During a trip to China last summer I was talking with a local Christian friend. “Do you think Xi Jinping is a Christian?” she asked me. As you can imagine, I was taken aback!
“What leads you to ask that question?” I queried.
“Well,” she said, “he has launched this new “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which is perfect for spreading the gospel.”
I told her that I doubted he is a Christian, but even though spreading the gospel wasn’t his purpose, it certainly is God’s purpose.
Simply put, the “One Belt, One Road” initiative is China’s long-term plan to strengthen diplomatic and economic ties between China and other nations in the region by pumping in large sums of development cash. The Economist puts it even more succinctly:
Launched in 2013 as “one belt, one road”, it involves China underwriting billions of dollars of infrastructure investment in countries along the old Silk Road linking it with Europe. The ambition is immense. China is spending roughly $150bn a year in the 68 countries that have signed up to the scheme.
The trade route that linked China with Central Asia (and beyond) in the ancient world was known as the Silk Road. It was along this “road” that goods from China flowed west, and goods and ideas flowed east into China. Some of these ideas included Buddhism, Islam, and Nestorian Christianity.
This video, The Silk Road: Timelapses from Beijing to Samarkand, provides some beautiful images of various cities along the Silk Road, including the Chinese cities of Beijing, Xi’an, and Kashgar.
Regarding the issue of the potential impact of “One Belt, One Road” on the spreading of the gospel, Brent Fulton says this:
The assumption is that Chinese business opportunities in the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia, and beyond will create natural avenues for Christians from China to live and work in these regions. As a result they will be well positioned to have a Christian witness among peoples who have hitherto had little access to the gospel.
History has shown that the Holy Spirit may use a variety of means to move God’s people forward in the accomplishment of Christ’s redemptive purpose. “One Belt, One Road” could potentially be another one of those means. But drawing a straight line between OBOR and the success of a new mission movement from China may be overly optimistic, to say the least.
Here are more resources for learning about “One Belt, One Road” and the Silk Road.
Articles and Web Pages
China Is Quietly Reshaping the World (October 17, 2017, The Atlantic)
China's Huge 'One Belt, One Road' Initiative Is Sweeping Central Asia (November 21, 2016, The Heritage)
Shadow of the Silk Road, by Colin Thubron
Opportunities to Serve
Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio