The title of this post guarantees that Google will filter it from reaching China. That’s Google, the company that is absolutely committed to doing no evil, except in China. There it will do a little bit of evil, enough to keep its foothold in the world’s largest market.
Today is the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. I lived in Beijing from 1990-92, and I spoke with many people who were there that day. Some were scared and angry, and spoke privately about how much they distrusted their government. Others were still hoping to land government jobs, or at least not land in jail, and they expressed sympathy for both the students and the government officials who felt cornered by the demonstration.
Back then it seemed only a matter of time before China’s new capitalism, or as it was called by the government, “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” would compel the government to allow more political freedom until socialism collapsed under the avalanche of liberty and prosperity. That has not exactly happened, in part because China’s rising affluence has made its middle class complacent. Who cares about democracy when you just bought a microwave, then a western style washer and dryer, and finally a Buick?
The tide has also shifted in China’s direction. I was there the day that McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in China (the fries weren’t quite right, but everything else, including the smiling teenage staff standing three deep behind the counter, smiling “Come, Come, Come,” was a bit overwhelming). Today China has the only part of GM not in bankruptcy, is in the process of buying Hummer and a stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers, and already owns more of our national debt than they wish they had. Our unregulated capitalism is on the rocks, while China’s government controlled economy is in danger of growing too fast.
I don’t know what to make of all this, but it does remind me that all politics is local. People generally vote their pocketbooks, and the Chinese, like everyone else, are willing to put up with a lot as long as there is a chicken in every pot. It also reminds me that we must not put our hope in any earthly movement or method. No protest or democracy drive or economic system can deliver the goods. Our only comfort, as the Heidelberg Catechism says, is that we belong—body and soul, in life and in death, to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
Millions of Chinese are discovering that this is the truth. The interesting question is not whether China will continue to open to the West or provide more freedom to its people. The most provocative question—and it is a live question—is whether this communist country, which for the past 60 years has taught its people that there is no God, is becoming a nation of Christians. Remember to pray for China and her Christians. Pray that she will become a predominantly Christian nation in our lifetime. At the very least, a national conversion may make it easier on our children when they can’t pay back all the money that we borrowed from China.