Category Archives: chinese culture

Slumping Marriage Numbers

A Chinese couple holding their marriage certificates pose for photos in a sunflower field in Beijing on July 9, 2021. Photo: AFP / Jade Gao

China’s slumping marriage numbers and declining birth rates have prompted Beijing to boost its recent pro-birth policies with new measures aimed at promoting marriage and deterring divorce.

Statistics show marriage and parenthood are losing their appeal with China’s Y and Z generations and Millennials. Only eight million marriages were registered in the world’s most populous nation in 2020.

This is about one-third lower than 2013’s peak of 13.47 million and is down 12.2% year-on-year, according to the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs, the state body that maintains a national register of marital changes.  

The rising tendency towards postponing marriage or forgoing it altogether in both genders is in line with key findings from China’s latest population census last year. The census revealed a fast-aging demographic with fewer newborns and a shrinking labor force. 

After loosening its childbearing policy in June to allow each couple to have as many as three children, up from a previous revision up to two, Beijing is now finalizing plans to promote wedlock to increase baby making, starting by making marriage easier and cheaper. 

Read more at “China making marriage easier, divorce harder”

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Relativity Research Association

Members of the Beijing Relativity Research Association. From Weibo.

Opposing Einstein and his relativity theory may look like a strange core business for a group banned as a xie jiao (“heterodox teaching”) or a “cult” in China. But in fact the Beijing Relativity Research Association (北京相对论研究联谊会) was, in its own way, a serious organization, with branches in 38 cities and provinces. It was banned on July 2, called a xie jiao by the CCP media, and all its provincial and local branches were raided by the police starting on June 30, with several members taken to local police stations.

Anti-relativity was an officially encouraged activity in Chairman Mao’s China, when Einstein’s theories were denounced as the epitome of “bourgeois science.” Mentioning that Lenin and Stalin sponsored Soviet scientists had also been critical of Einstein, some CCP members such as Zhou Yuhua, a professor of mathematics in a junior high school in Hunan, lobbied the Chinese Academy of Science to ban relativity as opposed to Marxist dialectical materialism in the 1960s.

They were initially ridiculed by the academic scientists, but gained the support of a circle close to Chairman Mao, including Mao’s son-in-law, Kong Linghua, and the Chairman’s former secretary and trusted adviser, Chen Boda. During the Cultural Revolution, mainline physicists were largely purged, and the anti-relativity movement was endorsed by the Red Guards. It was also seen as a weapon against Zhou Enlai, who was an admirer of Einstein and had tried to stop the movement.

Read more at “Anti-Einstein Relativity Research Association Banned As a Cult”

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Failed Propaganda

The persecution of religious minorities in China is a deadly serious affair, but the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) propaganda abroad sometimes looks more like a comedy. We at Bitter Winter were ourselves involved in a bizarre series of events, which can be read as a spy story but also as a piece of old-time vaudeville.

First, we should introduce the main characters. If you are reading this article, you probably know what Bitter Winter is all about. The respected American Protestant magazine World once called us “a thorn in the side” of the CCP. To remove the thorn, the CCP has arrested 45 of our reporters in China. It has also mobilized its fellow travelers in the West to attack us whenever possible.

If you read Bitter Winter, you also know the CCP, but most probably you don’t know a minor Belgian fellow traveler of that Party, a Belgian called Roland Delcourt, who is married to a Chinese and has been living in Shenzhen for “at least 20 years.” He gives interviews and writes propaganda letters in favor of the CCP that are published in the Chinese regime’s official organs, including the People’s Daily and the news agency Xinhua.

He is also a “cyber warrior” and posts on social media to defend the CCP, with a language that parrots, but goes beyond, the “wolf warrior” Chinese diplomats. For instance, he likes to play on the phonetic similarity between “Biden” and the French word “bidon” (phony), and calls the U.S. President, when he criticizes China, “a false democrat,” “the Yankee Gauleiter”, suggesting a comparison with “Nazi” war criminals, and “cholera” as Trump was the plague.

Read more at “False Documents Against Chinese Refugees and Bitter Winter”

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The “downward spiral” in United States-China relations has taken a new legal twist that threatens to further decouple the world’s two largest economies.

Not only is Beijing determined to frame this confrontation as one in which the US is the aggressor and China is merely defending itself, but in doing so it is developing and deploying the same tools that Washington has deployed.

This mirror imaging threatens to lock in a reflexive “tit-for-tat” dynamic that ensures the relationship deteriorates further.

China is aggrieved by a lengthening list of US actions intended to punish the country, its companies, or its leaders.

Chinese anger is also being directed elsewhere in the Western world, with Australia and the European Union also targeted for retribution.

Beijing is especially galled by America’s increasing resort to sanctions against Chinese entities and demands that third parties respect and enforce them worldwide. There is also irritation with US laws that mandate disclosure of information that China feels is best held close, such as audits of companies that aim to list on US stock exchanges.

Read more at “US-China tensions take an ominous legal turn”

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Wolf Warrior Diplomacy

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, one of the most notorious “wolf warrior diplomats.”

At a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo study meeting held on the afternoon of May 31, Xi Jinping instructed his colleagues that they must “tell a good Chinese story,” “propagate the voice of China,” ensure that China has an “international voice” that matches its “comprehensive national power and international status,” “grasp the right tone,” “be modest and humble,” “pay attention to the strategy and art of the ‘public opinion struggle,’” and “make Chinese discourse more persuasive.” This seems to indicate that the Chinese government has realized that “wolf warrior diplomacy” has placed China in a more difficult state of affairs on the international scene.

Consequently, Xi Jinping wants to make certain adjustments to China’s so-called “wolf warrior diplomacy.” However, it was Xi Jinping himself who initiated China’s wolf warrior diplomacy. It originated from Xi’s concepts of the self-confidence of a great power,” the Chinese model,” the Chinese plan,” and a community with a shared future for mankind.” Moreover, it was Xi himself who bolstered the Chinese public’s sense of nationalism as part of a strategy to further consolidate his power and increase his prestige.

Read more at “Why China’s Wolf Warrior Diplomacy Is Here to Stay”

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Religious Books Burned

The Kunming religious books bonfire.

Totalitarian regimes have a thing for burning books, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) joyfully burn dissident books and destroys other material not approved of by the regime.

In the festive climate of the 100th anniversary year of the CCP, it is recommended that this is done in public ceremonies to “educate the masses.”

To explain how these modern auto-da-fés should be organized, a “pilot” book-burning and DVD destroying ceremony was organized by the Ministry of Public Security in Kunming, Yunnan province, on July 16, in two locations.

The aim was to show how to publicly destroy illegal religious material, in this case coming mostly from Falun Gong and The Church of Almighty God.

Read more at “Religious Books Publicly Burned, DVDs Bulldozed in Yunnan”

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Parallel Genocides

The connecting link? Chen Quanguo went from Tibet to Xinjiang as CCP Secretary.

Professor Robert Barnett of the London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and King’s College is one of the most eminent living Tibetologists. He published in the “Asia Unbound” blog of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) a provocative article where he criticized those who claim that Tibetans are experiencing “similar abuses” to those vested on the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim populations in Xinjiang. He mentioned in particular claims advanced by German researcher Dr. Adrian Zenz and by politicians and scholars connected with the Tibetan administration in exile, supported by some Western colleagues. Some Tibetan activists took exception to Barnett’s article, and one asked the CFR to publish his rebuttal.

The controversy has been discussed in several international media, and deserves some comments. First, it is important to clarify what Barnett did not say. He did not argue that Adrian Zenz is a partisan or unreliable researcher. On the contrary, Barnett wrote that Zenz “has done well-regarded work on Tibet and Xinjiang in the past. His more recent work has been attacked and abused by Chinese state media and others, including smears about his religious beliefs by a pro-Chinese denialist called Max Blumenthal, demonstrating a particularly ugly form of hypocrisy.”

Where, thus, is the disagreement? Barnett claims that, whatever the horror of the abuses vested on Tibetan nuns, monks, and laypersons, there is such a difference in “scale and degree” with what is happening in Xinjiang that equating the two situations is incorrect.

Read more at “Xinjiang and Tibet, Parallel Genocides Or Perhaps Not?”

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Tokyo’s Joyless Olympics

Sparse crowd at a 1st League Group F between China and Brazil at Miyagi Stadium in Rifu, Miyagi Prefecture on July 21, 2021. Photo: Daisuek Urakami / Yomiuri / The Yomiuri Shimbun via AFP

Thousands of years ago, the Chinese philosopher and mystic Lao Tzu wrote: “Conduct your victory like a funeral.” Perhaps, he was offering sage advice for behavior during warfare, as to avoid provoking enmity, or perhaps he had a premonition of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said again and again: “Holding the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will show the world that we have been victorious over Covid-19.” In reality, Japan is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in holding an Olympics roughly only one in three Japanese supports. 

Tokyo is knee-deep in its fourth state of emergency and fifth wave of Covid-19 infections, averaging 1,180 new cases a day for the past week. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are thus turning out to be a somber affair. Where’s the party? We went looking for it, but mostly all we found were miserable people. 

Contrary to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach’s earlier promise that there was “zero” risk of athletes in the Olympic Village passing on the virus to fellow residents or Japanese citizens, on July 19 two athletes in the complex tested positive for Covid-19.

The village houses 11,000 Olympic athletes and thousands of support staff. As of July 21, more than 79 Olympic participants had been infected. Meanwhile, NBC News is now posting lists of infected athletes by country – some, of course, who tested positive before leaving for Japan.

Read more at “Tokyo’s joyless and unwanted viral Olympics”

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The Great Sage Dynasty

Once upon a time there was in China a female emperor, Wu Zetian (624–705), the only woman regarded as a legitimate emperor in the history of the country. And once upon a time, but closer to our times, there was another woman who claimed to be the reincarnation of Wu Zetian and founded in 1986 near Anqiu, a county-level city under the jurisdiction of Weifang in the south of Shandong province, a religious movement called the Great Sage Dynasty (大圣王朝). Her name was Chao Zengkun (晁正坤). Her movement was declared a xie jiao (heterodox teaching) by the Chinese Communist Party. Chao was arrested, tried by Weifang Intermediate People’s Court, sentenced to death, and executed in 1990.

Interestingly, while proclaiming that the “Great Sage Dynasty” has been consigned to “the dustbin of history” thanks to the swift reaction by the authorities, in 2021, the 35th anniversary of the foundation of the movement, several Party-controlled Chinese media have published articles on it, as they did in 2020 on the 30th anniversary of Chao’s execution. This in turn generated discussions on Weibo, and several rare photographs of the event emerged.

Read more at “35 Years Ago: The Tragedy of the Great Sage Dynasty”

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Purge of China’s Legal History

You would rarely find praise of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Bitter Winter, but we acknowledge they did something very useful for scholars and also for our magazine, when they decided to digitize and publish on the web millions of court decisions. Eighty millions of court cases may seem an enormous figure. In fact, they are only a fraction of the decisions rendered by courts in China, an immense country where the law is invasive, and being sued or prosecuted is a common occurrence.

But for scholars and observers being able to work on a data base including eighty million decisions was a unique opportunity. We at Bitter Winter enjoyed the free ride, and shopped often for decisions punishing human rights activists or members of “illegal” religions.

Sadly, after eight years of existence, China Judgments Online is no longer growing. It is shrinking. The 100th anniversary of the CCP approaches, and every Chinese is supposed to participate in the “Studying the Party History Campaign,” and to have learned its first commandment, that history is not about “truth” but about promoting the CCP. Whatever puts the CCP in a bad light should be erased from history, including recent history.

Finally, somebody at some level of the CCP’s intricate bureaucracy saw the light, and understood how many critics throughout the world also use “China Judgments Online”, including yours truly at Bitter Winter. We had noticed something strange, but had initially attributed it to the fact that the data base is not exactly user-friendly, and has never worked perfectly.

Read more at “The Great Purge of China’s Legal History”

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