Friends debate over the future of China. Commentators and bloggers instigate some fierce arguments between those who criticize the country (including its government, society, culture and people) and those who zealously attack the criticisms. Though I have no intention to join the debate, I desire to share a little bit of my personal observations.
In today’s China, negatively criticizing everything has become a national hobby, which is not making anyone happier.
But on the other hand, the increasing number of Chinese who take a prideful position and passionately argue against all criticisms, denying the country’s major problems, indicates an condition that is just as sad, if not worse.
Much of this is human emotions, emboldened by ignorance and bias, without the light of truth. It is fighting among prisoners in a dungeon. And at the end, neither side comes out to freedom.
The world we live in today is deteriorating, sad to acknowledge but true. America as a nation and its people have enjoyed an unprecedented glorious golden age due to God’s blessing bestowed to the godly founders and offspring of this nation. But all this is changing, and America is gradually losing it because they have forgotten the fountain of their blessing.
But still, China is in a much more perilous situation than America is. The world’s political and social commentators see a decaying America and a rising China, but that is not the whole picture. If America is a weakening giant, China is someone who has got a larger build on steroids but is now suffering multiple serious diseases, some hereditary but some recently developed as a consequence of taking those steroids.
China is quickly becoming a very hard place to live because of corruption.
Most people think of the government and political system when the word “corruption” is mentioned. The corruption of the government and the political system is indeed a very large problem, and a very easy target of criticism. But the corruption in China is no longer a government problem or a political problem. It is already a people problem. It’s everywhere, not only in every walk of life, but in fact in almost every aspect of life.
Even the academia and education, which have been the two moral high grounds in China, have been devoured by corruption. The academia is fundamentally and broadly corrupt already. The education system is better but also getting hopeless. And business is perhaps only marginally better than the political system, the symbol of China’s corruption. Greed, dishonesty, distrust, treacherous dealing, materialism, vanity, carnality… these may be common human problems in every society, but are at a whole different level in China.
Imagine parents bribe schoolteachers to get a certain advantage for their children (sometimes even just fair treatment). If just a few number of families do that, in secret, it may be an individual moral problem and social unfairness, but if a large percentage of families do that (and even more feel the need to do the same), and everyone knows it, it is no longer social unfairness. It is corruption that ruins the life of all, the teachers, the parents, the students, and everyone in the society.
Imagine then patients bribe doctors to get a fair treatment, or some kind of advantage. If it happens occasionally, it is scandalous. But what if it has become a prevailing condition, everyone knows it and accepts it as norm?
Something living has got rotten. All these symptoms altogether have far more than just moral consequences, but in fact negatively affect the life quality of everyone, including not only the ordinary people but also the rich and powerful. It is difficult to be happy living in a society like that, no matter how privileged you may be.
In an ideal society intended by God, it pays to be good. In a relatively normal society, it sometimes pays to be good, but sometimes costs to be good, and those who are willing may choose to be good and still be able to achieve a fair balance. In a corrupt society, it mostly costs to be good, and as a result it becomes difficult and even feels foolish to be good. That’s what China is now.
The effect of the corruption is not just a general sense of unfairness or inefficiency. Corruption is the environment of death. Corruption causes a living condition in which everyone is a victim, because it takes away the basic wellness and living support of a human society. Take bribery as an example. There is no winner in bribery. The one who is forced to bribe, the one who takes the bribe, and everyone else who is connected to the entity against which the bribery is committed, whether it is a company or the government, are all a victim. The loss is way beyond economic losses. It creates such a bitter sense and repugnant taste that everyone in the society suffers degraded quality of life.
We are created by God to have three constituents in our life: the spirit, the soul, and the body. The well-being of each of these three aspects of our life requires a fairly healthy environment of its own, namely a healthy spiritual environment, a healthy social environment, and a healthy physical environment; and excessive pollution in any of these environments causes hardships and diseases to that corresponding part of life.
People don’t require a perfectly clean environment free from any pollution in order to live. For that matter, America is far from being perfect. But here in this land pollution (physical, social, moral and spiritual) has not got to a point to make one terribly sick on a daily basis (although many would argue it is already, but this is a matter of degree). Unfortunately, China is now already in that kind of a condition in a very real sense, and it is getting progressively worse, not better as many passionate “China-grandness” soldiers would willfully fancy.
Many mistakenly think that China is just paying a natural and temporary price for industrialization, one that is comparable to what happened earlier in the US and Europe. That is a dangerously simplistic view of the matter. Spiritually, morally, socially, politically, and physically, China is in a fundamentally different, and on most accounts far more perilous condition than the US and Europe was in last century or earlier. The scope, the depth, and the scale of the problems are not even comparable.
To heal the present China would require far more than what was necessary to clean up some of the cities in Europe and America last century. It would require far more than just footing an astronomically high bill. It would be a project that requires the kind of moral capital, social capital and political capital that China does not necessarily have.
And that is just the physical environment part, which is not even the most difficult part to change.
But I don’t think the situation in China has come to a point of desperation already. China has a very strong sign of hope in its favor. That sign is not the nation’s economic developments, but an overall sense of humility, a humbleness with a sincere attitude of seeking for truth and freedom. This is a necessary condition that leads to salvation for either an individual or a society, and maybe the most valuable asset possessed by China as a nation now, although the state is rather fragile.
If Chinese were to lose even that , the situation would then get truly desperate. Let’s all hope that won’t happen, with a prayerful heart, because it is to no man’s good and in no man’s hands.
In the past, China lost a historical opportunity to change at the turn of the 20th century. The lost opportunity was marked by the tragic Boxer Rebellion, which was an evil but natural reaction of Chinese against the rude Western powers. If history is an admonition, be careful of the Chinese neo-nationalists who passionately argue that China has both a right to do whatever it wants (including causing pollution in all aspects of life), and the power to ignore the warnings against consequences such as pollution. They dismiss such warnings as “Western lies” designed to mislead Chinese. The Chinese neo-nationalists are the modern boxer rebels who fancied that their superstitious “Qi” was to defend themselves from the bullets.
The world powers are not friendlier than the foreign powers at the time of Boxer Rebellion, but that is not the focal point of either the history nor the present times. The media and textbooks would want one to believe that the world history is just a struggle between nations and powers. But that is only an appearance. The greater enemy China faces today is not the foreign powers, but its own internal illness. In the global sphere, China will either rise or fall according to its own character and healthiness.
What is even more meaningful, however, happens in individuals lives. The real meaning which deposits value in eternity is how individuals (the seemingly insignificant individuals), in the midst of historical events, are awakened, brought to repentance and transformed into God’s kingdom through salvation in Jesus Christ. As someone has said, history is His Story. That is the true blessing Americans received during the past several centuries, but one that Americans are quickly losing. Chinese may be standing to receive this true blessing the next.
May more and more people in China personally examine the truth and their conscience, and repent as individuals, rather than setting hopes on economic development, social movements or political reforms. Although it may be possible to somewhat improve a corrupt government by criticism, it’s not possible to heal a corrupt society by criticism. Only life can heal death. And there’s only one source of life, Jesus Christ.
Many years ago, I was as opinionated as anyone could be, and had a strong sense of self-righteousness. I passionately criticized the society, the culture, the ideology, the tradition, the people, essentially everything but myself. I was in darkness and did not know the truth.
But I was led to the truth and light by the Bible, and discovered that all problems of the world are rooted in the nature of the man (the mankind), and the root of man’s problem is singular. It’s sin. It’s a disease, inherited from the first man Adam, incurable by the man himself, and leads to death without exception.
Only in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is there hope and salvation, because only Jesus brought the solution to sin, not by moral teaching, not by criticism, not even by sympathy, or wisdom, but by the love of God, by dying for the sinners to give them redemption.