How Can We Respond to China with Shrewdness and Grace?
Sa Zhong Zi (meaning “sow seeds”) is the pseudonym for an American living in China assisting with the support and strengthening of the Chinese house church.
An article appeared in the February 21, 2016, edition of the Business Insider that caught my attention - “China is buying up American companies fast, and it’s freaking people out.” How could that title not catch your attention? The contents of the article discussed recent events going on among Chinese businesses that show the eye-popping buying power of Chinese companies. Despite the fact that 2015 marked the slowest economic growth in China since 1990, Chinese companies are still poised to continue making large purchases of foreign companies. Since China began to reform economically in the early 1990s there have been one hundred and two mergers and acquisitions to the tune of over $80 billion. If that’s not enough to rattle you, the article mentions a bid by one Chinese company to purchase the Chicago Stock Exchange!
One needs to realize, however, that this has been going on for quite a while. What I mean is that folks in the US and all over the world have been watching China transform before their eyes. In America and perhaps other places, this growth has been met with a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety. In the 1992 US Presidential election between Bill Clinton and George Bush, Clinton used this element of fear to argue for stricter economic sanctions against China in a presidential debate. In the end Clinton got elected and did the exact opposite of what he said he would do. Why? Because the economic pull to do business with China was too strong.
In recent years we have seen the same fear and anxiety increase, especially as the economic situation in many western countries turns south. It is easy to blame others when the situation is difficult. Some folks in the US now blame China for taking too many of our jobs away from us. Whether this is true or not, I doubt there is a deep understanding of China among most Americans. Instead there is a high degree of ignorance, which fuels the fear and anxiety even further. A deeper understanding among Americans, and especially among Christians, might help us to see beyond these issues and look for opportunities.
If there is one word that I would use to describe the prevailing attitude of Chinese in this age, it is “curious.” Curiosity can go both ways. It can either “kill the cat” or it can be the opportunity for tremendous learning and growth. That curiosity is coupled with a huge level of discontent with the ways things are going in China. Chinese parents are discontent with the current education system in China; freedom fighters are discontent with the current political system; and people are generally looking for a better life than the one they have. Despite an increasingly higher standard of living, many are simply discontent and curious about the outside world that for so long has been shut off from them. This curiosity covers many aspects, including religious belief, and Christianity is one of the most appealing.
All this points to a tremendous opportunity whereby we can get involved. We can get involved by learning about China - her culture, her people, and what makes her tick. We can pray and we can get involved, either by going to China or we supporting those who do. We can look in our own backyards for the growing population of Chinese immigrating to the US and befriend them. They are often the most open to Christianity, fueled partly by the curiosity and discontent I mentioned above.
In any case we have an opportunity. And instead of responding in fear, we can respond with love. Instead of responding with anger, we can respond with grace.
At the end of the article there is a video clip discussing how British entrepreneurs are selling fresh bottled air to China at $115 pop. There is wisdom to be learned in this. I’m not referring to the business savvy, but rather to the mindset and heart that looks for a need and asks, “How can I fill that need?” It reminds me bit of Jesus’ words in Luke 16:8: “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” How can we be more shrewd in dealing with China? As sons of the light, let’s looks for the need and fill it with the gospel.