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Venturing a Glimpse into 21st Century China


With 2000 only months away and the new millennium beginning January 1, 2001, people everywhere are trying to predict what the future may hold. Predictions of China’s future are especially wide-ranging. Given the massive change underway in China, it is perhaps futile to try and predict what the new millennium will bring. At the same time, it is possible to anticipate some of the trends and issues that will emerge as key factors in shaping China’s future. The following suggestions are offered by a panel of Christian China specialists that met last year to consider the conditions and scenarios that China will likely face in the 21st century. Included are possible trends and events in the areas of politics, economics, education, society and culture.

In Politics

  • Relations with the West, particularly the United States, may be precarious. The United States could easily misstep in its foreign policy with China simply through misunderstanding. For example, overreaction to possible protests on June 4, 1999, (the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre) could cause the United States to distance itself from China on human rights grounds should such protests occur.
  • Popular discontent in China could increase because of widespread government corruption or the actions of political separatists, especially in the heavily Muslim-populated regions.
  • The pressures for reform and democracy could spark a leadership struggle within the 16th Party Congress.
  • Debate as to whether or not to open the spring 2003 National People’s Congress (NPC) election to multiple party competition could develop.
  • The Chinese government will be faced with the lingering question of when and how to reevaluate the Tiananmen Square incident, including how to deal with those responsible for the events of June fourth and the students and scholars who have sought refuge in the United States and abroad.

In Economics

  • China’s state banking system, which is currently billions of dollars in debt, will be reorganized.
  • There will be reform in China’s enterprises and business practices, especially where foreign businesses are involved. Relaxed restrictions on foreign ownership and management of businesses within China will make it easier for foreign businesspeople to introduce efficient management procedures and influence business policy. China will not relinquish complete control, but partial foreign ownership of its enterprises will be allowed.
  • China’s eventual admission to the World Trade Organization will require its entering into some sort of an anti-corruption compliance agreement with other member nations.
  • Because of its immense population, China will require natural resources from outside its borders. Energy resources and technology will be of particular importance.

In Education

  •  Educational exchange between China and other nations will be expanded to include programs for school-aged children.
  • To accommodate cross-cultural communication between the East and West, Chinese, Japanese, or Korean language instruction will become more common—perhaps required—in schools in the West.
  • Christian institutions of higher education outside China will become increasingly involved in medical, business, and other higher education incentives in China.

In Society and Culture

  • Social unrest may occur as a result of increased crime.
  • By 2001, China’s culture will be so westernized that the goal of cultural exchange programs will be to remind Chinese of the value of their own culture. There will be increased cultural exchange on all levels.
  • In the press, a series of exposés on corruption will encourage the government to launch an anti-corruption campaign. Corruption, however, will also exist in the media since journalists will find it difficult to act with integrity after having operated under a corrupt system for so long. Ownership and monopoly rules as well as other regulations will need to be addressed before freedom of the press is attempted in China.
  • American and European news media professionals sent to major Chinese cities will act as advisors on issues of press freedom. They will also be legal advisors to China’s Ministry of Justice, explaining the legal ramifications of libel, slander, and other free speech issues.

Watch for the full report on the roundtable of China specialists upon which this article was based. Soon to be released by ChinaSource.

Image credit: commercial center by Randy Escalada via Flickr.

Scott Mathias

Scott Mathias is completing his master’s degree in communications at Wheaton College while working in public relations and as a free-lance writer and editor. View Full Bio