This letter examines the fourth sphere of government: commerce
My Dear Friend,
The rush is on! From Chengdu to Shanghai, from Guangzhou to Beijing, nearly everyone is thinking the same thing: make money fast. With the loosening of government controls, a force has been let loose upon our own nation that resembles the dark period of American history known as the Great Gold Rush of the 1850s. During this period following the discovery of gold in California, thousands of Americans, leaving homes and businesses, rushed westward intent on “striking it rich.” Unfortunately, the vast majority of those smitten with this get-rich-quick craze received very little for their efforts, many facing homelessness and starvation.
One cannot be surprised at the similar stampede to acquire riches in our own country. Who can blame a person for wanting to improve his lot in life? After 46 years of endless sacrifice and suffering at the hands of state-owned commerce, not to mention the promises that the “wonderful life” was just over the horizon, who can blame a person for rushing into the “land of opportunity” when his hands are suddenly untied?
We Chinese would be wise, however, to study our options very carefully and make decisions based on long-term advantages. This letter, my friend, examines a few of the foundation principles of a market-driven economy that are necessary to produce the long-term prosperity that we all desire for China.
I mentioned in my previous letter that within a true market economy, where people are free to make their own business decisions and live without fear of government control, high character qualities within the hearts of a nation’s citizens are absolutely essential. We called this the principle of self government, or the ability to conduct one’s personal affairs in an honest and moral manner. Put another way, it is possessing the personal character to return a five-yuan bill to the store when upon arriving home you realize you have been given too much change. It is being able to work very hard with or without someone watching you. It is forgiving someone who has cheated you and resisting the urge for revenge. Thus, in a market-driven economy, the level of economic prosperity is directly proportional to the ability of a nation’s citizens to be self-governing.
We also discussed in my previous letter the fact that it is impossible for anyone to be self-governing or to measure up to this high standard without the supernatural power of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can remove the “disease” of selfishness infecting all human beings and replace it with peace and concern for others.
Why, you may ask, is this so? Didn’t Mao and the theory of dialectic materialism teach us that “economic status determines the moral condition of a people,” that the more material wealth produced, the greater the moral character?
Yes, Mao did teach us this, but like many other things he taught, it was not true. Let me illustrate by asking you to stretch your imagination with me for a moment. What if all the “little emperors” now coming into manhood in China were each given 5 million yuan? What would instant riches do for these spoiled young men who represent their parents’ only means of support in old age? Does anybody believe for a minute that they would be magically transformed into kindly, respectful, honest, and unselfish citizens?
No, riches would not change their inner character at all. On the contrary, it would give them the power to fully manifest and unleash the greed that already fills their hearts. They would use the money to gain still more money for selfish purpose. They would subjugate and use people along the way.
Actually we can see this already happening in certain sectors where a few have seized the opportunity to exploit business possibilities at the expense of the poor. One shudders to think what lies on the horizon when the fruit of our country’s one-child policy is finally reaped.
No, my friend, human nature is not in the slightest affected by economic status. Without divine intervention, people are the same everywhere regardless of economic status or race or time.
Early Americans, for the most part, were strong committed Christians (unlike most modern Americans) and understood this principle of self government very clearly. Virtually all of their early writings, state charters, constitutions, and public edicts clearly demonstrated their conviction that only a nation built on Christian values would be capable of supporting the freedom released in a market-driven economy. It was largely because of this inner Christian character that America became the most prosperous nation in history.
Sadly, few modern Americans understand this principle of self government. The direct correlation between the weakening of Christian values in America since 1950 and the drop of both productivity and the quality of goods is largely undetected. That is to say nothing of the more obvious correlation between rising crime and all manner of social ills.
Fortunately for us Chinese who love our country, there is good news, for even the most conservative estimates report more than 10,000 of our fellow countrymen turning to Jesus every day! This gives us cause for great hope. Although this exciting trend is unknown to most, it must continue if our nation is to escape the clutches of greed that threaten us. Only by embracing the true God, Jesus Christ, and His economic blueprint can the peace and prosperity that we all desire become a reality.
It is vital that we understand and master certain elementary principles of wealth building that are necessary for our collective success. Perhaps it would be helpful if we examined a hypothetical Christian businessman and their business. We will then contrast this biblical model with what we see emerging in China today.
A Look at a Christian Businessman
Principle #1: The business belongs to God
A Christian businessman is very different from a non-Christian businessman. First of all, his or her primary motivation is not profit. That’s right; it is not profit. His main concern is that all of his business activities and interactions with people accurately reflect the character of the God he loves. He realizes that if he honors God first and follows His principles for business as outlined in the Bible, then profit will be the natural byproduct. He recognizes that the business really is not his at all, but belongs to God. He is thankful for being given the privilege of co-owning God’s business and works very hard at producing excellence.
Principle #2: True wealth is built generationally
Next to a Christian businessman’s relationship with God, his first priority is to his family. He strives to instill in his children the principles of wealth-building that he has learned from the Bible. He has wisely discerned that true wealth is far different from accumulating money and property. His goal is to produce children who will reproduce in others what has been produced in them, thus greatly expanding the “family business” over time. This also means that he is not in a hurry. He can take the time to do it right.
Principle #3: Developing people is the primary goal
He relates to his employer not as the “capitalist exploiter” but as a “servant-leader.” He understands that God Himself has temporarily placed these friends in his care so that he can help steward their spiritual, mental, and physical development. He labors in prayer daily, asking God to give him wisdom so that he can help each individual employee become what God intends for that person to become. He treats employees who are not yet Christian with the same respect and dignity that he treats those who are Christians. He leads by example, expecting each employee to do his very best. To accomplish this, he searches for ways to include his employees in profit-sharing with the company so that they too might “own” the business. His business is “one that is primarily committed to developing human beings because that is the business his Heavenly Father is in – developing human beings.“1
Principle #4: Maturity comes by stewarding property
He recognizes that his employees as well as all forms of physical property have been entrusted to him for his own character development. Put simply, God uses personal property as one of His primary methods of maturing His people.
A definition of property at this point should be helpful. We can divide property into five basic categories: (1) our physical bodies, (2) our consciences; (3) our relationships; (4) our talents; and (5) our possessions. The Bible teaches that every person – Christian or non-Christian – will one day stand before God and give an account of his or her stewardship in each category. A Christian’s life is spent studying how to responsibly handle what he or she has been given.
Under a communist form of government, we Chinese have been stripped of all property rights including our own consciences. Given this understanding of the importance of private property in human development, it is plain to see why we previously have failed to progress as a nation. Responsibility (or stewarding “property”) develops human character. It causes us to grow. No responsibility – no growth. It’s that simple.
Principle #5: Service is the foundation of lasting growth
Our Christian businessman regards his continually growing list of customers not as potential victims, but as friends to be served. Just as he values his employees, he also values his customers and always makes sure they are pleased and well cared for time and time again. In short, he follows the example of Jesus, who had all power but came in humility as a servant. He is completely honest at all times, conducting all of his affairs with honor and dignity.
The end result is a great many happy people from the owner and his family to his employees to his customers. And as a byproduct of the owner’s faithfulness, God (who is the author of the manual on economics – the Bible) makes certain that his business prospers materially. A Christian-owned business may not produce instant cash reward, but will always, in the long run, out-produce and out-last a business not run on Christian principles. Can you, my friend, imagine a nation of such businesses?
The Emerging Chinese Businessman
Contrasting this Christian type of enterprise with what we see emerging in China today graphically illustrates our need to rethink our direction.
A typical Chinese businessman today consists of an owner motivated by one thought: making fast money. His lifelong training in Marxist thought has now been abandoned by even his former teachers. His only exposure to free market economics has been what he has learned from the Party about the “Imperialist exploiters” from the West. Now he has been given a chance, as have his fellow countrymen, to get even with them, to surpass them and humiliate them. He simultaneously is torn by mixed feelings about his government and of national pride. Mostly though, he thinks of his family and their suffering and his opportunity to get ahead.
And what of ethics? No one talks much of Leifeng anymore. He also knows through his schooling that there certainly is no God, and the once idealistic People’s Republic has been amply demonstrated to be full of corruption. In short, there is no moral compass for today’s Chinese businessman, nothing really upon which to base his actions, except for his own cunning. Naturally then, he must cheat and deceive others before they cheat and deceive him. He doesn’t worry about winning repeat customers, for there are always more people. The goal is to make money fast! If things go well, then he may even hire some employees. They must be worked hard and long because of their laziness and dishonesty. He must pay them as little as possible for time is short, the future uncertain. He must make money while he can.
My dear friend, we must do better. It is plain to see that if this approach to business is projected across our nation, we can only expect the worst. One need not be a great prophet to predict the coming chaos should we continue our present course. Yes, economically speaking, our standard of living may rise in the short run, but my friend, there is a way of life available that far surpasses this evolutionary “low road” known as the survival of the fittest. God has so much more for us.
With Jesus at the center of our economic life, something wonderful and something powerful can unfold. God loves China and has created our nation to reflect His character. We have a purpose and a destiny as a nation. My fondest hope is that you will ponder these thoughts and adopt them as your own, for you, my friend, are the hope of China.
- Wang Jiapu
1 Almighty & Sons: Doing Business God’s Way, by Dennis Peacocke, © 1995, Rebuild Publishers, Santa Rosa, CA.
Editor’s note: If you would like a copy of my letter on self government, Part 1 of this series, write to me at The Mandate offices for a free copy. Or, if you would like copies of the previous letters in this series, write me.