Business

Churches and the market economy

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Zhao Xiao (赵晓) is a government economist, the director of macro-economics research at SASAC. For the past few years, his career has been largely defined in the media by one essay, "Market Economies with Churches, and Market Economies without Churches" (有教堂的市场经济与无教堂的市场经济).

The essay originally appeared online at the end of 2002 shortly after Zhao returned from a several-month-long sojourn in the United States. It continued to circulate among forums and blogs, and appeared in print in a 2003 anthology of posts from the Doctor Cafe economics roundtable site.

In mid-2005, China Youth Daily's "Freezing Point" supplement ran a feature on Zhao that included further discussions about the role of religion in Chinese business. Zhao Xiao and his ideas about churches and the market economy have been in the news fairly often this year as well, corresponding with the popularity of Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and other texts on ethnicity and national development (see this bestsellers list for more details).

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The essay is reprinted in an anthology titled Insights into Chinese Economic Sector that was published last month. Insights collects many of the most influential, interesting, and controversial essays written on Chinese economics issues over the past few years (see below for links to an annotated table of contents and excerpts).

Unsurprisingly, the essay also attracted attention among religious groups. The July edition of "Evangelism" (福传), a series of materials issued by the evangelism group at Beijing's North Church, reprints Zhao Xiao's piece, following a serialization earlier this year in China's leading Catholic paper, Faith 10-Day (信德, formerly Faith Fortnightly). The North Church pamphlet was privately financed, I was told; the piece is notable because it emphasizes the positive role the church can play in Chinese society.

The translation below is taken from the most common version circulating online [*] - this appears to be the version in Insights. Several short passages were deleted from Zhao's original version on the Doctor Cafe website.

Market Economies With Churches and Market Economies Without Churches

by Zhao Xiao

Roaming in North America was for the purpose of reading a wordless book, to have the chance to gaze at the heavens from a foreign land. In the country that has the most prosperous material civilization in the history of human society, the question that frequently occupied my thoughts was this: where does the greatest difference between China and America lie?

The greatest difference between China and America

What makes the deepest impression on our countrymen about the US is the forests of skyscrapers that this country puts up, representing the high development of America's material culture. But skyscrapers are no longer scarce in China! It is evident that skyscrapers are not the greatest difference between China and the US.

Then, what about wealth? Without a doubt, the US is the world's richest country. In 2000, China's per-capita GDP was US$840, while America's was US$34,100; there is great disparity between the two. But considering that China's personal income levels are swiftly increasing, the wealth gap, though large, does not amount to the greatest difference between China and America.

Perhaps someone may suggest the gap in science and technology. However, China also possesses a great deal of high technology: for some time it has had the hydrogen bomb and the atom bomb, it sends rockets to the heavens, and it is developing a spaceship. So while a gap remains between the science and technology levels of China and the US, it is not an astronomical one.

Perhaps someone will suggest the financial gap. The pinnacle of the market economy is finance, and this is a weakness of China's market economy. In comparison, the US has the world's strongest financial system, and was the earliest to implement relaxations of financial controls to invite financial innovation. To date it has attracted 75% of the world's financial resources, making finance one of America's three superlatives (the others being sci-tech and political power). However, while China's financial system lags behind, looking across the country one finds banks as common as rice shops, securities firms promoting themselves everywhere, and ads for funds airing one after another during prime time on CCTV. So the financial gap between China and the US, while large, still does not amount to the greatest difference.

Then it must be a difference in the political and legal system. To be sure, there is a noticeable difference between China and the US in this area. However, the particular national conditions of the US and China are not very similar, and China is currently involved in a rapid transition and transformation. It is possible to imagine that a modernized China will inevitably move in the direction of an improved political and legal culture, and the prodigious experience and techniques of the US, as the the world's most developed country, have been taken as a model by the Chinese, who absorb everything. From this perspective, though reference can in fact be made to many areas in politics and law in China and the US, this still cannot be called the greatest difference.

Then where does the greatest difference between the US and China ultimately lie? My personal opinion: churches. Only in this area is the difference between China and the US not a question of numbers, but rather an essential difference between presence and absence. In the US, the spires of churches are more numerous than China's banks and rice shops. On a street near Harvard Square, I once stood and looked around to find that in three different directions there were three churches. Truth be told, from the east coast of the US to the west coast, from towns to cities, in any place you look you will find that this country's most numerous structure is none other than the church. Churches, and only churches, are Americans' center; they are the very core that binds Americans together.

Churches and the market economy

Americans are not idiots. Their need for churches is overwhelming, and churches provide something in answer to their call — there is definitely some principle at work. During my time in America, the relationship of churches with America's economy, society, and politics became the issue that most often occupied my mind. I came up with many interesting ideas; because of length, I will only address economic issues here. At its heart the problem could be stated as a comparison between market economies with churches and market economies without churches.

Ultimately, why is it that we need a market economy? It is because the market economy has one major advantage: it discourages idleness. The planned economy is different — its faults are faults of having no system of encouragement. Good work and poor work are identical. Under a free market system lazy people cannot live. So the market economy will force competition; it is an efficient economic system. However, the market economy can only discourage idleness; it cannot discourage people from lying or causing harm. This brings to the market economy a certain danger; that is, it may result in an unsavory situation: it may entice people to be industrious in their lies, industrious in bringing harm to others, and to pursue wealth by any means. Some people may say that this is because the market economy is imperfect, and that a perfect market economy would not be this way. However, a market economy that relies solely on the individual will never be perfect, since it can only call people away from idleness but cannot discourage lies and injury.

Indeed, repeated game-playing in the market may minimize dishonest and injurious actions, and legal punishments may be beneficial to normal trading actions. However, in conditions where information in the market is unbalanced and incomplete, contracts are forever deficient. Completely relying on repeated gaming and legal punishments to achieve normal market actions is not only impossible, but is possibly even uneconomic — the implication here is that the market may have unlimited costs, so expensive as to be unusable, and may ultimately come crashing down. To a degree, China's market economy currently has fallen into this trap. In the mind of a majority of Chinese people is a simple understanding that the market economy means getting rich, and to get rich any means may be used.

Hobbled market ethics have already lead to two chronic ailments in Chinese society. First, becoming rich without relying on labor or on the creation of wealth for society, but rather relying on collusion between government and business and the malicious repurposing of public finances to gain wealth. Second, dishonesty in market trading: backing out of promises and gaining wealth through swindles. So we can see that the market economy in China has brought out a group of "freaks": day and night they ceaselessly seek personal profit through lies and harm. Naturally, this kind of market economy has a exorbitant cost. And naturally, what causes the exorbitant cost of these market operations is the widespread lack of self-restraint among Chinese people.

These days Chinese people do not believe in anything. They don't believe in god, they don't believe in the devil, they don't believe in providence, they don't believe in the last judgment, to say nothing about heaven. A person who believes in nothing ultimately can only believe in himself. And self-belief implies that anything is possible — what do lies, cheating, harm, and swindling matter?

However, market economies that have churches are different. Perhaps it is difficult for Chinese people to understand what Christians are like. Here, I can only say that they are rational beings, just like ourselves, and it is sufficient for you to avoid thinking of them as monsters.

It cannot be denied that there are swindlers who go in and out of churches, but the majority of people are not going to church to fill their stomachs. The majority of followers go to church because they truly have a devout faith. Confucius said, "A true gentleman seeks out wealth according to the Way." To the average person, this may be difficult to achieve since the average person is not a true gentleman. In comparison, it is people who turn their eyes to church spires who generally respect financial norms and integrity. Why? Here is the secret: Puritans, though they may be called the most fervent people in the world in their drive to accumulate wealth, nevertheless do not pursue wealth for personal benefit but rather "to the glory of God," and to ensure that after they die they can enter heaven. This monetary ethic renders inseparable the motive and means of the Puritans' pursuit of wealth, and those whose only thought is to create wealth for God will naturally be able to become true gentlemen — gentlemen among gentlemen. In passing, the following thought occurred to me: I suddenly have a new understanding of why Bush required his CEOs to swear according to the Bible when signing their financial statements: Bush was not only raising the the Damoclean sword of the law over his CEOs, but he also placed them under the threat of hell's lakes of fire. The sword of the law together with the eyes of God is evidently more effective than the law alone. For this reason, the unity of means and method in acquiring wealth is able to remedy the market's insufficiencies. From this standpoint, the market economy has an instinctive need for some kind of matching market ethics before its true force can come into play, just like horses have an instinctive need for the whip. From the perspective of human society, the most successful model is church + market economy. That is to say, the happy combination of a market economy that discourages idleness together with a strong faith (ethics) that discourages dishonesty and injury.

Is it not integrity that you are pursuing? Then you ought to know: places with faith have more integrity. For China's crawling economic reforms, this ought to be an important inspiration. Market economies with churches are different in another respect from those without: in the former, it is much easier to establish a commonly respected system. The reason is simple: a people that share a faith, compared to people who only believe in themselves, find it easier to establish mutual trust, and through that to conclude agreements. However, where is the cornerstone for the American constitution? In fact, as early as the first group of English Puritans who came over to the New World on the Mayflower, there was the Mayflower Compact, which would become the foundation of autonomous government in the separate states in New England. Its contents comprised civic organizations as well as working out just laws, statutes, regulations, and ordinances, and the first line of the covenant was "In the name of God, Amen." So shared faith is the foundation for shared law. Otherwise, a legal system, should it arise, will not be respected.

Market economies with churches are comparatively open. The reason for this is perhaps explained thus: In the sight of God, all people are equal. It is easier for a core spirit of fraternity to extend to outsiders openness, acceptance, and respect.

Are there other uses of market economies with churches? Yes, and they are relatively important: guiding spending and modulating the close relationship between the poor and the rich.[**] In the case the wealth of a devout Puritan, the situation may be different. This is because his religious faith will tell him: gaining wealth is only for the glory of God; personally, he must use that wealth reasonably, for being forever humble is a virtue favored by God. So in the United States we can see that people with money must donate 10% of their wealth to the church for other church members to share. We can also see that the ranks of the richest people and the ranks of society's largest donors overlap; the relationship between rich and poor is fundamentally unlike the antagonism found in mainland China. Some of the spending and handling of wealth on the part of the rich may violate the law, while others may not violate secular law, making legal oversight difficult. But I know that this malconduct does not please God. However, in the absence of God's oversight, all of this is possible and even common.

Faith: the soul of the market economy

Modern economics—modern politics—modern culture form the trinity of the market economy. Seeking the fruits of the market economy, Chinese society ultimately will travel the road of cultural reconstruction, investing in market ethics. It is fortunate that in Chinese society there is already recognition that integrity is the cornerstone of the market economy, but establishing a good cornerstone is no simple matter.

Looking back at China's recent history, what China has learned from the West stretches from superficial to deep, from externals to internals. From the power of the gunboats we learned to understand the enemy's technology to defeat him; from the continual improvements to their military might we understood that we needed to develop our science, technology, and education; and because government-directed sci-tech and economics failed, we took a new road to the market economy, one that we have been on for 160 years now. However, this road to modernizing transformations is still far from finished. From the groans of present-day China's market economy, we can see that danger draws near: we have already bid farewell to humanity's most costly planned system, but because we lack a reasonable set of market ethics, we may be trapped in humanity's most costly market system.

Reality unquestionably requires us to move forward another few steps. The first is cultural transformation. We must find a cultural framework compatible with the modern free market economy. To achieve this, we may unearth from our own long-standing traditional culture a set of ethics that are compatible with modern economics, or we may use absorption and introductions from elsewhere to recreate our cultural DNA.

From Boston to Indiana, traveling through North America's vast lands, I could hear the serene sounds of church bells ringing in every church, and I recalled a poem by an angry poet that I wish to adapt as follows:

Be in awe of the invincible might,
Be in awe of the lightning,
And be in awe of the thunder in the sky;

Only through awe can we be saved. Only though faith can the market economy have a soul.


Shortly after publication of this essay, He Fan, CASS academician and editor-in-chief of The Journal of World Economy (世界经济), posted a response to Zhao Xiao on the Doctor Cafe site. He questioned whether this line of inquiry truly belonged to the discipline of economics, and brought up two interesting points:

[Zhao Xiao] believed that civilization and religious faith can be divided into good and bad; Christianity is more exquisite than other religions. I said that while I had not investigated the tenets of any religion, I held a highly snobbish opinion. You can look at the founders of each religion — Sakyamuni was a prince, Jesus was a carpenter, and Mohammed lived off a wealthy widow before he turned 40. Comparatively, I am a bit more willing to believe Sakyamuni's words, since having only enjoyed wealth and rank in human society was he able to suddenly see through the trappings of this world, to withstand them and become Buddha.

I also said to Zhao Xiao, supposing that you've seen a relationship between churches and the order of the market economy. First, you cannot prove that this is a cause-effect relationship. Second, you cannot prove that religion is the only foundation for establishing order in the market economy. I believe more in what game theory says, myself, that in small circles, order can form naturally through repeated game playing. Zhao Xiao said, you've forgotten, repeated game playing may also lead to another extreme, to bitter feuds and mutual payback for wrongs. I said, that is a possibility, so why don't we borrow some tenets of religion and lay out some more forgiving game rules, to see if they won't be better strategies than tit-for-tat. However, I believe that the relationship of churches to order in the market economy has another explanation. The majority of Buddhist temples are secluded on mountains and in forests. Worshipers may only go several times each year, and there is little interaction among pilgrims. Christian churches are built in the center of town. People go to church every weekend, so the church assists people in meeting each other. There's a sense of community, and it is repeated game playing in this community that becomes order in the market economy.

Zhao wasn't convinced, and the debate between the two economists has continued through the present day.


Note 1: Zhao communicated in an email that the version printed in Faith 10-Day is the latest, most authoritative revision, available here. The translation here will be corrected to conform.
Note 2: Zhao's original essay had the line, "Marx said that for a rich person to enter heaven was much more difficult than for an elephant to pass through the eye of a needle." In an email to Danwei, Zhao said, "When I wrote this essay, I did not yet believe in God. Later, after I believed, I corrected it."

Update (2008.06.25): In a feature on Christianity in China, the American public TV show Frontline talked to Zhao about a revised version of this essay titled "God is my chairman of the board," which ran in the Chinese edition of Esquire. The interview transcript is here; the same feature has a number of other interesting articles and videos.

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There are currently 12 Comments for Churches and the market economy.

Comments on Churches and the market economy

"Only through awe can we be saved"

What a revealing look at the insipid banality of what passes for economic debate in this country. Thanks for the translation Joel.

[Spoofed comment removed at the request of the individual targeted]

Fascinating stuff, Joel. I always felt that the lack of a comprehensive moral system will be detrimental to China's development as a freeer society and economy.

I think the author focuses too much on Christianity and the Church, but it is clear that capitalism only works when it is coupled with a moral system that regulates the individual's needs.

Otherwise, people don't know where to stop. They take too much, which leads to growing income and education gaps, which lead to social unrest, etc.

I was also surprised that in an article about religion and money, there was not even one mention of Jewish culture... but I guess that's a good thing!

walkingtheline: "What a revealing look at the insipid banality of what passes for economic debate in this country."

The debate about morality and the market economy is not at all insipid or banal: in fact, it is a debate about one of the key problems facing Chinese society right now.

At least Zhao Xiao's essay has the merit to exist and initiated more or less a debate or other essays on this very interesting subject. In any case it reflects the obvious "soul searching" present period and uneasiness in Pop China where a very raw and rough new market economy, 20 years-old quick and dirty copy of 300-years-old Western systems, dominates every aspects of life today and collides head-on with a context where any kind of religious feelings and religious education have been exceptionally crushed to various extremes and largely erased and poorly rebuilt during the last 100 years (amongst many other events, it includes not only the debounding of women's feet and men's minds culminating in May 1919, by people trying to escape to a totalitarian Confucian system created 2200 years ago by Mao's and Napoleon's old master Qin Shihuangdi* -2 exceptional dictators with an even more incredible master, in a very small club of men who durably molded our present human civilization, together with a few Roman, Egyptian and Arab dictators-, but it includes also the quick killing of the communist ethic inspiring millions of young red guards, once soon after 1966 by Mao himself and a second time definitively after 1976).

*this role is stunningly never explained to the local and foreign masses visiting the Terra-cotta warriors near Xian

The interesting aspect is the relation made with the present success of Weber's essay " Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism". Another interesting aspect here is that, by contrast, very few people in Europe even know about this book nowadays.

What strikes me in this brief summary by J Martinsen (to be frank I didn't read any of the texts he mentions here beyond his translations in this post) is what looks like a very simplistic intellectual approach of the subject. Definitely some "scholars", or so-called intellectuals, in Pop China, since 1980 -date when they could start speaking again if they had not been killed- seem to grasp here and there, in and outside Pop China, and put together pieces of an immense world puzzle, in what may look like to most scholars of developed countries a "childish culture" or "childish approach". The above-mentioned 100 years of turmoil (eh, an idea for Asian remake of Marquez's novel):) have produced blank minds. In a kindergarten you may have geniuses, with IQs above 200, but their minds are still largely blank. It is not only the possible apparent case of Zhao Xiao (?), but a more general attitude concerning the understanding of the complexities of Western cultures and economies such as analyzed in China since the 1980. For example -it is my own experience- in the 1980's there was this general idea that investing in foreign hardware would be enough, and that local "experts" could easily and quickly engineer locally all the necessary software. What wasn't obvious, even to me, was that this software had been invisibly crafted in European, North American and Japanese minds in 200 years, to create an exceptional industrial civilization, built with iron, sweat and a lot of blood, with several revolutions and 2 world wars, and above all with a lot of ink and saliva, from Voltaire to Marx and Weber, amongst many others. So of course it didn't work. That was the lesson of the 80's for aspiring-capitalist Pop China.

To be frank as a European, I don't feel at ease at all with this simplistic vision of religious USA by aspiring scholars of present Pop China:
- We are still struggling in Europe between the North and the South, between applying to our lives Luther's and Weber's vision and our Southern deep rooted Catholic culture symbolized by aging priests in robes in Rome; blood in the streets of Dublin is not even dry yet;
- Europe is full of churches, in the middle of every little village, which are deserted, with very few visitors on Sundays, and almost none under 50 years old; these churches can't even find priests any more; we are the last generation of dying Christian religions... we are turning now towards ...Asian religions, Buddhism, F Gong, etc. (how ironic, and what a hard time coming for Pop China leaders !); indeed we are too snobbish and skeptical and too educated to have the US black " Kapellemeisters" clapping in hands, and TV evangelist seducing couch potato masses (we could develop this sociological aspect, where Asia and North America share the concept of TV idols -what scares Pop China leaders, indeed-; these mass media products have less impact in fragmented Europe-);
- We European don't feel, and never felt at ease, with State religions, starting with US presidents and defendants swearing on the bible, G W Bush starting his government meetings with a prayer, and Mao's mummy on Tiananmen (We European knew too well, 200 years before the USA, what kind of bloody damages can provoke, locally and in the colonies, powerful men mumbling prayers before launching wars against things alien or evil -our 18th, 19th century thinkers forgot the pass the message around the world-).

Finally, I think Pop China scholars should read a bit more, travel a bit more, and of course live longer if they could... You still can't produce in terms of thoughts and analysis, concerning modernity, religion, ethics, sociology, political systems... (and accidentally the trivial antique "market economy" -great discovery!-) in 20 years with just one half-blank brain and a few blogs, what took 200 years to thousands of interconnected brains in developed countries to painfully produce.
Obviously, we are not there yet in Pop China, and our present World ear is unhappily not very favorable to any cultural enlightenment, anywhere (at least in its classical forms; blogs and video look more like the future; books and press will die soon).
Remember, China had incredible eras of Cultural enlightenment in 500 BCE, during the Tangs, around 1919... and just one new Chinese Rimbaud could fill the People's Desert, but he is not there yet (I already wrote that recently in French somewhere).

Balazs, one of the greatest European sinologist of last century (Polish, living in France), had read Marx and above all Weber, as well as the Chinese classics. He already analyzed some of these aspects and commented Weber and Marx in this respect (see "The birth of capitalism in China" Journal of Economics and Social History of the Orient, III, 1960). He reminds us that Pop China according to Marx is still waiting its "bourgeoise revolution" (no in fact, Balazs reminds us that Marx said that for Asia, the course of history could be different, a few paragraphs that our Asian comrades tried to forget during a large part of last century).
Amongst many other books, one could read also of course... Rabindranath Tagore and Liang Shuming, great thinkers of last century, who studied and compared religions (in particular Asian and Chinese religions), in relation with development and modernity.

See also possibly books like "Asian ideas of east and west: Tagore and his critics in Japan, China, and India (Harvard East Asian series) by Stephen N Hay; also just looking around on Internet, I found very interesting essays such as
ACROSS THE HIMALAYAN GAP THE CRITIQUE OF MODERNITY IN INDIA AND CHINA by PRASENJIT DUARA
http://ignca.nic.in/ks_41015.htm

Finally (I could write hours about that) 2 ideas:
- Buddhist monasteries are in the countryside ? Interesting question (even if the way the question is presented here seems rather simplistic and even childish). One should look a bit more at Chinese history, the evolution of Chinese cities during the last 2 millennia (and the influence of Confucianism and the differences with the evolution of European cities in particular), and the destruction of Buddhist monasteries in China, where printing and publishing business was invented centuries before Gutenberg (destructed at least several times in China during the first millennium and a more recently where you know), destructed apparently every time they appeared to grow into autonomous cells threatening the central Confucian power and system, sitting in towns and cities governed by Imperial scholars (one can read Balazs essays on the subject);
- Just a thought concerning the person who after all brought the "market economy" concept to Pop China; Deng Xiaoping was a great sociologist and economist (or just a good businessman in the heart after all), amongst other talents (including survival amongst other sharks), even if he wrote little on the subject but at least put his thoughts into practice more than anybody else (more efficiently than Marx, I still wonder why his face is not on Chinese notes ...or on a picture on Tiananmen square); he learned the virtues of capitalism and Taylorism the hard way, on the assembly line in a rubber factory near Montargis in France, not as an intern but for buying bread (I think Zhou Enlai was not far at the same time too, but possibly with more money, thanks to his rich parents; diplomats today usually avoid to exhumate the stories of these "young foreign political activists" trained in France -same for Pol Pot, except that in his case he lacked the Chinese IQ-); my point is that it takes a long time, and some brains, to understand an alien word, and above all, make something out of it for oneself or for ones country; I recommend to Zhao Xiao the French cathedrals (and the Loire castles), he could probably learn something new and draw interesting new conclusions maybe, at least concerning Chinese tourism.

"Marx said that for a rich person to enter heaven was much more difficult than for an elephant to pass through the eye of a needle."
Huh? And whom was Marx - if he ever indeed said that - quoting?

This is all very interesting but Zhao Xiao's very shaky, almost less-than-basic grasp of American history, religion, basic Christianity along with oft-argued among themselves tenants such as tithing doesn't lend a lot to his argument.
For example, besides attributing Jesus's "eye of the needle" quote to Marx, the bit about Bush insisting that the CEOs swear on Bibles lest they suffer eternal damnation was, er, a tad naive to put it charitably and only served to reveal how little Zhao knows.

Stephen,

Zhao makes no effort to statistically justify or illustrate his root assumption: that religion is a pervasive influence in American economic life. The closest he comes is making the patently absurd claim that "in the US, the spires of churches are more numerous than China's banks and rice shops."

After thus insinuating that the American economy is run by pious Christians, Zhao leaps to the concluson that this explains economic differences between the two economies. Why? Because he can. So the rest of the article is filled with simple conjecture on WHY faith matters.

This is shoddy argument -- it does not even reach sophomoric levels of banality. And the fact that it is apparently being treated seriously reflects very negatively on those discussing the piece. He Fan's criticisms are dead on, although his effort to proffer equally vague and unsupported game theoretic arguments suggests that the tendency to avoid letting facts interfere with a good argument is pervasive in the Chinese economic field.

One thing to keep in mind in the pursuit of rigor in these economic arguments is that the two essays, both Zhao Xiao's original and He Fan's response, were posts to an online forum, not peer-reviewed publications in an academic journal. The remainder of He Fan's essay (that I didn't translate) is more tongue-in-cheek about the whole religion thing and Zhao's somewhat mercurial reputation.

From a certain perspective, though, it looks like Zhao won out in the public arena, to some extent. Though there hasn't been a massive building boom in places of worship, we got the next best thing this year - a New Concept of Socialist Morality: the Eight Honors and Eight Disgraces - an attempt to manufacture an ethical framework to keep the country's morality from going down the tubes, and one that doesn't require Sunday attendance, at that.

A (perhaps) telling anecdote:

A Chinese Christian once challenged me on why I had become a Buddhist. We were comfortable enough with each other that he called me "stupid" for abandoning the "truth."

So I, in turn, challenged him: "Why are you a Christian?"

He laid out a simple argument:

America is Christian.

America is rich.

Therefore, if I become a Christian, I will bcome rich.

Can you spot the logical fallacy? When I asked where he got such a preposterous idea, guess what he said:

FROM AN AMERICAN MISSIONARY!

The author offered excellent observations about the relationship between American capitalism and Christianity.

Adam Smith observed that the basis of Capitalsim was self-interest. Obviously, unbridled self-interest can be dangerous.

America's Founding Fathers observed that a society without a religious foundation would fail. Therefore, religious freedom was a cornerstone of our social composition.

This was so obvious from the beginning that de Tocqueville remarked that "the religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States."

President Bush has commented in China that the Chinese government has nothing to fear from Christianity. Rather, Christians make good citizens.

China has made great strides in becoming an economic power. Think how much more could be accomplished if the Chinese saw a greater reason for their efforts than material success?

First, let me say that I am not a student of economics.

It's interesting to me that Zhao Xiao, who was a member of the communist party in China and an atheist at the time of writing this paper, made this connection between Christianity and our economy. I can only guess that he came to America to try to learn what he could so that he could have some sort of contribution to the future prosperity of his homeland, China. Maybe I am being too naive myself, but I doubt he wrote that paper to get a rise out of anyone, or to start a controversy.

Even more interesting to me now, is that at the time he could not have known what China or America would look like present day, spiritually or financially. Every politician in China read that paper, and some time afterwards there was a law passed to give Chinese people the right to religion. Also, China has one of the fastest growing Christian populations in the world and will soon have more Christians than the USA. Even more interesting is how horrible our economy is doing now, due to greed and lack of integrity by banks and businesses of America. It seems to me that when these companies decided to go to any length to get ahead, thats when our great market economy begins to fail. That greed and lack of integrity has really put us (USA) in a bad position and now China is doing very well, owning more of our treasuries than any other country. On top of that, everything you buy in America was made in China.

Is this a coincidence, that a decline in business ethics in America leads to a decline in the market, while Christianity booms in China as does the market in China?

Simply, I think Zhou had found that

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Psalm 33:12

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