ChinaSource has released a new ebook, 7 Trends Impacting Foreigners in China.
Based on a series of blog posts I wrote earlier on this topic, the ebook looks at how changes in China’s church, in the expat Christian community, and in China itself are forcing a rethink about the role of foreign workers.
When I wrote the original posts, I was reflecting primarily on the growth of the indigenous Christian community, both in numbers and in influence. Chinese believers are leading in ways that would not have been possible 20 or 30 years ago. As a result, some contributions that foreigners made in past decades are no longer as critical today. Expatriate workers may still have an important role to play, but that role is shifting.
Over the past year or so, events in China have lent a new urgency to this shift. Recent developments include:
- The Overseas NGO Law, which narrowly delineates the space in which foreign organizations can legally operate, calling into question both the nature of foreign involvement and the way in which it takes place.
- The rating system for foreigners working in China, which significantly raises the bar for work visas and potentially closes the door on some long-time China workers’ ongoing service in country.
- A marked rise in anti-foreign sentiment, as seen in official propaganda and in heightened scrutiny of foreigners living in China, as well as pressure on Chinese entities with which they are involved.
- Revised regulations on religion that specifically address Chinese Christians’ relationship to foreign individuals and organizations.
- An increase in foreign workers being asked to leave or having visa applications denied.
The lines for foreign involvement in China are being redrawn, it seems, on an almost daily basis. Being aware of this changing environment is crucial for those who seek to remain relevant. As I stated in 7 Trends,
Today’s foreign Christian workers are writing a new chapter in their China involvement. The changes in their role are motivated both by encouraging developments within China’s church, as well as by sobering new political realities under President Xi Jinping’s “New Normal."
While the effects of President Xi’s policies upon foreigners in China have become increasingly evident; the changes go beyond simply a tightening political environment. Understanding the multiple factors that are reshaping the context of Christian ministry in China is essential for organizations seeking to formulate a credible response.
Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of China Ministries International, and from 1985 to... View Full Bio