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CRCS E-Newsletter 普度微言 No. (29), February 28, 2017.
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Current Affairs
The interactive map shows the location of each news item listed below. Click on any of the numbered items to jump to a story.

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1. Freedom House Special Report. The Battle for China's Spirit: Religious Revivial, Repression, and Resistance under Xi Jinping.
Freedom House, February 28, 2017

U.S.-based NGO Freedom House has released a special report documenting government suppression of religious activity in China. Click here to read the full report.

From the press release: "The Chinese government’s controls over religion have intensified under Xi Jinping, seeping into new areas of daily life and triggering growing resistance from believers, according to the report The Battle for China’s Spirit, released today by Freedom House..."

"The Battle for China’s Spirit examines the evolution of the Communist Party’s policies of religious control and citizens’ responses to them since November 2012, in the first comprehensive analysis of its kind. It focuses on seven major religious groups that together account for over 350 million believers: Chinese Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Tibetan Buddhism, and Falun Gong."

Photo:
Freedom House
See also: CNN
2. CNN coverage of the Freedom House report

CNN published two articles in response to the Freedom House report, "The Battle for China's Spirit: Religious Revival, Repression, and Resistance under Xi Jingping."

The first article was an opinion piece written by Ian Johnson, author of new book The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao. His opinion piece was titled, "
Focusing on religious oppression in China misses the big picture." The second was written by James Griffiths, a Hong Kong-based digital news producer, and Matt Rivers, a CNN international correspondent based in Beijing. Their article was titled, "As atheist China warms to the Vatican, religious persecution 'intensifies'."

The two articles offer competing perspectives on state suppression of religion in China. Whereas Griffiths and Rivers focus on examples of state suppression of religion in China, such as the cross removal campaign in Zhejiang Province, Johnson argues that a focus on persecution overstates the dangers faced by religious groups in China.

Photo: CNN
3. China expels 32 South Korea missionaries amid missile defense tension
Reuters, February 11, 2017

China has expelled 32 South Korean Christian missionaries, a Korean government official said on Saturday, amid diplomatic tension between the two countries over the planned deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in the South. The 32 were based in China's northeastern Yanji region near the border with North Korea, many of whom had worked there more than a decade, South Korean media have reported.

Photo:
Reuters
4. China and the Vatican Are a Step Closer to Mending Ties
The Diplomat, February 10, 2017

The Chinese government and the Catholic Church are "approaching a historic agreement to normalize relations between the two states, mending a rift that began with the communists coming to power in 1949." Although the party-state and the Vatican broke ties in 1951, Catholicism still operates both above-ground and underground in China. The core problem addressed in the new consensus is the appointment of bishops. There 30 bishops in China appointed by China but not Rome, and seven bishops who are recognized by neither the Vatican nor China.


Photo: Flickr/ Catholic Church (England and Wales)
5. China's Panchen Lama says to uphold 'glorious tradition' of patriotism
Reuters, February 24, 2017

China's Panchen Lama -- a youth recognized as the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism by the party-state but rejected by many Tibetan Buddhists -- has vowed to uphold the "glorious tradition" of patriotism. China does not recognize the authority of the Dalai Lama, who they see as a political dissident. China selected Gyaltsen Norbu as its Panchen Lama in 1995 in an attempt to win respect from Tibetans.

Photo: Reuters
6. Christian theme park in China sparks outrage
Hindustan Times, February 6, 2017

Changsha: Hunan Province. A new park in Changsha, Hunan Province, features a giant Christian Church in the shape of Noah's Ark. The park, which covers 150,000 square meters, is the largest Christian-themed park in central and Southern China. The park and its ark-shaped megachurch have drawn condemnation from online critics who say the building is inappropriate and unnecessary for China. They also question the role of the government in possibly funding the project. The megachurch is still construction but is scheduled to open to the public later in 2017. See this Youtube Video from Sixth Tone documenting the construction of the church building.

Photo: Sixth Tone
See also: Daily Mail

Media appearances by Dr. Fenggang Yang
Notable Conferences

 
Recent Research

 
Center Updates
[This area includes new publications, recent conferences, ongoing research projects, and recognitions and accomplishments of scholars in this field.]
February 24, 2017. Purdue Civil Engineering Professor Jie Shan gave a talk at CRCS titled, "Discover Patterns and Events from Tweets." This talk was part of our spring 2017 Big Data and Society Lecture Series.
 
February 17, 2017. Purdue Professor Mihaela Vorvorneanu (Computer Graphics Technology) gave a talk at CRCS titled, "Mining Social Media Data for Understanding Students’ Learning Experiences." This talk was part of our spring 2017 Big Data and Society Lecture Series.
 
February 10, 2017. CRCS posdoctoral research Luke Chao gave a talk titled, "Measuring Religiosity in a Religiously Diverse Society: The China Case." This talk was part of the 2017 Global China Forum.
 

Stay up to date on CRCS news and events by visiting our website and following us on Facebook or Twitter.

 
Featured: Interview with Teresa Zimmerman-Liu
Joey Marshall recently interviewed Teresa Zimmerman-Liu, a Sociology PhD student and translator with years of experience working with Witness Lee and the Local Churches in Taiwan. Listen in as we discuss her life experiences, her research, and her forthcoming article, "From 'Children of the Devil' to 'Sons of God': The Reconfiguration of Guanxi in a 20th Century Indigenous Chinese Protestant Group" (scheduled for publication in the spring 2017 issue of the Review of Religion and Chinese Society). Read below for an abbreviated transcript and some fun photos of Teresa's time in Taiwan.

Listen to the full audio interview here.

Abbreviated transcript

Host: Joey Marshall (JM)
Guest: Teresa Zimmerman-Liu (TZL)
Transcripted edited for clarity.

Listen to the full audio interview here.

JM: You're listening to an audio interview from Purdue University's Center on Religion and Chinese Society. I'm Joey Marshall, a graduate student research assistant with the Center, and my guest is Teresa Zimmerman-Liu, a PhD student in Sociology at the University of California, San Diego. Her research interest is to study how religions change and adapt in Chinese society through contact with other cultures in the modern world. Zimmerman-Liu came to academia after a career as a professional Mandarin Chinese-English translator and interpreter, and after many years as the eldest daughter-in-law in a first-generation-off-the-farm Hakka family in Taiwan. You'll notice in this interview how those life experiences shaped her future research. While obtaining an MA in Asian studies at California State University, Long Beach, Zimmerman-Liu began writing a series of articles on Christianity in Chinese society, several of which were co-authored with CSULB professor Teresa Wright. Some of those articles appear in China: an International Journal,  Journal of Church and State, and Social Sciences and Missions. Her forthcoming article is scheduled for publication in the spring 2017 issue of the Review of Religion and Chinese Society. That article is the topic of our interview today, and it's titled, From 'Children of the Devil' to 'Sons of God': The Reconfiguration of Guanxi in a 20th Century Indigenous Chinese Protestant Group." Let's jump right into the beginning of the conversation. I initially wanted to know about my guest's life experiences with the Local Churches in China, her activity working with the late evangelist Witness Lee, and how those experiences informed her upcoming article in RRCS.

TZL: I'm a non-traditional student. My undergrad was at Georgetown from 1978 to 1982, and I studied languages and linguistics and translation. After I graduated, I moved to Taiwan and did intensive Chinese translation. And I was a translator for many many years and eventually with the recession, you know, the market fell out for a while. We had three kids in college, and I went back to school, thinking only to get a master's. So I got a master's in Asian studies. But, in the process, I started working with the chair of the Poli-Sci Department and looking at underground churches and their relationships with the state. And a lot of it was because I was in the Local Churches and I knew a lot of leaders. And then I did translation at the asylum office, and a lot of my clients, even if they weren't Local Church Christians, were from the house churches and the non-registered Christian groups in China...

JM: Now, throughout the course of our interview, you'll hear us refer to the "Local Churches." In case you didn't know, the religious group that we refer to as the Local Churches are a network of Christian churches founded in China due to the influence of two evangelists known in English as Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. They are an important and interesting religious group in China. And one of my first questions was, "How in the world did Teresa get involved with Local Churches in the first place?"

TZL: Let's see. I ran into them on campus my freshman year, and at that point I was newly converted. I was raised Catholic and I was now exploring, you know, Protestant Christianity / Evangelical Christianity. And I ran into them on campus, and there was a woman who worked on campus and a professor who would sometimes take me to lunch. And one day they brought me to a Bible study, and I felt that their exposition of the Bible was more interesting and more compelling than some of what I was hearing in other groups. They talked about very deep things, even in beginning Bible study courses. They talk about the Trinity. And they talked about other things. You know, it's not just "Come to the altar to be saved. Come to the altar be saved." (Which is what I was hearing from a lot of other groups.) And so I started going to their conferences and going to more of their various activities. And, you know, over the course of college sort of got hooked into the church in Washington D.C... When I graduated, my degree was in Spanish literature with a German-English translation certificate. But in 1982, the only job I could get would have been for the National Security Agency listening in on central American dictators. And I didn't want to do that.

JM: That doesn't sound like a lot of fun.

TZL: So I thought, "Well, I'll go to Taiwan." People from the church had connections, so I was able to get a room with a couple in the church there who rented rooms to students. And it was really close to the National Taiwan Normal University's Mandarin Training Center. So I went out and started learning Chinese. And it was when I was in Taiwan then I was recruited by the publishing company in Taiwan -- the Taiwan Gospel Book Room. Witness Lee was alive at the time. He was working on his translation of the Bible (the recovery version) that was a new translation from the original Greek with Footnotes. And then the Gospel Book Room in Taipei was trying to translate this into Chinese. And I attended some conference with their preliminary translation, and they had all these errors in the footnotes because they didn't understand idiomatic English. And so I went up afterwards and pointed them out to one of the editors who said, "Oh, come work with us!"

So I thought I'd only go for a year to Taiwan, and I wound up getting involved with that and realizing that I needed to do a lot more study. So I took formal classes in the mornings and worked in the Gospel Book Room in the afternoons. And then I wound up getting married. So I stayed in Taiwan for eight years, and for the first five years I was working either part-time or full-time at the Gospel Book Room helping with translation mainly.

JM: Over the next few minutes, Teresa shared a lot of anecdotes about her time in the Local Churches and her interactions with the late Witness Lee, which was so fascinating. But unfortunately, for the sake of time, I want to move on to the meat of our interview, which is about her article in the forthcoming issue of RRCS. That article is titled, From 'Children of the Devil' to 'Sons of God': The Reconfiguration of Guanxi in a 20th Century Indigenous Chinese Protestant Group." I first asked Teresa to define the concept of Guanxi and describe why it was important for research.

TZL: Okay. Well, Guanxi basically means "relationship" in Chinese. And in the West, our cultural tradition causes us to focus on the individual. And even going back to the Greeks, society is seen as like-minded individuals coming together. And there's always this individual. And especially after the Enlightenment, where society is seen as individuals coming out of the state of nature into a social contract. So in the West we have the liberal self; we have collections of individuals. But from the time of Confucius, the Chinese have defined themselves by their relationships. So, in the Confucian context, you know, you have the Emperor and his courtiers (or the nobles). You have father and son; husband and wife; older brother, younger brother; and then friends. And you have these relationships that are then very ritualistic. And even though Confucianism is no longer fully practiced, this whole idea of life as a web of relationships is worked into the language, and it's worked into their worldview.

This is only an abbreviated transcript. Listen to the full audio interview here.
 

Photos

Teresa operating camera equipment during a trip to Korea. At the time, she was traveling with Witness Lee and others in a Taiwan Gospel Book Room team on a ministry trip through Japan and Korea in 1983-4. When her translation services were not required, Teresa worked as a videographer for the team.
 
The Taiwan Gospel Book Room shipping departent.
Copy editors, proofreaders, and translators
International conference in Taipei, ca. 1984-5.
Teresa Zimmerman-Liu is a PhD student of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego. Her research interest is to study how religions change and adapt in Chinese society through contact with other cultures in our modern world. Zimmerman-Liu comes to academia after a career as a professional Mandarin Chinese-English translator and interpreter and after many years as the eldest daughter-in-law in a first-generation-off-the-farm Hakka family in Taiwan. Her research is informed by those life experiences. While obtaining her MA in Asian Studies at California State University, Long Beach, Zimmerman-Liu began writing a series of articles on Christianity in Chinese society, several of which were co-authored with CSULB Professor Teresa Wright. Some of those articles appear in China: An International Journal, Journal of Church and State, and Social Sciences and Missions. Zimmerman-Liu’s PhD dissertation research focuses on modern humanistic Buddhist groups in Taiwan that promote environmentally sustainable lifestyles as part of their doctrine and faith practice, comparing how this aspect of their ministry is promulgated and received in the different social contexts of Taiwan and the US. 

 
Media highlight: Udemy Courses from China Source
Our friends from China Source have released two courses on Udemy, a platform for online learning. The newest course, titled,“The Church in China Today: It’s Not What You Think," provides an overview of the religious climate in China with an emphasis on the history of Christianity. For more information, visit the China Source website or email info@chinasource.org.
Please direct comments, questions or subscription requests to the Executive Editor of the CRCS E-Newsletter, Joey Marshall, at marsha58@purdue.edu.

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