Posts Tagged ‘China’

Another Postcard from Tomorrow Square

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Recently I was delighted to hear James Fallows speak on “China’s Emergence” at a local symposium on opportunities for commerce in China. He gave a very tight and helpful summary of recent trends and was just as dapper, even, and insightful in person as he comes across in print and blog. His talk outlined aspects of China he found surprising during his recent three-year stay and a few policy implications of those surprises, and he ended with an entreaty to the college students in the audience. To those students, who will soon emerge into “real” world careers, he said this (this should be considered a paraphrase from the notes I took):

Increasingly Americans are studying Chinese and that is absolutely a good thing. I wish I had learned it earlier and I have always been thankful for the Mandarin abilities that I have. But more than learning Chinese, if you are a college student today, looking ahead to a career as a leader in global business, more important than speaking Chinese is the need to have Americans spend enough time in China, with Chinese, and in China-influenced spheres that they feel comfortable with a world in which China plays a major part. Feeling frightened, holding uninformed fears of China’s rise, will only distort and limit our future. Make China a comfortable part of your mental map, of your world, so you don’t feel threatened by it but are interested in it. The more comfortable we can become with China as it emerges, the better we will all be.

I wanted to hug him. This is my ardent hope for my own congregation. Fallows put it perfectly.

This sentiment and priority, which resonates so fundamentally with me, might be an unusual one for a church. On its face, I suppose it isn’t particularly spiritual or even ecclesial. Why do I care whether my congregation members, not just in their actions or their vacations or their relationships, but deep down in their own mental landscape, recognize a land called China and the people who call it their home? Becoming “comfortable with a world in which China plays a major part” is not only prudent, it’s also reflective of the type of cosmopolitanism I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Is cosmopolitanism a Biblical posture, and what are its salient features? What would be the implications of Christian cosmopolitanism for discipleship and the church? I may use this space to write more about that soon.


The Court of Public Opinion

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2008 at 5:58 pm


When I think through all that happened in the world this year, my mind drifts back to this photograph. This is Jiang Guohua, the Communist Party boss in Mianzhu, China. And those protesters are the families of children who died when a poorly-constructed middle school collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake.

The next day, the Communist Party’s top official in Mianzhu came out to talk with the parents and to try to stop them from marching to Chengdu, the provincial capital, where they sought to prevail on higher-level authorities to investigate. The local party boss, Jiang Guohua, dropped to his knees and pleaded with them to abandon the protest, but the parents shouted in his face and continued their march.

This picture ran on the front page of the New York Times on May 28 with this story, and I can remember talking with my friend Byron about it. What does it take to get a man down on his knees, publicly begging for the mercy of his screaming accusers?

Then a dirge began playing over the loudspeaker, and all at once the women doubled over in agony, a chorus of 100 mothers wailing over the loss of sons and daughters who, because of China’s population control policy, were their only children. The husbands wept in silence, paralyzed by the storm of emotion.

“We worked so hard to raise you and then you left us so suddenly,” a woman screamed, pounding the ruins of the Juyuan Middle School with her fists. “How could you leave us to grow old alone?”

I remember this image for how quickly it thrust me into excruciating complexity, for how it displays the unbearable pain of responsibility and the unbearable pain of loss, agonies as irreconcilable as they are intertwined.

“Their Own Worst Enemy”

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2008 at 12:11 am

This month The Atlantic‘s James Fallows, who lives in Beijing, has a new dispatch called Their Own Worst Enemy, in which he asks: “Why is China so stunningly bad at managing its own reputation?” Read the rest of this entry »