ZGBriefs | September 7, 2023

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Featured Article

Is China’s economy a ‘ticking time bomb’? (September 1, 2023, BBC)
The past six months has brought a stream of bad news for China’s economy: slow growth, record youth unemployment, low foreign investment, weak exports and currency, and a property sector in crisis. US President Joe Biden described the world’s second-largest economy as “a ticking time bomb”, predicting growing discontent in the country.  

Government / Politics / Foreign Affairs

Xi to skip G20 summit in India, China to send Li instead (September 4, 2023, Reuters)
Premier Li Qiang will lead China’s delegation at a G20 summit in New Delhi this weekend, China’s foreign ministry said on Monday, indicating President Xi Jinping would not attend and scuppering chances of a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden there. The Sept. 9-10 summit had been seen as a venue for a possible meeting between Xi and Biden, who has confirmed his attendance in New Delhi, following months of efforts by the two powers to stabilise ties frayed by trade and geopolitical tensions.

The Chinese 2023 map has nothing new. But why are China’s neighbours mad about it? (September 5, 2023, Global Voices)
China’s newly launched 2023 edition of the standard map has infuriated its neighbouring countries. The map is consistent with China’s previous claims, which have extended its jurisdiction over disputed areas along India and Russia’s borders and in the South China Sea. However, this time, countries in South and Southeast Asia are more vocal in speaking out against China’s territorial claims. Thus far, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Indonesia have made strong public statements regarding the map.

‘Is China running the UN?’ (September 5, 2023, The China Project)
No — but it is dictating the UN’s Taiwan policy, argues Chris Horton from Taipei. And he has the faxes to prove it.

China’s Economic Pain Is a Test of Xi’s Fixation With Control (September 6, 2023, The New York Times) (subscription required)
The slowdown is posing perhaps the most sustained challenge to President Xi Jinping’s agenda in over a decade in power. He now faces a tangle of difficult choices.

China warns against ‘new Cold War’ at ASEAN summit (September 6, 2023, Reuters)
Chinese Premier Li Qiang said on Wednesday it is important to avoid a “new Cold War” when dealing with conflicts between countries as world leaders gathered in Indonesia amid sharpening geopolitical rivalries across the Indo-Pacific region. Speaking at an annual summit involving members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, Japan and South Korea, Li said countries needed to “appropriately handle differences and disputes”.

Three Years in, Hong Kong’s National Security Law Has Entrenched a New Status Quo (September 6, 2023, China File)
The NSL has depressed virtually all aspects of political life in Hong Kong since its inception in July 2020. Authorities have forced once-vibrant pro-democracy political parties to shut down, leaving Hong Kong’s legislature bereft of opposition figures for the first time in its history.

Old Friends of the Chinese People (September 6, 2023, China Media Project)
This term, first emerging under Mao Zedong in the 1950s, is frequently used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to pay tribute to foreigners seen as having been amiable to China, and beneficial to the interests of the Party.


China Issues New Requirements for Religious Groups (August 31, 2023, VOA News)
The Administrative Measures for Religious Activity Venues requires religious venues to “support the leadership of the CCP, support the socialist system, and thoroughly implement Xi Jinping’s new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The new rules prohibit organizations and individuals from using religious venues to endanger national security or to disrupt social order, public interests or citizens’ legal rights, among other activities.

A Sacred Space (September 4, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
Spiritual companionship, an ancient practice involving deep listening and discerning the movement of the Spirit in a sacred space, is not only a way to examine a life that is worth living, but also a life reflecting the glory of God as the image bearer. In essence, it is a crucial path for Christian discipleship and spiritual formation.

Don’t Just Preach, Disciple: Family Foundations (September 4, 2023, China Partnership Blog)
Gu Junqing grew up in a Christian family and came to believe in the Lord at an early age. This is the fifth and final part of his story, and Gu talks about how he says many Chinese Christians enthusiastically sharing the gospel, but are lacking follow-up and discipleship. To build a strong faith, he believes churches need to bring the focus to teaching people how to study God’s Word. He also thinks discipling and strengthening Christian families should be a strong priority.

Jonathan Goforth – The Missionary With A Difference (September 5, 2023, Field Partner)
The challenging element in Goforth’s life is that he was never satisfied with less than the best that the Lord had prepared for him. Though he and his wife went to China in 1888 as traditional missionaries, he was not satisfied with the normal missionary model. He soon found a need for short-term trips as an evangelist. Instead of staying in one place and establishing a church and mission station, he travelled to different regions of China helping to encourage the believers and evangelise the lost.

Chinese Communist Party promotes atheism, but many members still partake in religious customs (September 5, 2023, Pew Research)
Some 6% of CCP members formally identify with a religion such as Buddhism, Christianity, Islam or Taoism. This is nearly on par with the 10% of Chinese adults who are not party members, according to the 2018 Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS) – one of several academic surveys examined in the Center’s new analysis.

Flood Victims Aided by Chinese Believers (September 6, 2023, Chinese Church Voices)
China has recently endured consecutive devastating floods. Many families have been shattered, and children swept away by the raging waters, leaving people displaced. However, amidst this hardship, we have witnessed the unwavering spirit of mutual assistance among brothers and sisters. Let us gain insight through the reporting of China Christian Daily into how the Chinese churches, despite their limited resources and capabilities, have extended a helping hand to the disaster-stricken.

The Last Minarets of Yunnan (September 6, 2023, Foreign Affairs)
In late May, thousands of Hui Muslims clashed with local police in the town of Nagu in China’s southwestern Yunnan Province. They were protesting the government’s plan to demolish the dome and minarets of the Najiaying mosque, a structure originally built in the fourteenth century. The mosques of Najiaying and nearby Shadian have stood as relics of the Chinese state’s past tolerance of Islam and Muslims in Yunnan.

Society / Life

China to Its People: Spies Are Everywhere, Help Us Catch Them (September 2, 2023, The New York Times) (subscription required)
As Beijing tries to enlist the “whole of society” to guard against foreign enemies, the line between vigilance and paranoia fades.

In China, WeChat Is Blurring Workplace Boundaries — Especially for Women (September 5, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Women have long been under pressure to act in certain ways in the workplace: dress well, wear full makeup, and never challenge their male peers. Nowadays, that pressure often extends to social media. As one of my interviewees noted, “It’s tiring enough having to behave like a meek woman at work, but now I’m hunted down on WeChat and have to carry on performing there.”

Chinese construction workers accused of plowing a hole through the Great Wall (September 5, 2023, NPR)
Two Chinese construction workers looking for a shortcut last month destroyed part of the country’s Great Wall by driving heavy machinery through it, authorities say. A 38-year-old man named Zheng and a 55-year-old woman named Wang caused “irreversible damage” when they used an excavator to widen a gap in the wall on Aug. 24, according to a press release from the Youyu County Public Security Bureau.

Tens of thousands evacuated in China amid rain from waning Typhoon Haikui (September 6, 2023, Al Jazeera)
Relentless rain from the remnants of Typhoon Haikui has swamped southeastern China, forcing cities in Fujian province to close schools, halt public transport and evacuate tens of thousands of people. The rain broke 12-year-old records in the provincial capital of Fuzhou, weather officials said on Wednesday, prompting warnings that 49 reservoirs had exceeded flood limits.

Young Chinese Are Signaling Burnout — With Quirky Profile Photos (September 6, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Using memes and anime, profile photos have become the new canvas for Chinese youth, serving as both an outlet for their frustrations and subtle resistance against the pressures of work culture.

Economics / Trade / Business

Part of China’s economic miracle was a mirage. Reality check is next  (September 5, 2023, China News)
The failure to restructure the world’s second-largest economy has raised critical questions about what comes next for China. While many analysts see a slow drift towards Japan-style stagnation as the most likely outcome, there is also the prospect of a more severe crunch.

Health / Environment

Gain and Pain: The Problem of China’s Expanding Waistline (September 6, 2023, Sixth Tone)
Almost half of the country’s population is now overweight or obese, according to a comprehensive study that factors in gender, geography, and GDP.

Science / Technology

China bans government officials from using iPhones for work, Wall Street Journal reports (September 6, 2023, Reuters)
China ordered officials at central government agencies not to use Apple’s iPhones and other foreign-branded devices for work or bring them into the office, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter. […] The ban comes ahead of an Apple (AAPL.O) event next week that analysts believe will be about launching a new line of iPhones, and could trigger concerns among foreign companies operating in China as Sino-U.S. tensions escalate.

Travel / Food

Where to Eat in Chengdu (August 8, 2023, Wild China)
As with all self-respecting Chengdu residents, Alice has a penchant for gastronomy, indulging in all ranges of food and drink, and rarely saying no to anything, from the peculiar to the extra spicy. Here’s her round up of where to eat in Chengdu, ranging from Michelin-star Sichuan tasting menus to hole-in-the-wall “fly restaurants“.

Arts / Entertainment / Media

Chinese developer Country Garden reports $6.7bn loss amid fears of another Evergrande (August 30, 2023, The Guardian)
Embattled Chinese developer Country Garden reported a 48.9bn yuan ($6.7bn) loss for the first half of the year in a stock exchange filing on Wednesday, adding to worries of a potentially catastrophic default. Its tenuous state has sparked fears of a collapse that could have far-reaching consequences for the Chinese financial system two years after the fall of Evergrande.

Language / Language Learning

神学词汇—A Tool for Translators (September 1, 2023, ChinaSource Blog)
A theological student I knew years ago was confused as to why the lives of 俄利根 and 奥利金, seemingly two different individuals, seemed so similar. Of course, it turned out that these were two different Chinese names for the same church father—Origen of Alexandria. This is just one example of why I got involved in developing Shenxuecihui.com—a tool to help standardize Chinese translations of theological terms and names.


Three Books (and One Band) That Explain Northeast China (August 25, 2023, Sixth Tone)
This year’s streaming hit “The Long Season” is a good place to start, but here are three other stories — and one band — worth a look if you want a deeper understanding of what makes China’s rust belt tick.

A hedonistic portrait of Old Beijing (August 31, 2023, The China Project) (registration required)
British scholar John Blofeld arrived in Beijing in 1934, in his early twenties, seeking aesthetic and sensual pleasures. Nearly three decades later, he wrote “City of Lingering Splendour,” recounting an “Old Peking” saturated in the final vestiges of its luxurious imperial past.

Protestant Missionaries in China: Robert Morrison and Early Sinology (University of Notre Dame Press)
With a focus on Robert Morrison, Protestant Missionaries in China evaluates the role of nineteenth-century British missionaries in the early development of the cross-cultural relationship between China and the English-speaking world.

Pray for China

September 8 (Pray for China: A Walk Through History)
People from the tiny Derong (独龙族) nationality first came to Christ in 1935 under the ministry of Russell Morse and his wife Gertrude. Elijah (伊里亚), the first Derung pastor, became a Christian in 1943, graduated from an evangelism training center run by missionaries in 1951, and in Sept. 1986 was ordained. He served in a number of capacities in the registered church in Gongshan County before going to be with Lord in 1997. Pray that Christians in Gongshan and neighboring poor, remote, mountainous counties in Yunnan will receive sound Bible training and become mature disciples of the Lord Jesus.  Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2

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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