In China’s rural areas many minorities, especially ethnic minorities, maintain age-old traditions. China recognizes 55 minority people groups totaling more than 100 million people. Missiologists recognize almost 500 minority people groups, subgroups divided by language that China lumps together for statistical practicality. Consider the Miao people group, numbering 9 million. Most outsiders consider them one minority group, but the Miao consist of nearly 40 completely different language groups. Most minority people groups are unreached by the gospel.
China’s urban situation is quite different. It took the United States and Western Europe 200 years to go through the Industrial Revolution. Nations such as South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan took about 25 years to become industrial nations. How about the Chinese city of Shenzhen? Try six months. That’s how long it takes for a nonliterate farm worker to migrate to the city and start working on some of the most sophisticated machinery in the world. Twenty years ago, Shenzhen was all rice paddies and salt ponds, with a population of 20,000 at best. Today, Shenzhen has a multimillion population churning out products at breakneck speed. Shenyang has a population of 6 million and is known as one of China’s famous industrial cities. Shanghai has been rated as the fourth-most expensive city in the world. The top five are all located in Asia.
Mark it down, by 2010, 300 million Chinese will have moved from the countryside to the urban cities. Visit train stations in any major city and be greeted by hundreds and hundreds of obvious out-of-towners, waiting, sleeping, gambling and eating on the sidewalks, surrounded by their belongings stuffed in grain sacks. This scene is characteristic of millions and is duplicated in every major city in China. When asked why they came to the big city, the answer is plain: “We heard a rumor that there were jobs here.” What kind of jobs? “It doesn’t matter,” they answer. “Anything. We need to eat.”
The pull of jobs in the big city, regardless of the labor, is too much to resist for millions of farmers and peasants who move to China’s cities each year. Thoughts of 300 million people, a population segment greater than the entire United States, moving to the cities is stunning to the Western mind, but what does it mean for China? First, remember that the population of China is more than 1.3 billion. As it stands now, there isn’t enough farming to go around, and the government knows that. So by taxing farmers even more, it forces people into the cities. For urban China, this translates into cold, hard cash.
As a nation struggling to gain international respect, China needs capital. If 300 million people move to the city that means China moves 300 million people from non-cash to a cash economy. Out on the farm these people raise their own food and barter for goods. As laborers living in the metropolis, they will have to spend money. The surge in China’s economy will be significant. Already the world’s fourth-largest industrial producer the prosperity is beginning to spread. In 1979, there were no millionaires in China. Now the top 100 richest people in China have an average wealth of $230 million. Another 10,000 or so are worth at least $10 million each.
What about the spiritual surge? The Chinese philosopher Confucius, who lived in the 500s B.C. and still influences Chinese thoughts today, valued harmony and conformity in society resulting from people observing their roles in relation to others. He taught these values: concern for others, honoring one’s parents, treating others as you would wish to be treated and ruling with moral standing and benevolence. The trauma of moving to the city, from an agrarian society to an industrial society, opens a door for the gospel. It leaves a lot of people open to new things. For the first time, nothing is familiar. Questions are raised and answers are sought. Are you willing to blaze a trail into their hearts?
Each year, 20 new cities in China join the list of 1 million or more inhabitants. Does this help the spread of the gospel? You bet it does. The Lord is bringing together concentrated areas of lost Chinese. In many of these areas, there may be one church at best. When much of the population is living in villages, saturating them with the gospel can be difficult. But put those people in rows upon rows of apartment blocks, and the saturation can begin much more easily. Will someone be there to tell them that Jesus is the answer?
Until everyone has heard in the land…