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Threescore and Ten Years

A Special October 1st National Day


Every September, in addition to the arrival of cooler weather and clearer skies, Beijing starts to spruce itself up to get ready for the October 1st celebration of China’s National Day holiday. This holiday commemorates the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. This year preparations for the 70th anniversary started much earlier, were much more comprehensive, and covered the entire country.

Every country likes to celebrate its history. But why is 70 years important for China?

  • This is the first major National Day holiday since China’s current leadership began the push for China to realize the China Dream, the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
  • This is the first major National Day holiday since the start of what is called China’s “New Era.”
  • This is the first major National Day holiday since the start of China’s global blueprint for development known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or One Belt and One Road (OBOR)

China and its citizens have a lot to celebrate as a nation looking back at its 70-year history.

Statistic

1949

2019

Illiteracy[1] [2]

80%

3.6%

International Trade[3] [4]

0.0041 trillion RMB

30.5 trillion RMB
(China is the world’s largest trading nation)

Tourism[5]

Chinese citizens hardly able to travel within China

150 million outbound Chinese tourists

Motor vehicle production[6]

22,574 (1960)

27.8 million (2018)

GDP per capita[7] [8]

54 USD

9,776 USD

Life expectancy at birth[9]

35 years

77 years

Highways[10]

81,000 km

4.85 million km

Air travel (passengers)[11] [12]

10,000

611 million

Telephones[13] [14]

260,000 fixed line users

1.58 billion cellphone subscribers

Urbanization[15] [16]

10.6%

59.1%

The World Bank routinely points to more than 850 million people being lifted out of extreme poverty in the last 40 years as one of China’s main accomplishments on a global scale.

As part of the 70th anniversary celebrations Beijing will hold a massive military parade down Chang’An Avenue through Tiananmen Square. The preparations for this have been going on for months with several weekends in September being devoted to full-scale rehearsals. Other activities in recent months have occurred all across China’s more than 30 provinces and special administrative regions. Films, TV shows, and other media outlets have highlighted the changes in the last 70 years across all sectors of society and industry. Beijing’s new second airport, Daxing Airport, opened at the end of this month. Beijing already has the world’s second busiest airport (after Atlanta) and has now added an airport with the world’s largest airport terminal.

During these 70 years, what has happened with the church in China?

At the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 there were about 1 million Protestant Christians in China. The latest estimate from published sources gave a figure of 39.7 million Christians.[17] This number excludes those who meet in unregistered or house churches outside of the TSPM system. Other researchers outside China have given higher numbers for the total number of Christians in China.

Many of the socio-economic indicators which show China’s progress in the last 70 years have assisted the growth of churches. Changes such as increased literacy and education levels, greater ease of transportation, and easier communication have been positive for the spread of the gospel among Chinese society. Today there are flourishing websites, chat groups, cellphone apps, and other means for sharing Christian content and teaching.

Despite the amazing growth of the Chinese church it is wise to heed the words of one of China’s leading house church pastors[18] that China remains the world’s largest mission field.

While there is much to celebrate this year both for China as a country and for the Chinese church, there are also concerns. Even as China celebrates its 70th anniversary many in government are aware that political scientists discuss that authoritarian regimes have rarely exceeded 70 years. In recent months China’s One Country Two System policy for Hong Kong and Taiwan has also faced new challenges. China is facing domestic and international economic headwinds and challenging international relations (especially with the United States) that impact its move forward to realize the China Dream. China is in a race to get rich before it gets old.

For the church, increasing pressure and restrictions continue to evolve with no clear end state. The ongoing Sinicization[19] campaign and the increased ideological pressures have church leaders exploring options for ongoing evangelism, discipleship, theological training and worship. Some churches have been closed while others have moved locations multiple times or split into smaller fellowships. Churches are exploring how to best disciple the next generation. Church leaders are having to negotiate what can be accepted and what violates their Christian conscience as they face increased pressures.

As Christians we should remember Paul’s teaching in Romans 13 that God has established the authorities that exist in every country and marked out their appointed times in history. (Acts 17:26) Paul also urges us to pray, that “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:2-4) We can be praying for Chinese Christians as they seek to be faithful followers, witnesses, and good citizens even in the midst of increased challenges. We can mark the October 1st holiday on our calendars as a chance to pray for and with them.

Image credit: ChinaSource

Peter Bryant

Over the last 30 years Peter Bryant (pseudonym) has had the chance to visit, to live for extended periods of time, and to travel to almost all of China’s provinces. As a Christian business person he has met Chinese from all walks of life. He has a particular interest in... View Full Bio


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