With China up before the U.S. Congress for most-favored-nation tariff status next June, human rights are expected to be an issue. The formerly communistic regime is taking a bent towards capitalism. But the government is still totalitarian in many ways. The Clinton administration is expected to push for human rights in China. This could result in an opening of China for the gospel to be preached openly as was the case in the Soviet Union in the summer of 1990.
Deng Xiao Peng, now 89, is China’s last dictator. When Deng dies or leaves office, the military and communist party leaders, which dominated China for so long, are not likely to rule much longer. No one knows exactly what route China will take, but social and economic change is sure to follow the Deng regime.
Christians in China are still arrested and thrown in prison. They are seen as dissidents and enemies of the state – and rightfully so. The Church in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe played a role in overthrowing the communist regimes.
The real hope of China are the nation’s youth. Over 50 percent of the 1.3 billion population are under the age of 25. China’s university students especially hold the brightest promise of reforming that nation. And on the university campuses – ever since June 1989 when over 1000 were slain by government troops – more and more students have been rejecting Mao and Marx and embracing Jesus Christ.
In the perspective of history, what happened in Tiananmen Square, when over 1000 pro-democracy students were slain in the streets by government soldiers, will probably be seen not as the end of a decade of reform and increasing freedom, but as the beginning of an age of change.
It was also the time when China’s intellectuals began to consider Christianity in a search for truth and meaning. In defeat, students and intellectuals have learned much – including the true nature of their atheistic government. The storming of Beijing on June 4, 1989, enraged and alienated a generation of China’s brightest and best, not just in the capital, but across the country.
The events of June 4, 1989 have served as another turning point in Chinese history, but they have also acted as a catalyst in turning thousands of Chinese students to Christ. In many respects, the spiritual awakening within the Chinese intellectual community has no historical parallel in Chinese history.
Since the student massacre, Bible study groups have begun on many Chinese campuses, now joined by undergraduates, graduates, professors and researchers. Also, since the mid-1980s there has been a marked growth of Chinese teachers and professors who have become Christians. Throughout a number of Chinese cities, professors are now supporting and encouraging Christian student groups.
Further, in many Chinese cities new Christian fellowship groups have been established. Some of these university fellowships number at over 100 students. There remains a tremendous openness to the gospel among China’s intellectual community.
Christians outside of China must now consider creative ways in which to establish a partnership with Chinese Christian intellectuals in order to facilitate their effectiveness in evangelizing and training this new generation of Christian students who are part of the legacy of Tiananmen Square.
Dennis Balcombe, a missionary to mainland China, travels frequently into the country from his church in neighboring Hong Kong. Says Balcombe, “During the past few years, one of the greatest outpourings of the Holy Spirit in history has been witnessed in China – it is estimated that there are now between 90 to 100 million Christians attending the house churches.”
The Chinese revival is a revival of young people, says Balcombe. Those who were born since the communist revolution in 1948 are turning to God in great numbers::
“In one district of central China there has been tremendous growth of the house churches. In 1976, there were only two Christians in this region and they had been converted before the Maoist revolution in 1949. Now there are 10,000 Christians in this area. This work was pioneered by two Christian men who came from a distant city to preach. When miraculous healings took place, the entire village was converted. This revival has since spread throughout many other villages in this region.
“This revival has not come without persecution from communist government authorities. One 22-year-old sister from one of these villages was put in prison in the summer of 1990 for holding a house meeting. While she was in prison 70 people and two of the prison guards accepted Christ. The Chinese Christians are not discouraged by the persecution. They are praying for their government leaders to know Christ.”