Some call this the “Chinese Century” because of China’s rising role on the world stage. It has more people than any other country, and massive influence on world economics and politics. China invests billions of dollars in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to develop trade, but also to gain influence. But it also remains politically oppressive and corrupt. It has a poor human rights record, and imposes harsh laws and punishments. The cult of personality surrounding President Xi, the increasingly bellicose tone of China’s foreign policy, and the accelerating oppression of minorities and dissidents should compel us to prayer! Pray for God to do a mighty work in and through the Chinese government.
China remains officially atheist, and Communist Party members number well over 70 million. But the Christian population has eclipsed this number (it is also far outstripped by Chinese Buddhists). Increasing numbers of Party members are believers. Pray that the atheism promoted for so long - and now so assiduously propagated in the education system - will finally be revealed as hollow and deceptive lies. Pray also that all followers of Christ working in state structures might walk faultlessly and be a redemptive force within the government.
Opposing forces at work in Chinese society are creating tensions that demand urgent attention and foresight. The reformed central government struggles to maintain control over state authorities and trusts economic growth to solve most of the country's problems. But China's sheer size, its financial boom and the lack of freedom of information conspire to multiply injustices, expand the gap between rich and poor and defeat the egalitarian purposes of socialism. The following points of mounting pressure bear mention:
- Freedom of information. The government vainly tries to control the flow of and exposure to information, while also promoting Internet use. But a bored and disillusioned new generation that hankers after freedom is not only finding creative ways to access information, but many are also developing potentially dangerous hacking skills in the process.
- Political and economic reforms. Resistance to substantial political change is irreconcilable with the juggernaut of capitalism (and its results: crass materialism and personal greed). Issues surrounding property ownership, banking, the widening gap between rich and poor, private versus state-provided social services - to name just a few - beset policy-makers and must be addressed.
- Corruption and scandal. Embezzlement, graft and widespread deception plague both government and business. China tops the list of countries willing to pay bribes in business, and rampant cheating and fraud tarnish academia. China's record on containing corruption has regressed, while other countries have made progress or remained the same in this area.
- Ethnic unrest. Internal strife remains at the forefront of both national and international attention, as conflict within Tibet and Xianjiang persists. Ultimately, reconciliation and the hope of peace lie only in the power of the gospel. Coming change is inevitable and will be massive; pray that it might be well managed, peaceful and ultimately of spiritual benefit to China.
Social and health needs in China overwhelm the available resources. Pray that Christians in the caring and social professions find many openings to serve the suffering and to show and speak to them about the love of Jesus. Pray also for Christian lawyers who attempt to stand for justice on behalf of those unable to do so themselves. Pray specifically for:
- Those with disease and ill health. Millions suffer with tuberculosis, diabetes is on a rapid rise and hundreds of thousands are HIV positive. Since the government changed its attitude on reporting infection rates, Christians now have more opportunities than ever to care for HIV patients and others suffering from debilitating and terminal diseases. Drug-use rates are rapidly increasing - now over one million users, two-thirds of whom are under age 35. Smoking is a ticking time bomb - 350 million smokers consume over two trillion cigarettes a year.
- The disabled. Around 83 million disabled, or one-fifth of the world's total, live in China. Yearly, over 1.2 million are born with defects, and the number is rising. The medical profession is ill-equipped to offer sufficient help to the 40 million affected by mental illness. Praise God that China's hosting of the Paralympics in 2008 brought improvements in public perception and in quality of life and treatment for the disabled.
- The vulnerable and helpless. Those most open to abuse and oppression remain women, orphans (three million in orphanages), refugees (especially from North Korea) and the millions living in poverty. Pray that true justice be administered, that rescue be granted to those in imminent danger and that mercy and compassion be shown to these through Christ's followers.
- The depressed and hopeless. China now has the highest number of suicides in the world at nearly 300,000 per year, a majority of whom are women. Mental health issues are possibly the most urgent social need in China. Divorce rates are skyrocketing (1.5 million/year). Family and community life are deeply changed. Pray for family stability and well-being. Pray for many Christians to get involved in drug rehabilitation, marital counselling and suicide prevention.
- The overlooked. Many suffer indignity and oppression unseen by most - the elderly without care, victims of natural disasters struggling to rebuild, migrants making their way in overcrowded enclaves of Chinese megacities, minority communities and those in the harsh penal system. Jesus sees and remembers them all; pray that the Church might also.
China faces environmental disasters on many fronts; possibly her heaviest burdens directly resulting from great economic achievements. Pollution of China's water sources has surpassed crisis level, and the combined effects of land, air and water pollution result in hundreds of thousands of deaths per year - to say nothing of the numbers born with defects or suffering environmentally-related illness. Chemical pollutants from agricultural and industrial waste continue to render Chinese cities and rural areas, as well as neighbouring countries, rife with dangers. Desertification of the northern provinces, combined with population growth, will affect millions in coming years. China has recently taken unprecedented steps toward addressing environmental concerns, though falling short of substantial progress. Pray for a government courageous and trusted enough to make the difficult decisions required for the long-term well-being of the nation.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.