Friday, 27 May 2011

Wenzhou and Christians in China

One of the magazines I read regularly is Prospect. In the March issue Jack Straw, an ex-minister from the Labour government in the UK, reviews a book called Civilisation: the West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson.

In the review it emerges that there is a large Protestant community in Wenzhou, just south of Shanghai, in the Zhejiang region. I find the size and prosperity of such a place in the midst of a large officially atheist country rather surprising, although I had heard previously that Christianity was growing vigorously in China.
So here are a few facts which might interest you:

  • Wenzhou, with a population of 8 million, is reputed to be the most enterprising city in China

  • There is a community based around 1,339 state-approved churches (although I’ve seen higher figures cited elsewhere).

  •  This and other religious communities in China, ‘double both as credit networks and supply chains of creditworthy, trustworthy fellow believers.’

The Chinese government are very much concerned about corruption and potential instability, especially in the event that economic growth falters. The powers that be may be holding off in their customery persecution of religion because they have some interest in letting such Christ-centred networks prosper and perhaps do for China what the Protestant business and innovation networks did for the USA and parts of Europe. In fact a recent BBC report suggests the Chinese government is actually partially financing new churches and Christian social work (e.g. care for the elderly).

History is full of the totally unexpected. There are now more Christians (around 100 million in all) than members of the Communist Party (70 million). It will be interesting to see if the current rate of growth continues.

Author, 2077 AD