China's leading ram of economic development are in the country's Eastern coast, where Christian missions was also the most active in the beginning of the 20th century. Was this a coincidence or destiny? A returning overseas professor of the Peking University, through research, discovered the intimate connection between Christianity and economic development.
According to Chosun Daily, Yan-se presented his scholastic thesis last weekend at the “Asia-Pacific Economic Business History Conference” held in the University of Seoul in Korea. He testified that Christianity played a key role in China’s economic development.
Professor Yan studied at UCLA and received a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Economics. He then returned to China and became a professor at Peking University - the Chinese government’s reservoir of knowledge.
To Professor Yan, it is not a coincidence, but a fate connection that China's cities with the highest economic development were also placed that had the most Christian mission activities.
A migrant construction laborer works on a residential building in Shanghai, China. Aly Song/Reuters/File
Professor Yan's thesis “The long-term effects of Christian activities in China” has caught the attention of economists, experts, and leaders of various regions.
His thesis included comparing and analyzing regional survey results of Christian mission activities from 1920 and the indices of the society’s economy in 2000, and researching into the connection between the two.
While the Chinese government's policies and geographic location of the cities have contributed to the revival of Eastern coastal economy, Yan disclosed the contributions that Christian mission activities have on China's economic development today. "This is without a doubt."
Professor Yan gave three evidences to his claim. Firstly, with respect to China 100 years ago, Christianity was the only route that imported Western modern technology as well as basic amenities, education, and medicine.
Secondly, Christianity has influenced the Chinese culture and values in expanding the country's acceptance of foreign investments used to create a better environment. This invitation of foreign investment has paradoxically helped the development of China’s economies on a local scale.
Coke has been successful at linking itself to the games in the minds of the Chinese people. Other brands have found it hard to connect. Reinhard Krause/ Reuters file
Thirdly, Professor Yan analyzed the past (20th) century’s distribution of Chinese Christians and Churches, and compared this to China’s average GDP regions in year 2000. He discovered that regions where Christianity has revived often exhibited a healthy economic growth.
All in all, Professor Yan hoped that his thesis confirming the contributions that Christianity has made to China’s economic growth could simultaneously provide a more complete and objective understanding of Christianity’s message to the Chinese government and the vast population.
In fact, Professor Yan was not the first Chinese scholar to research into this topic. According to former TIME Magazine Beijing bureau chief, David Aikman, as early as 30 years ago, the Chinese government sent a group of scholars to research on the reasons of China's continuously lagging behind the Western world in science, industry, and culture.
Examining from the perspectives of history, politics, economics, and cultures, the group of scholars discovered that the Western country's revival originated not from their military or political systems, but their Christian faith.
This unexpected conclusion has caused quite a turmoil among the Chinese politicians at that time. Thus, the Chinese president at the time, Jiang Ze-min, stated during his consultation with Aikman concerning the future vision for China, “I hope that my country can become a Christian country.”
Jiang’s words shocked Aikman and the world, and there were records of Jiang expanding China’s religious policy. However, after many years, according to the International Christian Rights Association’s survey and many anecdotal examples of religious persecution, China’s freedom of religion has yet much room for improvement.
In other words, Jiang Ze-min’s vision has not translated into fundamental changes for China’s Christian movement. At least, we can be sure that China’s highest ranked leaders have long realized the positive influences that Christianity has on the country's economic development.
[Editor's note: Carol Lee translated the article.]