Tom Friedman, author of The World is Flat and New York Times columnist, is big on China, but he’s not the only one. The 21st century is being called the “China Century” as China’s economy is predicted to grow to three times the size of the US economy by 2040, only 30 years from now. One book, When China Rules The World, foresees drastic cultural and political changes as China rises in world status.
What does this have to do with churches? Just this — young people, including Chinese young people, are already exerting tremendous social pressure on the global culture. Trends in China’s emerging generation are both reflecting and influencing the world youth culture. I track several emerging gen sites and blogs, and Chinese trends are appearing more often.
One site, enoVate, belongs to the company by the same name. Headquartered in Shanghai, China, enoVate’s mission is “insights and creative solutions for China’s youth market.” But look at their client page — Coca-Cola, Sprite, New Balance, Kraft, Unilever, Ticketmaster, and assorted other American and European corporations. All of them are trying to expand their reach in the world’s largest youth market by understanding what makes Chinese youth tick.
A recent post on enoVate’s blog posed a provocative idea — ‘”I Want A Mixed-Race Baby”: Are Chinese Youth After a Mixed-Race Baby?’ The combination of Chinese features, augmented by those of another race, are seen as both exotic and desirable among Chinese youth. The previously insular Chinese society has not only adopted the racial pluralism of the United States (we have a mixed race president now), but has given racial pluralism an uniquely Chinese twist, which is what China tends to do with any trend they adopt.
My point in this is not to build an airtight case for the rise of China, but to suggest that we tend to look only within ourselves and our own culture for insights into how to do church. But there are other models that are taking a broader, more global view. One example is Newsong church, with its international locations in California, India, London, Bangkok, Mexico City, and the other parts of the US, which has styled itself as a “third culture” church. More churches will follow Newsong’s lead, and if you have traveled in Asia as I have, you recognize that China dominates the landscape.
With increasing global communication, world travel, and social networking, we need to pay attention to the trends driving China. Because, to paraphrase Hollywood, these are coming soon to a community near you.
Breaking News: After I posted this article on Jan 20, the Jan 21 edition of the New York Times carried this headline and article — Foreign Languages Fade in Class – Except Chinese. It appears that while other language subjects are declining, the teaching of Chinese in public and private schools is increasing, partially because China is paying the salaries of teachers to travel from China to teach in the US. Remember when all Chinese wanted to learn English? Interesting.