ZGBriefs | September 30, 2021

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Featured Article

China’s Housing Bubble Puts All Other Housing Bubbles to Shame (September 27, 2021, Bloomberg)
When playing word association with China’s economy right now, some phrases spring to mind that may seem unfair: pyramid scheme, house of cards, Jenga tower with half the pieces missing, intoxicated teenager on stilts. But two terms that do not come to mind, and absolutely should not, are “stable” and “sustainable.” 

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

China won’t open up after lockdown anytime soon (September 26, 2021, East Asia Forum)
If China is to shift towards a post-pandemic normal, it will have to accept a greater likelihood of community transmissions than is presently the case. There is no indication that such a scenario is presently acceptable to the Chinese government.

China’s President Xi Jinping warns of ‘grim’ Taiwan situation in letter to opposition (September 26, 2021, NBC News)
In Xi’s letter, a copy of which was released by the KMT, he said both parties had had “good interactions” based on their joint opposition to Taiwan independence. “At present, the situation in the Taiwan Strait is complex and grim. All the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation must work together with one heart and go forward together,” wrote Xi, who is also head of the Communist Party. He expressed hope that both parties could cooperate on “seeking peace in the Taiwan Strait, seeking national reunification and seeking national revitalisation.”

How the Huawei Case Raised Fears of ‘Hostage Diplomacy’ by China (September 28, 2021, The New York Times) (subscription required)
The near-simultaneous release of the two Canadians and two Americans, some senior officials in Washington believe, was designed to make this look like a political decision by the Biden administration, despite its protestations — not the independent judgment of prosecutors that the White House insists was at play. 

Western Expats Are No Longer Safe in China (September 28, 2021, Foreign Policy)
In releasing Kovrig and Spavor, Beijing effectively admitted that the charges were trumped up and that the men had been held as bargaining chips.

China lets US siblings return home after three years (September 28, 2021, BBC)
Two American siblings banned from leaving China for the last three years have been allowed to go home. Cynthia and Victor Liu, along with their mother, were accused of “economic crimes” while on a visit to China. They said Chinese authorities restricted them to lure their father back to face fraud charges.

How Could the U.S. Deter Military Conflict in the Taiwan Strait? A ChinaFile Conversation (September 28, 2021, China File)
In our last Conversation on Taiwan, ChinaFile contributors debated whether the People’s Republic of China could or would wage war on Taiwan. This week, we asked contributors about deterrents—tactics to reduce tension and lessen the possibility of conflict. What might those deterrents look like, and how effective would they be?


The Success Trap: Imitation and Idolatry (September 23, 2021, China Partnership Blog)
Here, a Chinese pastor answers an audience question about the temptation to pursue and worship a successful life, a common idolatry trap for urban Christians in China.

Churches Celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival (September 28, 2021, Chinese Church Voices)
Last week Chinese communities throughout China and abroad celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival, eating mooncakes and admiring the full harvest moon. China Christian Daily tells of three churches that joined the celebrations during the month.

Christianity and the State—Dispelling a Myth (September 29, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
Embedded in today’s evangelical China narratives, particularly the narrative of the persecuted church, is the assumption that regime change will inevitably bring about greater openness for the gospel in China. Since it is the atheistic Communist Party that is responsible for the harsh repression of the church, it follows that Christians will be free to live out their faith once the Party is no longer in power.

The Political Dimension of the Gospel (The Center for House Church Theology)
However, while the house churches in China have traditionally sought to avoid the topic of politics, Gao Hang points out an important reality that cannot be circumvented: the church’s very existence is by nature a political existence, even more so in Communist China.

Society / Life

China Calls for Greater Gender Equality in Work, Politics, and Home (September 28, 2021, Sixth Tone)
China’s Cabinet, the State Council, on Monday unveiled the new 10-year plan for the development of women. The document encompasses nearly 200 goals and supportive measures — including new and revised ones — to advance women’s rights over the coming decade, spanning areas including health, education, and work.

China’s social credit system is actually quite boring (September 29, 2021, MERICS)
A supposedly Orwellian system is fragmented, localized, and mostly targeted at businesses, says Vincent Brussee.

Shanghai releases new report on returnee entrepreneurs (September 29, 2021, China Daily)
Shanghai-based startups founded by Chinese entrepreneurs returning from overseas showed high levels of development and growth, strong competitiveness, and high integration with the municipality, according to a report released by the Shanghai Municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau on Wednesday.

Economics / Trade / Business

How bad is China’s energy crisis? (September 29, 2021, The Guardian)
The situation is widespread. In recent days, factories in 20 of China’s 31 provinces have suffered a loss of power, forcing many to shut down production, at least for hours at a time. Millions of households in the north-east of the country have also lost power and found that they cannot use electricity to heat or light their homes.

China’s Belt and Road plans losing momentum as opposition, debt mount -study (September 29, 2021, Reuters)
But Xi’s “project of the century” is now facing major challenges and significant backlashes abroad, according to a study by AidData, a research lab at the College of William and Mary in the United States. “A growing number of policymakers in low- and middle-income countries are mothballing high profile BRI projects because of overpricing, corruption and debt sustainability concerns,” said Brad Parks, one of the study’s authors.


The casualties of China’s education crackdown (September 22, 2021, Tech Crunch)
What we are seeing now is widespread scrambling for all involved: parents re-drafting their plans for their children’s educational futures, educators moving underground, and edtech entrepreneurs trying desperately to overhaul their firms’ business models before burning through their limited time and capital. The economic forces of supply and demand around education have changed little. The question now is how regulation is redirecting those forces.

China’s Tutoring Sector Faces Massive Layoffs and Shakeups (September 27, 2021, Sixth Tone)
The New Oriental Education and Technology Group plans to dismiss over 40,000 staff by the end of the year and scrap its entire tutoring business targeting primary and middle school students, the media outlet reported Friday, citing an internal company meeting from mid-September.

Health / Environment

China to clamp down on abortions for ‘non-medical purposes’ (September 27, 2021, The Guardian)
The Chinese government announced on Monday that it would seek to reduce abortions for “non-medical reasons” – a move seen as being in line with its attempts to accelerate birthrates. Government guidelines did not provide detail on what constitutes a non-medical abortion.

China has built a 5,000-room quarantine center for overseas arrivals. It could be the first of many(September 29, 2021, CNN)
Comprised of rows of three-story buildings topped with gray roofs in traditional Chinese style, the massive complex spans an area the size of 46 football fields and took less than three months to be built from scratch on the outskirts of the city. It will replace designated hotels located throughout Guangzhou to quarantine Chinese and international travelers arriving from overseas — a move aimed at reducing residents’ exposure to imported cases.

History / Culture

Video: China in 1980 (Everyday Life in Maoist China)

The Woman Who Became a Goddess (September 27, 2021, Sixth Tone)
According to tradition, Lin Mo — better known as Mazu — was born on Meizhou Island, not far from Quanzhou in Fujian province, in the second half of the 10th century. She possessed divine powers, which she used to grant villagers’ prayers for rain and rescue those in trouble at sea. It was one such rescue attempt that took her life, leading locals to erect a temple in her honor.

2,572nd birthday of Confucius commemorated in Shandong (September 28, 2021, China Daily)
A ceremony was held on Tuesday morning to commemorate the 2,572nd birthday of Confucius in Qufu of Jining city, Shandong province, the home province of the great Chinese thinker. People can also log on to a cloud platform launched by Jining to pay respects to Confucius. Confucius temples across China — including those in Beijing, Shanghai, and the provinces of Zhejiang, Hunan and Sichuan — also held ceremonies in recent days to remember the sage.

Travel / Food

The Garlic Hangover (September 28, 2021, Sinosplice)
After a Saturday night of delicious Mongolian hot pot (涮羊肉) particularly heavy on the garlic, I had that familiar feeling when I woke up in the morning: my whole mouth reeked of garlic, and even my tongue itself felt and tasted like a marinated chunk of garlicky meat. […] The thought came to me: this is a garlic hangover. 

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Here’s 6 Documentaries on Modern China You Need to Watch (December 28, 2021, Radii China)
It’s simply not possible to talk about China’s independent documentary scene without mentioning director Du Haibin. Born in 1972 in Shaanxi province, Northwest China, Du started working in documentary filmmaking and creative photography in 1998.

Cartoons and children’s shows are next on the chopping block in China’s entertainment crackdown(September 28, 2021, CNN)
Comic and animation fans in China were in for a nasty shock this weekend as authorities turned their crackdown on the entertainment industry to yet another target. The National Radio and Television Administration, the country’s broadcasting authority, announced late Friday that it would ban cartoons and other TV shows primarily produced for children that contain any mention of violence, blood, vulgarity or pornography.

Language / Language Learning

New expressions for karaoke: the phoneticization of Chinese (September 25, 2021, Language Log)
Namely, due to the exigencies of modern technology and communications, the phoneticization of Chinese writing is inevitable.  It is happening before our very eyes (and ears).

How China Adopted Western Punctuation (September 29, 2021, The World of Chinese)
But the current system of punctuation is actually a modern invention that only emerged in the 20th century, when Chinese reformers began adopting Western writing norms. Prior to that, China had its own sparse system of punctuation, but before the Song dynasty (960 – 1279), most writing in Chinese used no punctuation at all.


Zen Existentialism (Revisited) (September 20, 2021, Global China Center
Once a believer in Eastern religions, the author and Chinese scholar Lit-sen Chang turned from his old faith and embraced Christianity. He writes this work post conversion to persuade Westerners in particular to reject the folly of Eastern religions in favor of the Christian gospel.

Christian Women and Modern China: A Book Review (September 27, 2021, ChinaSource Blog)
The book interested me precisely because it deals with women’s contributions to the church in China. Ma delves into the lives of Chinese Protestant women by unapologetically placing them front and center in the historical narrative. Women, like the ones mentioned in her book, are still serving China’s church.1

‘China’s Search for a Modern Identity Has Entered a New and Perilous Phase’ (September 23, 2021, China File)
I wrote Coming Alive at a time of hope, new beginnings, new friendships (with America, Japan, and Europe), and a healing of old wounds. I finished China Coup at a time of disillusion, broken trust, and benign engagement turned to suspicion and hostility. China’s search for a modern identity has entered a new and perilous phase in which there will be a crisis, which may bring chaos, or—just possibly—a new and better political order.

Links for Researchers

White Paper: China’s Epic Journey from Poverty to Prosperity (September 28, 2021, State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China)

Pray for China

September 30 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
On Sept. 30, 1866, Hudson Taylor (戴德生) & 17 other missionaries arrived in Shanghai to expand the work of the newly formed China Inland Mission. The CIM’s goal of rapid evangelization led to the adoption of practices then unusual in China missions—including dressing Chinese-style, sending single women unaccompanied to remote posts, having no guaranteed salaries, and making no appeals for funds other than by praying to the Lord. During the 1900 Boxer Uprising, CIM lost more missionaries than any other agency, but by the time of Taylor’s death in 1905 CIM had the most missionaries in China (825) and could claim 25,000 converts. A decade later, it was the largest missionary organization in the world. Pray for Chinese missionaries to apply Taylor’s spiritual secret of abiding in Christ. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

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