In my previous article “China 2024 and Beyond“, I argued that China, amid its troubles, is in desperate need of a visionary leader akin to Deng Xiaoping. Such a leader could rejuvenate China’s economy through policies that prioritise freedom. 

The esteemed former senator, Bob Day, responded by emphasising the power of the Gospel when contemplating China’s future trajectory. It’s a common assertion among Christians, particularly those with libertarian leanings, that the importance of Christianity, along with economic and political freedom, could herald comprehensive benefits for the nation. This article explores these considerations while also engaging in a broader discussion on the interplay between freedom and (Christian) faith.

The Spiritual Evolution in China

In my opinion China’s spiritual landscape has evolved through four distinct stages: the early spirituality may be characterised by nature and ancestor worship, and a worship of “Shang Di” (Heavenly Lord), who is believed to be the creator of heaven and earth, similar to the Christian God but far less personal. This belief is still prevalent among the general public. 

The second stage is philosophical spirituality with the emergence of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. However, arguably, none of these are religions per se: Confucianism is a set of philosophies clearly based on the teachings of Confucius without any deity; Taoism, with Laozi as its founder, who many regard as the first libertarian philosopher in human history, later developed into a polytheistic religion; while Buddhism similarly shared a path from being a philosophy into a religion. 

Given the significant influence of faith and religion on shaping society, understanding faith becomes crucial.

The third stage began with the Chinese Communist Party’s control of China since 1949, leading to a brutal suppression of spiritual beliefs, especially during the Cultural Revolution. 

The fourth stage, following China’s reopening in the late 1970s, has seen a remarkable revival of spirituality, reflecting a collective search for meaning and identity amidst rapid modernisation.

The Role of Faith in Individual and Societal Morality

Fundamentally, faith acts as a guiding light for personal conduct and a moral compass for believers. It endows life with purpose, peace, and direction for believers, while non-believers might find similar guidance in their conscience. 

On a societal level, faith possesses transformative power. Traditions like Buddhism and Taoism encourage introspection, whereas Christianity and Islam advocate for outward societal influence which has the potential to prompt change, for better or for worse. Despite the general hostility of modern authoritarian regimes towards religion, often under Marxist influences, their tolerance varies across faiths. 

In China, Buddhism enjoys public support for its perceived blessings on wealth and fortune, contrasting starkly with Christianity’s limited tolerance, with only state-approved churches operating openly (and still cautiously) and underground churches enduring constant harassment.

Understanding Faith Correctly

Given the significant influence of faith and religion on shaping society, understanding faith becomes crucial. Using Christianity as an illustration, it’s evident how misconceptions can distort its teachings for harmful ends—endorsing slavery through misinterpretations of the Old Testament, justifying support for Hitler with references to Romans, and aligning it with Communism by pointing to Acts. 

In China, Buddhism enjoys public support for its perceived blessings on wealth and fortune, contrasting starkly with Christianity’s limited tolerance

A proper understanding of Christianity revisits foundational principles: God’s creation of Adam with free will and accountability, the Ten Commandments’ assertion of the rights to life, liberty, and property, and Jesus’ teaching of the Golden Rule to treat others as one wishes to be treated, without advocating coercion to impose personal beliefs on others. 

Consider the concept of a “Christian society” as a further example. Despite their differences, both Western nations like the UK, the US, and Australia and those caught in the “Latin American Trap”, including Argentina and Brazil, share a profound commonality: they are deeply influenced by Christianity and have substantial Christian populations. While the former group has achieved peace and prosperity, the latter has experienced considerable chaos and distress. This division illustrates that while the path to freedom has been closely linked with Christian teachings historically, the presence of Christian faith alone does not ensure a nation’s success. Faith, undoubtedly beneficial for inner peace, moral guidance, or spiritual salvation, falls short as a reliable predictor of a country’s future prosperity.

Freedom: The Foundation of Prosperity

Freedom, on the other hand, is the cornerstone of a country’s prosperity. Under Deng Xiaoping, China made significant progress in economic freedom from the late 1970s, seeing major advancements through the 1990s and stability into the early 2010s. This progress has significantly reversed under Xi Jinping’s rule. Meanwhile, the brief hope for political freedom in the 1980s was crushed by the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the absence of political freedom has further undermined economic liberties, eventually culminating in constitutional changes that could extend Xi’s presidency indefinitely. 

In the end, I believe faith is akin to the heart, guiding individuals and societies with its moral compass and providing the ultimate meaning of life. Freedom, on the other hand, is akin to the mind, steering societal direction, with economic freedom protecting property rights and political freedom guarding individual sovereignty. 

I endorse the words of Argentine President Javier Milei from his Davos speech: “Long live freedom, dammit!”

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  1. Your observation of Christianity in different countries is correct, however, the linkage of prosperity to Freedom is incorrect (look at Singapore). Prosperity is linked to 3 factors: Freedom from regulatory impediments, the rule of law, and property rights.

  2. I absolutely agree with your premises here, Warren. Unfortunately, I cannot see how religion could possibly be allowed to help the Chinese people when atheism sits at the philosophical heart of communism; hand in hand with the abolition of private property. Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao et al, all clearly articulated their absolute unbridled hatred of religion; particularly Christianity. In the USSR, Christians – as well as highly intelligent people – were systematically tortured and exterminated in mind-boggling numbers and with mind-boggling violence. Religion and intelligence are major threats to communists and are not tolerated. Hence, perhaps, why politicians throughout the West are also so critical of Christianity; along with logic, reason, truth and intelligence?

    • Isn’t that how Christianity started? The most savage persecutor of the early Christian church was Saul of Tarsus. He also set about torturing and exterminating Christians but was dramatically converted on the road to Damascus. He subsequently became St Paul the Apostle, the principal writer of the New Testament and the leader of the church. For the same to happen in China, it will of course take more than religion, it will take divine intervention!


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