(From Niall Ferguson, Civilization, The West and the Rest, Penguin Press, New York, 2011, pp.284-288).
|Luggage Factory, Wenzhou.|
|Wezhou General |
Christianity in China today is far from being the opium of the masses. Among Wenzhou's most devout believers are the so-called Boss Christians, entrepreneurs like Hanping Zhang, chairman of Aihao (the Chinese character for which can mean 'love', 'goodness' or 'hobby'), one of the three biggest pen-manufacturers in the world. A devout Christian, Zhang is the living embodiment of the link between the spirit of capitalism and the Protestant ethic, precisely as Max Weber understood it. Once a farmer, he started a plastics business in 1979 and eight years later opened his first pen factory. Today he employs around 5,000 workers who produce up to 500 million pens a year. In his eyes, Christianity is thriving in China because it offers an ethical framework to people struggling to cope with a startlingly fast social transition from communism to capitalism. Trust is in short supply in today's China, he told me. Government officials are often corrupt. Business counterparties cheat. Workers steal from their employers. Young women marry and then vanish with hard-earned dowries. Baby food is knowingly produced with toxic ingredients, school buildings constructed with defective materials. But Zhang feels he can trust his fellow Christians, because he knows they are both hard working and honest. Just as in Protestant Europe and America in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, religious communities double as both credit networks and supply chains of creditworthy, trustworthy fellow believers.
In the past, the Chinese authorities were deeply suspicious of Christianity, and not just because they recalled the chaos caused by the Taiping Rebellion. Seminary students played an important part in the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement; indeed, two of the most wanted student leaders back in the summer of 1989 subsequently became Christian clergymen. In the wake of that crisis there was yet another crackdown on unofficial churches. Ironically, the utopianism of Maoism created an appetite that today, with a Party leadership that is more technocratic than messianic, only Christianity seems able to satisfy.... It is not hard to see why the Party prefers to reheat Confucianism, with its emphasis on respect for the older generation and the traditional equilibrium of a 'harmonious society'. Nor is it surprising that persecution of Christians was stepped up during the 2008 Olympics, a time of maximum exposure of the nation's capital to foreign influences.
|Pastor Jin Mingri.|
|Zhuo Xinping, director of the |
Institute of World Religions.
Only by accepting this understanding of transcendence as our criterion can we understand the real meaning of such concepts as freedom, human rights, tolerance, equality, justice, democracy, the rule of law, universality, and environmental protection.Yuan Zhiming, a Christian film-maker, agrees: 'The most important thing, the core of Western civilization ... is Christianity.' According to Professor Zhao Xiao, himself a convert, Christianity offers China a new 'common moral foundation' capable of reducing corruption, narrowing the gap between rich and poor, promoting philanthropy and even preventing pollution. 'Economic viability requires a serious moral ethos,' in the words of another scholar, 'more than just hedonistic consumerism and dishonest strategy.'
|President Jiang Zemin.|