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The Achilles Heel of Chinas Rise: Faith

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In addition to Christian websites and periodicals in China, there are also academic sites which are writing on issues related to religion, law, and society. One such site is Pacific Institute of Social Science, which aggregates scholarly articles published throughout China. They recently posted a translation of an article titled The Achilles Heel of Chinas Rise: Faith by Liu Peng, a senior fellow at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

What is China Lacking?

What do I mean by "comprehensive strengths in other aspects?"The list of answers to this question would be very long. But in fact, this question can be asked in two other ways: "what is the weakness that hinders China's development?" Or "what is China most lacking today?"

As to what is lacking, many people would think of things like energy resources, the bottleneck for China's future development. Some would say the global market, energy, and science and technology. Others would refer to the legal system. It is true that these are all indispensable and vital elements for China's future development, but they are merely results of an analysis of the material and technical levels rather than actual deadly weaknesses. [J6]

If we look back on how China has attempted to maintain its standing in the world throughout its thousands of years of history, and how other powers rose in history, we can see that the key factor that determines China's future development lies not in the realm of the material, but in the realm of the spiritual. What is China most lacking in the 21st century? Faith! China is suffering from serious flaws in its spiritual life and morality which are in essence, matters of faith. In this area of faith, the Chinese are experiencing a serious void and confusion. It is time to light the spiritual torch that shines over the road of development for the nation and the country.

The reason why Chinese society has seen an abundance of outrageous and ridiculous phenomena, with little corresponding uprightness is not because we are short of money. Rather, it is because we have lost our faith. Like a house covered with gold powder, we are only enjoying the glory of appearance. While the core of the value and belief systems that buoyed the Chinese spirit in the past has been destroyed, we have not yet made the innovations necessary to develop and maintain new core value and belief systems for contemporary Chinese. When the old faith was destroyed, but a new one not yet built up, the imbalance between the spiritual and the material which is caused by a spiritual emptiness and moral void becomes increasingly salient.

Though China has made ostensible achievements in terms of material development, material prosperity cannot fill the void of spirit and faith. Running out of fresh fuel, the light of the spiritual torch of the Chinese is dimming. In fact, the light from the spiritual torch is even too dim to show direction and provide the necessary cohesive force for a nation composed of various ethnic groups, multiple social classes, and different interest groups, let alone being bright enough to shine through the darkness and light up every corner of the world. How can such a country rise to the position of great power?

In other words, for China to rise to the status of a great power, she has to answer the following question: What is the spiritual pillar, the core value and belief system for the Chinese people? As to the question, "what do we believe in today, "the official answer is well known since everyone has repeated it many times on numerous tests from elementary school to college. However, if you take into consideration the actual situation of Chinese spiritual faith, this is a pressing question that has existed for a long time, but has been deliberately avoided. It is the question of what constrains China's rise from the inside, and to a certain extent, determines the fate of China's future development.

Today, whether or not we have the willingness or courage to admit it, we know that the ethical principles in our society have gone awry. Ethical problems derive from problems with the value system, which in turn derive from spiritual problems. This shows us that the belief system put forth by the authorities for years now exists in name only. Unfortunately, due to complex considerations, Chinese authorities and the media are not willing to admit such a fact and discuss it openly. Though our daily lives are filled with increasingly startling social problems (Shanxi black brick kiln incident, Hebei Sanlu tainted milk scandal, Hunan Luo Caixia case of college admission being replaced, Guizhou and Sichuan official visiting underage prostitutes scandal, Zhejiang Hu Bin drag racing case, and Hubei Deng Yujiao case), the media are only ardent about reporting the stories rather than analyzing their root causes. In the few instances where they do touch on the causes, they do not attribute them to the loss or lack of spiritual faith and will therefore not really get to the root causes of the incidents. Of course, the authorities treat these as isolated incidents that are not representative of the society at large. If they are forced to consider these problems from the perspective of faith, they tend to trace them to "a small number of people's lack of adherence to the repeatedly stressed core value and belief system, the lack of a "revolutionary outlook for life and values," and the loss of the Communist ideal and faith.

However, they will not address why their long-term and large-scale propaganda campaigns have not helped such a large "small number" set up their "revolutionary outlook for life and outlook for value."They have only watched the drastic increase in crimes and the devastating downturn of social morality. Our media rarely faces these questions directly or comes straight to the point: why is it that the core value and belief system that the authorities repeatedly propagate do not work? Do the Chinese, who have simply solved the problems of food and clothing, in fact hold any value or belief system? What exactly went wrong with the faith of the Chinese? Do we believe that there are in fact no problems with our faith or do we merely consider the problems insignificant and not worthy of our study. Where is China going and how far can she go?

Surely we can pretend that these problems do not exist and continue to maintain the now-expired value and belief system as the standard answers for student exams. However, doing this is no more than covering the roots of all the problems to postpone the day when the contradictions are brought into the open. In fact, the re-occurrence of mass events such as the Wengan incident show clearly that the internal contradictions have already deteriorated and started to surface. Self-deception and avoidance are not helpful. If China avoids dealing with the question of faith, she will never become a real power. The question of faith and the future of China are connected. Anyone who cares about the fate of China and desires the rise of China must face it, think about it, and answer it.

The entire article can be found here.

Source: Pacific Institute for Social Sciences

Image credit: China Industry, by AK Rockefeller

ChinaSource Team

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