nursing homes are evolving into sought-after havens where China’s younger people can “lie flat” without worrying about meals and household chores, while enjoying a high-quality lifestyle.

How Should We Care for Orphans in China? (September 22, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Over the years, we have published other reflections of adoptive parents and caregivers, as well as several book and film reviews looking at adoption from several different perspectives. We invite you to revisit this sensitive topic and to pray with us for orphans everywhere, listening for how God is calling each one of us to be his hands for these precious children.

The Young Chinese Workers Struggling to Make Social Security Contributions (September 22, 2023, The World of Chinese)
With a slumping job market, young workers agonize over whether to pay their social security contributions or risk trading security now for an uncertain future.

How Residents Are Rebuilding Shanghai’s Urban Communities (September 22, 2023, Sixth Tone)
In 2016, Shanghai became the first Chinese city to commit to the 15-minute city approach to urban planning. Increasingly popular around the world, the 15-minute city model seeks to ensure all residents can meet their everyday needs — groceries, work, and play — within a 15-minute walk of their homes. 

Podcast: Belt Tightening (September 26, 2023, Drum Tower)
China is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The global infrastructure project is a keystone of Xi Jinping’s foreign policy and he has lauded the huge economic benefits the scheme has brought to the world. But enthusiasm for BRI is fading at home.

‘One of the most troubling social policies of modern times’ (September 27, 2023, The China Project) (subscription required)
China enacted its one-child policy in 1980. It was met with wildly divergent opinions, and resulted in suffering and trauma on a scale that family planners never anticipated.

Economics / Trade / Business

Why China’s ‘miracle’ growth has slowed  (September 22, 2023, Christian Science Monitor)
Decades of rapid economic growth have made China a central player in the global economy. Now, the tide appears to be turning, but experts say the challenges China faces aren’t that new – nor are they insurmountable.

China just stopped exporting two minerals the world’s chipmakers need (September 22, 2023, CNN)
China produces about 80% of the world’s gallium and about 60% of germanium, according to the Critical Raw Materials Alliance, but it didn’t sell any of the elements on international markets last month, Chinese customs data released on Wednesday showed. In July, the country exported 5.15 metric tons of forged gallium products and 8.1 metric tons of forged germanium products.

China’s Economic Slowdown Was Inevitable (September 25, 2023, Foreign Affairs)
As China’s economy steadily grew in recent decades, its advocates championed the country as an antithesis—and an antidote—to liberal economics and politics. This argument seemed credible as China grew rapidly under an autocratic and economically statist system. At the same time, the United States—that beacon of Western democracy—was suffering from economic and political sclerosis.

Slowing, Graying and in Debt, Can China’s Industrial Heartland Be Revived? (September 26, 2023, The New York Times) (subscription required)
China, facing an economic slump, wants to make its industrial northeast more productive, turning to policies that some economists say have outlived their time.

Chair of China’s Evergrande reportedly put under police surveillance (September 27, 2023, The Guardian)
The chair of China’s Evergrande Group has reportedly been put under police surveillance as another missed bond payment casts further doubt over the future of the world’s most indebted property developer. Hui Ka Yan, who founded Evergrande in 1996, was taken away earlier this month and is being monitored at a designated location, according to Bloomberg.

China has poured billions into Africa’s infrastructure. Is it now tightening the tap? (September 27, 2023, CNN)
The impact of those funds is felt across Africa, where residents in major cities like Lagos, Nairobi and Addis Ababa now transit daily via railways, highways and airports built in recent years with Chinese loans and often by Chinese construction firms. Now, as the global infrastructure building spree enters its second decade there are questions about how Beijing will choose to direct the initiative in the years ahead – and whether it will downsize funding amid new challenges and signs of a recalibration.


“Good Morning, Class! I Am Not A Spy.” (September 21, 2023, China Digital Times)
A photo of an American teacher introducing himself to a Chinese university class with a slide presentation proclaiming, “I am not a spy” has gone viral, eliciting much mirth online. It also highlights an increasingly tense atmosphere in which suspicions of spying abound, teachers face being reported by their students for minor ideological infractions, and the Chinese government is attempting to mobilize the whole of society to fight espionage.

Language / Language Learning

Listen more than once: How the replay button can help you learn more Chinese (September 26, 2023, Hacking Chinese)
Understanding spoken Chinese is more complex than most people realise, and listening to the same audio more than once is helpful in many ways. For example, it lowers the difficulty and increases the range of listening material you can access. It also allows you to review and consolidate what you already know while freeing up your mental capacity to deal with new things.

Living Cross-culturally

Two Prayers For You And Your Host Culture (September 5, 2023, Global Trellis)
We’ve created two prayers when it comes to culture: one for old hands and one for those new to a culture. At the bottom of this post you can get a downloadable version of each for you to use on a prayer walk, keep in your Bible, or hang in your home. 


Podcast: Ian Johnson on “Sparks,” his new book on China’s underground historians (September 21, 2023, Sinica Podcast)
This week on Sinica, Pulitzer Prize–winning veteran journalist Ian Johnson, now a senior China fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, joins Kaiser to discuss his new book, “Sparks: China’s Underground Historians and Their Battle for the Future.”

‘Thunder Out of China’: One of the most popular WWII books of all time (September 21, 2023, The China Project) (subscription required)
Annalee Jacoby and Teddy White were in their early twenties — yet already accomplished war correspondents — when they arrived in Chongqing. Their reportage from China’s wartime capital was immediately popular with the reading public, and has largely withstood the test of time.

Global Citizenship: The Whole World is My Country (Overseas Ministries Study Center)
British Quaker Nigel Dower in An Introduction to Global Citizenship (Edinburgh University Press), makes a compelling case for Christians to embrace a global identity. Dower writes about three components of global citizenship

Links for Researchers

State Security Departments: The Birth Of China’s Nationwide State Security System (Deserepi)
China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) sits atop a national system of state security units, yet provincial-level state security agencies, a defining feature of China’s intelligence apparatus, have attracted little research. Provincial agencies are subordinate to the MSS but have their own origins, cultures, networks and priorities. Today, they are also particularly active in foreign operations. This paper documents the establishment of the first 14 provincial agencies to provide a foundation for analysing the state security system and the creation of the MSS. 

Pray for China

September 28 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
The birthday of Confucius (孔夫子) is celebrated on Sept. 28. Because Confucius (551-479 B.C.) lived in a time of political chaos, his teaching primarily focused on statecraft, e.g. that government is a matter of ethics not raw power. However, he also described the true relationship between God and man in these words from his Analects: “He who offends against Heaven [God] has none to whom he can pray,” and “Heaven [God] produced the virtue that is in me.” Pray for Christians to be constantly awed by the wonderful grace of God in saving us through Christ Jesus. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…Romans 3:23-24

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
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