EDICT OF BEIJING: IS CHINA THE NATURAL HEIR TO THE ROMAN EMPIRE?
by Dr. Henderson Ward 4/12/2012 / Leadership
Perhaps this is an apt time to have a fresh look at China, this enormously vibrant, supremely productive country, when our fickle attention is focused on the unfolding events in Syria and the aftermath of the momentous awakening of Arabs. The world is well placed to seriously evaluate China, for her history of involvement in the developing world is profound and well documented, and to examine China is to see a country teeming with visionaries, entrepreneurs, pioneers and whose people are resilient, friendly, approachable and inherently decent.
China has earned her place in the sun and her arrival on the big stage is universally recognized. Certain media corporations, which hitherto were known more for their lukewarm response to newsworthy items emanating from that country, are now highlighting even mundane news stories on a regular basis. The British Broadcasting Corporation has gone one step further and recently broadcast "special programmes on China titled The Chinese Are Coming" referring to her economic superpower standing and how it impacts the rest of the world. All across the world formerly hostile news media are reluctantly showcasing China because, like it or not, China makes compelling news. When an 800 pounds gorilla comes into the room everybody takes notice just as surely as every jungle animal is hyper aware when the king of beast arrives on the scene.
So what is it about China that makes it seize the world's headlines with such frequency and intensity? Here one could quote the things you would find in any encyclopedia entry on China but that would tell only part of the story, important though that is, and a lot of perceptions, equally important, would be excluded. China is vastly more than the country that invented paper-making, the compass, printing and gunpowder as well as a raft of ancient technologies for she has stellar achievements across all ranges of human endeavor and can boast of the greatest thinker and social philosopher of his day and perhaps of the ages; none other than the visionary Confucius.
First and foremost it must be remembered that China is a developing nation and shall retain that status for some time to come. From the time of her hard-fought liberation in 1949 she has grappled with national development virtually unaided and has majestically and methodically elevated herself to the pinnacle as the most important country in the world economically. China is the stable rock on which the financial world stands and if she looses confidence in the US dollar, and dumps her holding in disgust, then the dollar collapses and the world is plunged into financial cataclysm worse even than the great depression. The world is hyper-conscious that China does not need the US dollar but the US dollar mightily and desperately needs China. All of this from a country that has not yet hit full stride, in fact has just got started, and is on course to outstrip the USA in a few short years on the way to an economy with a GDP far in excess of the European Union and the USA combined.
The next thing that must be remembered is that across the vast majority of the world China is viewed as benevolent. Big, powerful countries, especially those from Europe, are seen as predators, exploiters/abusers, manipulators with a penchant for arrogance and colonialism. Not so the Chinese. Every country in the world where China is welcomed as a partner she has shown that she is unlike the stereotypical colonist and offers instead sincere compassion and significant generosity. Not only is this true here for the small sovereign countries in the Caribbean, who are eternally grateful for China's no-strings-attached assistance, it is even truer in Africa where China has excelled in undertaking many huge and diverse development projects.
Not only is China seen as a benevolent collaborator, she is highly regarded as a peaceful, non-militaristic, non-interfering partner that draws the ire of Old Europe and her allies but is embraced and loved by every country in Africa, and to some extent the Caribbean and South America as well as the people (as opposed to their governments) of the developed world. It is this magnificent attitude, that China will not interfere or become entangled in the internal politics of other countries, that sets China apart from all others and has earned her this sobriquet; enigmatic. Should she be so inclined China could effect regime change anywhere for she certainly has the finances and power to do so but that is not her style. China prefers, and this seems to be an indispensible part of her political philosophy to let "the people" choose whomever thy want and stand ready to give assistance if requested. This attitude creates win-win situations universally and, like a well-loved uncle, is welcomed and embraced joyfully.
The world has long wanted, perhaps even deserved, a country like China; big and powerful that can deliver yet is decent, compassionate and generous and willing to reach out and help fellow human beings merely because doing so, in the Confucian sense, is the honourable thing to do. Six thousand years of unbroken history has taught the Chinese wisdom of the ages, the diplomatic skills of genius and the foresight to see beyond the short term and to conceptualize and prepare to lead the world in a new and different direction. As China ascends so does the quality and volume of civility, benevolence and good-neighbourliness correspondingly spread. This benighted world can never have too much of those. When we add all these crucial things together we see that they are necessary but are they sufficient to elevate China to the pantheon of Great World Empires and propel it forward, sustainably, for countless generations? I think not.
It is fashionable in some quarters when enumerating Great World Empires to list a whole host of countries who called themselves great and often have the word "Great" appended to their national identity. This habit is outmoded as well as disingenuous and history will show that the vast majority of these countries were merely dominant and hegemonic in certain regions while at the same time other countries were equally dominant and hegemonic in other regions. The British Empire was contemporary with the French Empire and the Japanese Empire for example; the American dominance in the West was matched by the Soviet Union dominance in the East, etc. Great World Empires are very different entities, dominating their world without effective rivalry and there have been precious few of them; the last being Rome.
The head of Gold (of the large statue) of Daniel's prophecy, as recorded in the Holy Bible, represented the Babylonian empire which history records ruled much of the then known world from 612 BC to 539 BC. Babylon was located in the southern part of modern day Iraq and was a state since 1850 BC and is mentioned in Genesis 10:10 as Erech but did not assume world dominance until 612 BC under Nebuchadnezzar.
The arms and breast of silver represented the conjoined kingdoms of two people: the Medes of northern Persia and the ethnic Persians down south, together referred to as Medio-Persia, and this empire defeated and overthrew the Babylonians and ruled much of the then known world from 539 BC to 333 BC. Present day Iranians are the Persians of old.
The belly and thigh represented Greece which came to world supremacy under Alexander the Great, King of Macedon and ruled much of the then known world from 333 BC to 133 BC after he overthrew the Persian empire. The Greek language remained dominant long after it ceased to be a world empire to the extent that the New Testament was originally written in Greek and the Apostles understood and spoke Greek.
The legs and feet represented Rome who assumed world dominance in 133 BC after the last king of Pergamum left his lands to the Romans and they remained dominant until around AD 476 when they disintegrated as an empire but continued to dominate in the East until about AD 1453. Should you study history carefully you will see that not only were these kingdoms Great World Empires but they exacted loyalty and taxes and other forms of support from countries everywhere and they coerced countries to toe the line through the appointment of provincial governors and military commanders.
Today the world is very different and no country has succeeded and assumed the mantle of Great World Empire, and perhaps never will; hence the look at China.
All the Great World Empires gave leadership universally and were dominant militarily, culturally, economically and above all in the field of religion.
With respect to China, that seems destined to be the next Great World Empire, military dominance is not necessary because of the advent of weapons of mass destruction especially nuclear weapons. Cultural dominance is a function of time and publicity and China is already an economic super-power, well on its way to economic supremacy. This leaves one very important area unattended; China's attitude to religion and especially Christianity.
China learns quickly and it learns well and we can be sure that China is au fait with two seminal moments in sacred history; the resurgence of dynamic Christianity in a prosperous Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the centrality of Rome in religious affairs following the issue of the Edict of Milan.
As soon as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990 all the former 15 republics reverted to their former religious affiliation and in Russia this was symbolized by renaming Stalingrad to St. Petersburg in honour of St Peter and their reassertion of Christian values. You cannot kill Christianity just like you cannot kill love nor abolish courage or decency. Some things will be and it is best to accommodate them. This is precisely what the Roman Empire did in 313 AD by not just officially tolerating Christianity but laying the foundation for it becoming the religion of the Romans. This the Romans did when they published the decree known as the Edict of Milan in March 313 AD and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Friends and admirers of China everywhere would like to see China take the world forward in a new and different direction and enhance its reputation as a caring, benevolent super-power. One mighty step in this direction would be for China to issue a proclamation equivalent to the Edict of Milan. This edict, let us call it the Edict of Beijing, would commend Christianity to its people, adopt it as the religion for the Communist Party of China and support its propagation to make it the unified religion of China.
The big question here is even if China has the will, if its leadership concludes that Christianity for China is in its best interest and the preferred way forward, is it attainable? The answer is assuredly yes and here are the reasons. Chinese communism and Christianity have much in common, Christianity, just like Chinese communism, is people centred as opposed to corporations oriented, the benefits to China would be vast, third-millennium Christianity needs sustained focus, direction and leadership because Christianity has a problem with the Vatican, China already does many things that are compatible with Christianity, it would make China more at ease with itself and its people spirituality would be greatly enhanced.
China's leadership must be delighted that at long last their country, doing what it has always done so well, i.e. peacefully pursue developmental goals for the benefit of its entire people and by association the world beyond its borders, has been thrust on the international stage, given the recognition its due and entrusted with the baton to move the world on to the next stage.
It is unthinkable that China will not seize the moment and realize its enormous potential, both material and spiritual, for the benefit of all mankind. War and messy politics gave the Soviet Union their super-power status; War and European rivalries gave the USA the opportunity to acquire their super-power status; the West's decadence, economic mismanagement and financial recklessness ushered in China's super-power status. Take the baton and run China, and run smart and fast like Usain Bolt of Olympic fame, for you are running not just for China, however patriotic that might be, or your Asian neighbours however laudable an aim that is but for my, unborn as yet, great-great-grandchildren and their counterparts across the entire planet earth.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013