But here's a Chinese growth story that may actually have legs. I'm speaking of the rapid growth, which has also happened over the past few decades, of the Christian faith. Let me just quote a recent Economist article at length:
"Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China’s Christian population the largest in the world. Mr Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire.
Some Chinese also discern in Christianity the roots of Western strength. They see it as the force behind the development of social justice, civil society and rule of law, all things they hope to see in China...One civil-rights activist says that, of the 50 most-senior civil-rights lawyers in China, probably half are Christians."
Even if growth rates level off, at a certain tipping point this high of a concentration of Christians is likely to have an outsized halo effect on Chinese society. A friend of mine once conjectured, about 15 years ago, that Christianity would have a window of opportunity in China, opening as the country opened but the closing as materialism took over. I agreed with him back then but am starting to be more optimistic that even with great advances in wealth there is yet room for faithful Christian people to influence society in terms of things like personal morality, meaning in life, gender issues, social justice, environmental stewardship, and mercy ministries. For the sake of over a billion Chinese souls present and future, I pray so.