January 10, 2008
Since the final conquest of Mainland China in 1949, the Communist Party has remolded the nation along Marxist lines. The Cultural Revolution (1966-76) was the culmination of Mao’s policy. It caused immeasurable suffering and economic chaos. Intellectuals and religious believers were cruelly persecuted. It is estimated that 40 million Chinese lost their lives during that time. The death of Mao Zedong in 1976 and discrediting of radical leftists in 1978 was followed by a more pragmatic leadership under Deng. He initiated a series of economic, political and cultural reforms as well as developing links with other nations, but all within the limits set by Deng. The crushing of the 1989 student protest in Tiananmen Square in Beijing and also the collapse of communism in Europe and the USSR left China diplomatically isolated as the oldest surviving Communist regime.
Three significant events occurred in 1976. Chou En-lai died January 8; an earthquake killed 800,000 people in Tangshan; and Chairman Mao Tse-Tung died September 9. If you think that was a difficult year in China, compare it with 1931 when the Huang He River flooded and 3,700,000 perished!
Immediately following Mao’s death, there was a tremendous power struggle within the Communist ranks. The infamous “Gang of Four” attempted to take control of the country. The “four” were Jiang Qing (Chairman Mao’s widow), Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan and Wang Hongwen. At the time, Jiang was the most influential woman in Mainland China. All four were convicted of counter-revolutionary crimes in 1981, and imprisoned. After languishing in Qinchen Prison (31 miles north of Beijing) for ten years Jiang Qing committed suicide.
Deng Xiaoping emerged as the top man and swiftly began to implement his moderate pragmatic policies, and because of his influence the door to China is open at this hour. From 1949 until 1976 the huge nation of China was virtually a closed country. The “Bamboo Curtain” was very real; few people went in and very few came out.
The threatened government responded with a reversion to ideological rigidity and repression of all political, ethnic and religious dissent. Economic reform with tight political control emerged as government policy for the 1990’s. In 1997, Hong Kong once again became part of China as a Special Administrative Region with Macau also reverting back to Chinese control in 1999. China pressures continue to remain intense on Taiwan to follow the peaceful example set by Hong Kong and Macau and unite all Chinese under the People’s Republic of China. Once again, world attention is focused on China as it receives the Most Favored Nation status. This unleashes economic limitations previously set on and now poises it to become an economic world power.
Population and Peoples
China’s population is currently pegged at 1.45 billion people. Even with the previous one-child-per-family government plan, the doubling time is 50 years. This number continues to rapidly climb with twice the number of births per day (that is 54,477), as deaths (that is 21,403 dying daily). Each day her population increases by more than 30,000. That rate of growth would be like watching Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kentucky double in size in a year. One-third of the people are under 15 years of age! Just think, by the year 2048 China’s population will be in excess of two billion! Home to 20% of the world’s population, China has more lost people in this one country than any country in the world. There are four times more lost people in China than the population of the United States.
The cities of China: Today, there are more than 210 cities with over one million in population. Each year twenty more cities cross into the one million-plus category. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, the Carolinas and Virginia have a combined population equal to the city of Chongqing. With 32 million residents, Chongqing is the largest city in the world in both size and population. Per square mile density are 290 versus a mere 65 in America.
Currently there are 483 cities between 250,000 and 1 million people compared to 68 cities in the United States with at least a quarter of a million people.
Han Chinese make up 92% of the population, with ethno linguistic people groups comprising the remainder. Sixty-five percent (65%) of the population lives in rural areas. Adult literacy rates in China are 89 percent for men and 71 percent for women. Half of China’s 1.3 billion people are under age 24. More than 98 million of those are under age 5.
China is home to about 480 ethno linguistic people groups. Only 68 of these people groups have an Evangelical believer’s population of over 2 percent. China recognizes 55 minority people groups totaling more than 100 million people. 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.
The Chinese government is encouraging rural dwellers to move to the 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.
Cities in Need. In the next ten years, officials predict 300 million people will move from the countryside to the cities. 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 this mean for China? First, remember that the population of China is more than 1.45 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 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 a 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. What about the spiritual surge? 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.
More people are born in China every year than live in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, El Paso and Denver combined. There are twice as many births as deaths in China each day. China has one birth every 1.5 seconds. Each year, more people are born in China than the entire population of Texas. This year, more than 7.4 million people in China, almost as many as live in New York City, will die without Christ. Ninety-five percent of China’s people live without knowing Him.
Economic and Social Situation
Economists predict that Japan and Korea will be dwarfed by China’s industrial output in the near future, just by the sheer power of her work force. The average age among these billion people is only 25. China cannot be ignored. The secular community has seen the potential of this sleeping dragon. Thousands of businessmen from our country and many European nations have swarmed to the Orient to get a “piece of the action”. Currently, China’s annual revenue from tourism tops the 10 billion dollar figure. No nation on earth has undergone such major changes in such a short time.
China produces over 50 percent of the world’s cameras, 30 percent of its television sets and air conditioners, 25 percent of its washing machines and almost 20 percent of its refrigerators. This year, together with Hong Kong, it is expected to produce more than half of the world’s DVD players, more than a third of its personal desktop and laptop computers and about a fourth of its mobile phones, personal digital assistants and car stereos.
The Chinese economy now is the sixth largest in the world has raced ahead to become the world’s fourth-largest industrial producer after the United States, Japan and Germany. The prosperity is beginning to spread. In 1979, there were no millionaires in China. Now the top 200 richest people in China have an average wealth of $500 million. Another 10,000 or so are worth at least $10 million or more each.
Astonishingly, almost 90 percent of urban Chinese own their homes. And there are color TVs in almost every urban home, washing machines and refrigerators in over 80 percent, air conditioners in half, microwaves in almost a third and computers in 20 percent. Moreover, in 1989 there were fewer than 5 million fixed phone lines. Now there are 600 million. As recently as 2000, fewer than 9 million accessed the Internet through personal computers. Now more than 750 million log on through their cellular phones! More than 500 million Chinese households have cable television the world’s largest cable market. China is also the biggest market for cell phones, with 800 million in use and growing by an average of 2 million per month.
Economy: China’s large economy is offset by its population, meaning the real gross domestic per capita is still at the level of a developing country. While overall income is rising, the wealth is not equally distributed. In a state accustomed to equal wages for all, this has been a source of contention between average people. Still, successful and honest entrepreneurs are respected, even in rural areas. About 61% of the population is still employed in agriculture. The economy grew rapidly in the 1990s. To help maintain the growth, the government is investing heavily in the public infrastructure. In the early months of 2000, growth was nearly 8%.
World’s Factory Floor: China’s transformed economy has been called a miracle by some, and China has been labeled the world’s factory floor. In 1982, Chinese exports were only about $22 billion. By 1992, they were almost $85 billion. Then exports took off and shot up to over $325 billion in 2002, and skyrocketed to over $438 billion in 2003.
Education: In education, 65% of children will finish elementary school. Girls are least likely to be enrolled. Only 5% of all people attend college.
Health Care: Generally, China’s extensive health care network concentrates on prevention. Malaria and Cholera remain problematic. Water is not potable and open sewers are common. Traditional Chinese medicine is combined with Western medical techniques in treating illness and injury.
Serious Problems: Pollution, corruption, crime, and rising unemployment are serious problems in many parts of China.
Language: Standard Chinese Putonghua, usually referred to as “Mandarin,” is the national language. It is the native language of more than 70% of the population. However, people might also speak the dialects or languages of their geographical regions. Discounting its ethnic minority languages, China has eight major dialect groups: Putonghua (Mandarin), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan and Hakka.
Family: In China’s group-oriented society, the family is more important than the individual. Family ties survived the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution and loyalty to family is still a hallmark of Chinese society. Family-planning policies include mandatory birth control, fines for violators and other pressure tactics. The elderly are still highly respected.
General Attitudes: Chinese are noted for their hospitality and reserve. While “atheism” is the official party line in China, “Confucianism” still influences attitudes and encourages a group consciousness, even today. This is especially true in rural areas. Guanxi, or “relationships”, is the underlying principal of how the society works in practicality as friends and associates are committed to do what they can for each other when called upon. To violate guanxi is to lose face (lose reputation or honor). Children are expected to uphold the family “face”.
Currently, 129 domestic airports handle the third-largest passenger volume in the world. By 2004, the Civil Aviation Administration of China expects to carry 100 million passengers a year. Over the next five years, China will buy 400 additional planes and build 43 airports, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
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. The Chinese city of Shenzhen? Try six months. That’s how long it takes for a non literate 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 multi-million population churning out products at breakneck speed.
With more than 750 million Internet users, China may be the most wired nation in the world. Internet cafes are springing up like summer weeds all over this mammoth nation even in some rural areas.
In 1950, when missionaries withdrew from China, there were an estimated 920,000 believers in China. In an attempt to eliminate Christianity, the government engineered the infiltration, subversion and control of all organized Christianity. By 1958 this had been achieved through the “Three Self Patriotic Movement” (TSPM). During the Cultural Revolution even the TSPM was banned and all religious activity was forced underground, giving rise to the house church movement.
Today, the conservative estimate is 110 million believers. The Registered Church in China claims at various times between 12 and 20 million believers in the churches. House church networks claim membership between eight to 20 million believers per network. The overall total is probably 45 million believers within the house church networks.
These house church network leaders are challenging their people to go as missionaries, and have stated that it is their desire and intention to send at least 100,000 church planting missionaries in the next ten years both domestically and internationally. In September 2000, simultaneous raids in three separate sections of China were conducted to arrest key house church leaders. The house church asks for our prayer in the midst of this persecution. They ask us to pray for patience, endurance and faithfulness, but they also ask that we “not pray persecution be removed as it is God’s tool to keep us faithful for witness on a broader scale.”
The communist government continues to oppose the rapid growth of Christianity in China. By controlling the number of church buildings, limiting the number of seminary students and persecuting the unregistered house churches, they try to control the growth of the church. Yet the church continues to grow at the amazing pace of doubling every few years. In the last couple of months, the government has increased the persecution, suppression and arrests of house church participants, declaring that they are dangerous enemies of the State. The government opposition forces the house churches to not institutionalize, but use homes for meeting places and they rely on non-professional house church leaders thus removing frequent obstacles to rapid expansion.
While many textbooks name Buddhism as the main religion of China, most Chinese people are “atheists.” From a young age, children are taught by the government that there is no god. Self-sufficiency is promoted to fill the void, and people are encouraged to work for the common good of the general populace.
In addition to atheism, which is most prevalent, many other religions are practiced in China. The government has established approved Buddhist temples, as well as government-run Christian and Catholic churches throughout the country, but most do not allow freedom of worship. Whole portions of key doctrine are banned in most of these churches. Most people who follow religions which are not approved by the atheistic government keep a low profile to avoid negative attention from authorities.
Of China’s population of 1.45 billion: 42.2% are non religious (532,568,095), 28.5% adhere to Chinese folk religion (359,617,996), 8.4% profess Buddhism (105,828,542), 8.1% are Atheists (102,237,969), 7.1% are Christians (89,055,551), 4.3% are Muslims (54,275,000), 1.5% are Taoists (19,168,976), -0.1% are doubly counted religionists (-803,194).
Doors of Opportunity: The challenge to reach the Chinese with the gospel of Jesus Christ is great and will require sacrificial and committed prayers from the body of Christ. Satan has China in his grip, and he wants us to believe it, too. We will naively believe that as long as we see winning China for Christ as impossible. But China’s millions are individuals who go about their lives just like us. And just like us, they look more like Jesus as they are reached for Him.
China needs you to pray for the unreached, give to support your workers in the fields of harvest and go tell the Chinese about Jesus.
Why pray? Because prayer is the fuel for missions! It seems simple, and it is! Not everyone is called to go, but everyone can pray. Listen to just one (of many) of God’s promises about prayer: “And I will do anything you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You many ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
Why give? You probably realize that your giving is fundamental to the spread of the gospel. What you might not realize is that we have a giving “crunch” right now. Thanks to you, giving has increased in recent years. But, that giving hasn’t kept up with the record numbers of people God is calling to go and share. How will you make a difference?
Why go? 1.2 billion Chinese have never heard of Jesus Christ. How’s that for motivation? The need is huge, but you can make an impact. Stop thinking you aren’t qualified. Stop worrying about where the money will come from. Stop thinking you could never visit a place so far away. Now, start thinking about the incredible experience you will have as your share the love of Jesus with a people who are desperate to hear. Imagine the joy in their eyes when they understand how much God loves them!
“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)