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Looking for 21st Century China

From the series Looking Back

As ChinaSource celebrates 20 years of ministry, it is a time of reflection and giving thanks. We are privileged to have served the China-ministry community for as long as we have.

With today’s post, we are beginning a series, called Looking Back that will take a closer look at those twenty years. Over the next few months, this series will include the following:

  • selected articles and posts from our archives.
  • posts by guest bloggers reflecting on their engagement with ChinaSource over the years.
  • photos highlighting the changes that China has experienced over the past few decades

We are excited for the opportunity to look back and we look forward to sharing with you what we find!

The original ChinaSource publication was the ChinaSource journal, a printed document that went out to paid subscribers. When we made the switch to online distribution in 2010, the name was changed to ChinaSource Quarterly, and back issues were digitized and posted to our website. The first edition of the ChinaSource journal was published in the spring of 1999, with the theme ”Views of China.”

To kick off this Looking Back series, I thought it would be interesting to re-post one of the articles from that issue, "Venturing a Glimpse into 21st Century China,” by Scott Mattias.

It’s a fascinating look into what many at that time were thinking with regards to China’s progress and development in what was then the coming new century. What follows is the article in its entirety:

Venturing a Glimpse into 21st Century China

By Scott Mattias

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.

I encourage you to go back and read the entire first edition of ChinaSource for an interesting look at some of the issues that China and the ministry community were facing in 1999.

Image credit: by Bianca Polak, via Flickr
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Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement 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

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