by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
I respond to Mint.com’s recent visual comparison between the US and China.
I read the Economist, so I tend to see/read this economic/political/spiritual stuff – at least from their paper’s view. And I read a few other items about China here and there, because I have my antenna up for anything on China. The Newsweek special reports never satisfy me. Just too entertainment driven. So the Mint.com stats revealed more.
What gets interesting to me with the Mint.com and China “vs.” USA (vs?? really? they are our enemy?) scenario is this: you have a cash-rich China, and no customers now (our money dried up). If they can sell to themselves, good. But they’ll have to spread that cash (our cash btw) around. Which they are attempting lavishly.
But will it be enough? Furthermore, China seems a little “angry” with the west b/c we aren’t buying as much (amids other things like our incessant nosiness into their internal affairs.) Go figure – like our buying Chinese goods could just go on forever! I contend our “cash” wasn’t cash at all, but consumer debt. Not savings, not hard assets or materials – just trillions in trashy expensive short term debt. The trade imbalance was/is staggering between China and the US.
Also, part of China’s anger comes from their inherent swagger. Chinese superiority has always been there. I see and feel it each time I go. But now they are shrewdly calculating how and when to show their might. China’s muscle is in their highly controlled cheap labor force (and army!!). However, if the rising 600,000 middle classer’s who have now a taste of affluence, don’t get their way – they all want a car – then China will have to deal with dissatisfaction at home. Moreover, I think they will redirect the fault/blame onto the West. They sure ain’t gonna blame Africa or the Middle East – they don’t need to. Oh yes, and don’t forget about peasant uprisings in China – their history is nothing but that. This is why they are totalitarian – they have no choice; 800 million are too poor.
Spiritually, Christians will need to figure out how to “join” the powers – not subvert them or even sneak around them. Christians will have to figure out how to be “nation-builders” and not be seen as some cult. This will be a very interesting dynamic to watch. Theologian Simon Chan tells us in the West that we just don’t get it: we don’t understand what it is like to be a minority religion with a minority voice in a very unWestern, unChristian East.
But of course the great danger is that if Christians join the nation-building, they may become tools of the powerful, and fail to actually a) bring about the good news – justice, love, service, redemption, forgiveness; b) even worse, sanctify Chinese imperialism. The house church senses this collusion all too well. And here we all know too well how that turns out – look a us! look at the religious right! Look at the last 500 years of church/state collusion and its ambiguous results. As theologian Miguel de la Torre (at Iliff Institute in Colorado) says, ‘justice must always come from below – never does it come from above.’ Rev Dr MLK Jr was from below. Bishop Tutu was from below. Now William Wilberforce was from above – but he’s the exception. I guess I might change my tune and argue for the house church to stay hidden if they want to change China’s soul into a Jesus soul. Hmm. Sure sounds like a lot of persecution coming their way. It’s weird and smug to say but, perhaps NOT being a superpower isn’t so bad.
Power. Always power. Even the best people do the worst in the name of good – because of power.