There are many things that the Church, in a prophetic role, could criticise about the West. But there are many things that we should also be thankful for – things that are so familiar that we take them for granted, like universal human rights, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, democracy and the rule of law.
The Western democracies are probably as weak as they have been since the Second World War, with political and moral confusion, and progressive ideologies threatening to send the West back to pre-Christian pagan times; the threat of Islamism; economic collapse caused by Covid-19 and climate change. Yes, the threats are numerous, but perhaps none is more dangerous than that posed by the Chinese Communist Party.
When we back away from a Western-Centric view of the world we can see just how influential and important China is. It is the largest country in the world in terms of population (1.44 billion), the second largest in terms of economy (and on track to become the largest) and the second most powerful in military terms. It is a country with a rich history and culture. It is also true that when China sneezes, the world catches a cold!
Recent news from China is not good. The evidence still points to Covid-19 originating in Wuhan; war is threatened with Taiwan; democracy has been crushed in Hong Kong; the Uighur Muslims are facing genocide; a third of Chinese people are facing severe floods as the Three Gorges Dam is threatened. I recently did a podcast on China and found there was no shortage of material!
The major problem from the Western perspective is that China is governed by a dictatorial communist regime, led by a leader who is setting himself up as the next Chairman Mao – only this time with world ambitions. Many Western commentators and politicians assumed that with the fall of the Soviet Empire, communism was finished (apart from in a few elitist Western universities). They thought that the inevitable march of history meant that if we were nice to the Chinese government, and established good economic and diplomatic ties, they would see the error of their ways and become 'democratic'.
The same naïve assumption was made about the failed Arab states with the devastating results we see in the Middle East today. But that is as nothing compared to the error made about the Chinese Communist Party – who have neatly turned the West's pathetic strategy on its head and are now using the West's own business, education, media and technology as weapons to undermine the democratic countries.
If you think this is fanciful hyperbole, I would suggest you read Hidden Hand – Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World by Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg. It is the most stunning book I have read for years. It's not some kind of right-wing conspiracy theorist mantra.
Clive Hamilton is a Green politician and a professor of public ethics at the state university of Canberra in Australia. In his earlier best-selling work, Silent Invasion, he wrote about the growing Chinese influence on Australia. Hidden Hand is a detailed, through, evidenced examination of how the Chinese Communist Party is seeking to re-shape the whole world. It should be required reading for every politician, academic, journalist and church leader. It is what I call a rainbow book – that is, a book where I use so many highlighters that it ends up like a colouring book!
It is important, as Hamilton and Ohlberg note, to distinguish between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese people. The CCP want to use the narrative that they are China. But this is to do a disservice to the millions of Chinese people who do not support the aims and methodology of the CCP.
What is the CCP's world policy?
This is not a new cold war. The CCP has always been at war, regarding China as surrounded by enemies which it needs to deal with. China has just taken over Hong Kong, is threatening to invade Taiwan and take it back into greater China, has broken international law by claiming the South China Seas, and is flexing its muscles on the Indian/Chinese border.
It is using its vast wealth to influence countries and international institutions in favour of its authoritarian government. It's Belt and Road strategy is the biggest economic and political initiative in the world. China buys influence throughout the world by focusing on the elites. The details in Hidden Hand of how this is being done in Western universities, corporations, media and political organisations are shocking.
Why do so many people in the West downplay the threat posed by the CCP?
There are two answers. The first is ignorance. People just don't know. The second is money. Upton Sinclair states: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." There are far too many vested interests whose profits and livelihoods depend on doing what the CCP want. I remember speaking to one academic lecturer who told me that he had been instructed never to fail any student from China – the university depended too much on their money. Another example listed by Hamilton is that children of Communist party officials are given lucrative internships in big corporations.
What is the CCP's internal policy?
The CCP seek to suppress those who do not buy into the atheistic, materialistic ideology of The Party. That is why they are committing genocide against the Uyghur Muslims (including locking up a million, and conducting forced sterilisations and abortions), suppressing the Falun Gong, and increasingly attacking the biggest threat of all – the Christian church.
Why is the Church the biggest threat?
Because there are up to 100 million Chinese Christians (compared with 90 million Communist Party members). And Christians do not bow to Caesar or Xi Jinping. In an absolutist state, it is an existential threat to have millions of people who will not accept every one of your dictates – people whom you cannot control. This is why there is increasing persecution of the Church in China even now.
What should we do?
Get informed - Hamilton writes "The CCP prefers to operate in the shadows, and sunlight is often the best disinfectant." We need to keep our eyes open and we need to look upward to the One who is the Light of the world.
Take action – "Democracies won't be able to change China, but they can defend their most important institutions." We should defend the freedom of the press, speak up for the oppressed, and keep our academic freedoms.
Love – We must love our enemies in the CCP. And we must love our brothers and sisters in the Chinese Church. We must also love the Chinese people. We must reject any form of racism or discrimination against them. The Chinese people have a lot to teach us – in so many ways.
Pray – Ultimately our enemy is not the CCP or any human institution. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. We pray that the oppressor will be defeated, that light will enter into the darkness and that the Church of Jesus Christ will flourish in China. The growth of the Church in China is remarkable. We must pray that it continues and stand with our Chinese brothers and sisters as they face increased persecution.
David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at www.theweeflea.com
Views and opinions published in Christian Today are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.