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The Iona Blog

Christianity the reason for West's success, say the Chinese

Author: Tom O'Gorman
Date: 3rd March 2011

In the West we are doing our best to destroy our Christian heritage but in China, Chinese intellectuals are coming around to the view that it is precisely this heritage that has made the West so successful.

Former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, Dominic Lawson, in a review in the Sunday Times of Niall Ferguson's new book, ‘Civilisation: The West and the Rest’, carries a quote from a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in which he tries to account for the success of the West, to date.

He said: “One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world.

“We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had.

“Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system.

“But in the past twenty years, we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful.

“The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.”

Note the source. It isn't from a religious leader, or some religious think-tank. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is an instrument of the Chinese Communist government which spends a not inconsiderable amount of time and money persecuting Christians and is officially atheistic.

If this is the conclusion it has come to, maybe Europe needs to reconsider whether it mightn't be an idea to encourage rather than eradicate Christianity.

Incidentally, just to drive home the point, Lawson also refers to this data point in Ferguson's book: Wenzhou, the Chinese city which is rated as the most entrepreneurial in the country, is also home to 1,400 churches.

Lawson refers to a quote in the book from a prominent Wenzhou business leader, a Mr Hanping Zhang, who argues that “an absence of trust had been one of the main factors holding China back; but he feels he can trust his fellow Christians because he knows that they will be honest in their dealings with him”.

It has long been accepted that Christianity is one of the core elements of Western civilisation; it is too little understood that it is also one of the secrets of the stunning success of that civilisation.

 

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