Millions of people across the world are looking at China as she rises to world dominance and the vast majority of them, despite the negative and mean-spirited comments and analysis by some of her detractors, are generally supportive and admiring. Millions applaud China for her persistence in doing things her way and to her own time scale and often in defiance of the West. China knows her potential and is confident in her strength and the ability to achieve whatever she targets and she has this fascinating ability because of her size, financial muscle and technical competence to overcome every obstacle placed in her path.
Take for example China's fledgling space programme.
China is very internationalist in her outlook and wanted to be part of the space programme of nations building the International Space Station but the Americans unilaterally kept her out by a raft of measures and prevented her from contributing and gaining experience in this field of endeavour. No Chinese has ever been on board the International Space Station unlike nationals from Russia, Japan, United States of America, Canada and 11 member states of the European Space Agency.
So what did China do?
From scratch China set about building her own space station and did so with great aplomb. China launched its first experimental space station, Tiangong 1 in September 2011 and it was a successful and impressive launch and China has since started its own Chinese Space Station, Project 921. China has this ability to set objectives and achieve them and thus far she has put many satellites in Low Earth Orbit, successfully sent spacecrafts to orbit the moon (Chang'e 1, Chang'e 2), launched a Mars-exploration space probe on 8 November 2011 and is working cooperatively with Russia and Europe towards manned deep space exploration.
China's successful space programme is just the latest trance in her ability to face fearsome odds and overcome them due mainly to her profound self-believe and awareness of her technical skills and organizational competence. We saw these same qualities at work when China decided to exit the protection of the Soviet Union nuclear umbrella (and now has a major nuclear deterrent) and in her game-changing participation in the wars in Vietnam and Korea.
As China's unstoppable rise to world domination continues, those of us looking on, from the outside, and doing rational analysis, are observing some powerful trends emerging. While it is true that what pertains currently does not necessarily mean that it will continue the same in the future, nevertheless what we see is existentially very hopeful.
Big, dominant countries the world over, that have risen to world prominence, have abused their position and crashed to earth with a mighty bang. Some of these countries exist today but are unimportant to the world at large; countries like Persia (Iran), Greece and Rome are excellent examples of this horrific trend. There is no guarantee that China will not follow suit but at least her rise to the top is fundamentally different and her stay there could be extensive and wholly beneficial to humanity.
The Bible tells us that there are some important factors that scupper any nation's ambition of achieving and retaining dominance at the highest level. Every country that has risen high and fallen from grace has run contrary to the biblical prescription.
According to the Bible these are the essentials for a viable, enduring nation:
1 A country needs to be righteous (moral, good, respectable)
"Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people." (Proverbs 14:34)
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18)
2 A country needs to care for the poor and needy rather than the rich and greedy
"Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable." (Proverbs 31:8 Common English Bible)
"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy" (Ezekiel 16:49)
3 A country needs to recognise God (claim, honour and worship Him)
"Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD" (Psalm 33:12)
"And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)
4 A country needs to have just laws and become a nation that respects law
A system of law based on justice for all and that does not infringe the God-given rights of anyone, especially the poor and defenceless, is essential and a good indication of a country's aspirations and prospects. God did not leave the Jewish laws, moral, ceremonial and civil, to human endeavour but dictated them directly to Moses for distribution.
"But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine." (1 Timothy 1:8-10)
"They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them." (Proverbs 28:4)
When Jesus was on earth he did not oppose the body of law in existence but supported them;
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." (Matthew 5:17)
The rise of China towards world dominance is both unexpected and stupendous and this giant from the east has introduced some welcome models for humanity. Believers everywhere need to see China in a new light, not as described by her detractors who are jealous and hate-filled, and recognise God's will unfolding in a new and fascinating way. Observe carefully and you will see that she has done some innovative things, in particular China has given us:
A new model of international cooperation: genuine partnership
There will always be those who see China as a predator, like all colonial countries, and regard anything that China does in the most negative light. You do not have to be a supporter of China to see that China is not in any way like the European colonist and she offers an entirely new way of doing business with developing countries. Genuine partnership is what China offers and it is more than just a re-phrasing of an old concept or exploitation under a different guise. In every nation to nation agreement that China initiates the details confirm that genuine partnership is at its root.
In Africa many countries are looking closely at the agreements that have been made and are most impressed with their soundness, balance and shared benefits. There are no hidden agendas, no foot-in-the-door manoeuvres, no sugar-coated bitter-centred pills, and everything that needs to be is open and transparent. China has garnished her credentials for genuine partnership by a long and honourable tenure in Africa, stretching back to the dawn of African independence, and even before that as she worked steadily and effectively with African leadership seeking to overthrow colonialism and European exploitation.
Of course there will be niggles and quibbles and the usual assortment of concerns but with scholars from the countries involved examining all these projects and agreements, nothing is going to escape their attention and analysis. Currently some 90% of the Africa block of 54 countries affiliating to the UN have partnerships with China and all the others are either in the process of having them or considering having them. Latin America and the Caribbean are similarly following suit and it is just a question of time before such desirable partnerships are common to all Chinese international relationships.
A new model of politics: non-interference in local politics
Colonial countries are noted for their unwarranted interference in local politics and it is doubtful if that perception will ever change. China is very different and has been castigated in the past by the West for her pragmatic approach, she adamantly does not get involve in other nation's political affairs, always dealing with whoever is the de jure leader, and will conduct business with any country they wish, and turn a blind eye to how the money is spent.
China's critics will then talk about human rights, etc., and conveniently forget that the biggest abusers of human rights are those same pious critics and their governments that have enslaved and terrorized the developing world for a long time and lived like lords on the ill-begotten bounty. It is demonstrably absurd to take these detractors seriously.
Genuine human rights concern are valid issues to be debated but outside interference, especially with exploitative sub-plots, is not the way forward and China understands this. By not getting involved in local politics China shows its respect for the integrity of local people and their esteem for people's choices and preferences. This is a model unique to China and sets her apart as a beneficent partner trusted by most countries.
A new model of intercountry development: win-win equality
Large, powerful countries, and all Colonial countries, in their relations to developing countries do not entertain the concept of equality. Equality for them would be a disgrace, a massive underwhelming non-achievement and a stain on their imperialist credentials.
Not so China.
China, unlike the others, believes in the variable sum concept and everywhere she goes this concept plays a large part. The West, and all colonial administrations of the past, believes in the fixed sum concept, meaning that the economic pie is only so much and if you get a little bit more then I must get a little bit less and since I am not prepared to take less we are going to have a fight.
China's view is that the pie can be enlarged and we both get more. This is a win-win situation and when it genuinely forms part of agreements it fosters a spirit of honest partnership and authentic togetherness.
A new model of militarisation: no combat troops in foreign countries
I checked and double checked and then checked some more to be sure of my facts and it is resoundingly true that China, with the largest military in the world, has no combat troops abroad other than those peacekeepers working as part of the United Nations peacekeeping forces. Just think peace, peaceful development and non-aggression in international affairs.
As a contrast, a middle size country like Great Britain, with less than five percent of China's population has combat troops in 19 countries (Afghanistan, Ascension Island, Balkans, Belize, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, Diego Garcia, Ethiopia, Falkland Islands, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Liberia, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Sierra Leone) This is not a judgement on those troops being there (some are UN peacekeepers in 6 countries) but merely an acknowledgement that there are there.
When a country is geared towards peace as China is then the clearest indication of that philosophy is an absence of combat troops on foreign soil under any guise. China is exemplary in this regard and we should all welcome this stance and hope that it continues well into the future.
We now arrive at a critical question in this debate. What is the best thing for Christians to do about China? Christians are not partial and are not driven by earthly political and social agendas but take the lead from God himself and the directives and guidelines contained in the Bible.
Christians everywhere, regardless of denomination, should:
1. GRACIOUSLY ACCEPT CHINA'S RISE
No nation has a God-given right to occupy the top position in the world and we need to recognise that God elevates one nation and pulls down another (Daniel 2:21, Psalm 75:7). At one time God called a retrograde nation and its atheist leader his servant (Jeremiah 25:9) because God has the capacity to use any nation for his divine purpose. China's rise to the top is a fact to be accepted gracefully and believers are far too perceptive not to see God's hand at work here and accept its inevitability. The Serenity Prayer puts it well:
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference."
2. PRAY SINCERELY FOR CHINA AND HER LEADERS
When countries assume world leadership, the pressures on them are enormous and they can have many miss-steps and wrong turns with existential consequences. What they do can have a negative or positive impact on us and our offspring well into the future. Therefore Paul said, "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour." (1 Timothy 2:1-3) Our prayers for China need to be sincere, not meaningless empty prayers as if we are grudgingly discharging our duty, but from the heart with compassion and fervent hope for blessed outcomes.
3. ASSIST CHINA WITH CONSTRUCTIVE COMMENTS
Having dealt with China at the ambassadorial level I am convinced that China sincerely welcomes constructive and timely comments from across the globe. China knows that knowledge is universal and sometimes they need to have a different perspective from the usual ones and are sufficiently mature to know when to accommodate those comments. There is a great difference between the helpful and uplifting comments of sincere friends who want to see you get stronger and advance and the others who would relish your demise. Believers should come together and give China constructive comments that will, if taken on board, make China a better, more God-centric superpower.
4. WATCH AND APPLAUD CHINA'S LAUDABLE INITIATIVES
Many of us are China watchers because China is very prominent and her mighty economic influence reaches into almost every home. Other watchers are curious because of the distortions of the mass media, as one website put it "For the USA or some specific countries, their mass media have gained much readership through how they depict with fantasy about the rise of China as a threat, that has somewhat drawn some people's attention." (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20130429194025AAI7Wi5) We who are watching China, and hoping for good things, need to be on constant watch, and be ready to support those initiatives that are in the interest of humanity. In 2006 China's President Hu Jintao released a list containing eight honours and eight shames, a powerful set of moral concepts, and Christians everywhere should find them spiritually agreeable. This is an example of what I am suggesting and to applaud and encourage China for issuing these moral concepts are both right and timely.
Let us hope and pray that as China ascends it ushers in a new dawn for humanity and that she is able to do what no other superpower has done, i.e., persuade the world that earth is but a solitary, vulnerable spaceship with the wellbeing and future of each human being interconnected, and lead the world into bright new relationships where we look out for one another and offer a helping hand, and practice true neighbourliness and compassion; just as the early Christians did.
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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