China in Transition, Part 1: Something We Haven’t Done Before


Editor’s note: Yang Mingdao is the collective pseudonym for Chinese voices within China Partnership. This series is from a talk given by a Chinese theological teacher and trainer at a recent gathering of those interested in China. It has been edited from transcriptions of the original talk. You can click here to read part 2 and part 3.  

Whenever I talk about China, I want to remind us that China is a big country. After two thousand years of imperial leadership, we are transitioning into something we haven’t done before. China is still transitioning. If you really look at China, for two thousand years there was an emperor governing the entire society. Nowadays, even though we don’t have an emperor, we do have some similar governance structures. If you followed the recent big [Communist] Party convention, a lot of newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, analyzed that convention and said that now there is a new style of emperor who holds the power in China. It’s a comparison of the old days and today. Even though these days there is no explicit emperor, the government still operates with an imperial style and structure.

In that context, ever since one hundred and fifty years ago, when the West and China first met in modernity, China has been in a process of transition. China is still in that process. Last year, we learned that the economic and social situation in China in 2016 was very challenging. After about fifteen years of high-speed growth – 9%, 10%, 11% – the economic growth levels finally started to drop. There is a book called China: Fragile Superpower, by Susan Shirk. This book compares China to a big elephant riding a bicycle. The slower the speed, the more likely the elephant will drop from the bicycle. It predicts that if economic growth is lower than 6%, it will cause social turmoil. Last year presented a big challenge to the Xi government, because everybody was talking about the “L-shaped economy.” For many years there was high growth, but finally the economic growth rate has started to drop. It dropped to 6.7% at the lowest, last year. But many people believe that this year, everything has stabilized. Actually, if you really look at the economic growth rate for this year, it’s going to be 6.9%. That is higher than last year, and economists are divided on what this growth rate means. The situation is less severe than in 2016.

I want to draw your attention toward the exchange rate. Last year, the exchange rate for USD to RMB was very steep. There was a big change, from around 6.0 [RMB per US dollar] to 6.9. After that, starting at the beginning of 2017, the Chinese government tried to control the outflow of money from China in order to control the economy. They succeeded. Once the foreign currency reserve dropped below three trillion US dollars, the Chinese government practically blocked the general public from exchanging Chinese RMB for USD and putting their money overseas. Only those who were able to show a real need were allowed to exchange RMB for USD. People had to file an online application and show it was necessary for them – like if their children were coming to the States to get an overseas education. After these steps were implemented, the outflow of currency really dropped. This October, the currency reserve actually rose to 3.11 trillion dollars. In general, the socioeconomic situation in China has stabilized. After a big change last year, the housing crisis has also stabilized. In 2016, housing prices had a 40% hike in Beijing, Shanghai, and a lot of other cities, with some even doubling in price. But in 2017, housing prices stabilized.

Another issue is that since the Trump government is trying to withdraw from Asia and the Pacific (at least it’s one of their early strategies) by pulling out of the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] and different commercial deals, China is trying to push its own agenda. China has the One Belt One Road strategy, which they are using to try to open an inland road from old central Asia centers back into Europe. China is investing hugely in that project. They are trying to bring investment into their big projects so that economic growth can start again.

And last, Beijing is expanding by building a new city. Beijing is very crowded, with a lot of population overflow. In order to address the population issue, Beijing has announced they are going to have a kind of second capital sixty miles south of Beijing, and will move a lot of functions to that region. It’s something like Shenzhen in the old days. Shenzhen is a special economic zone that was opened to attract investment from Hong Kong. Now, Shenzhen has become a huge city in southern China. They are trying to do something similar in Beijing, moving many economic and education functions out of Beijing to this new city. We don’t know whether it’s going to be successful or not. That will require more generations, maybe ten or twenty years of consistent policy, in order to make that a success story.

In order to boost economic growth in other cities, China has fifteen new Tier One cities which were identified in September and October of this year. Chengdu, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Chongqing, Nanjing, Tianjin, Suzhou, Xiyan, Changsha, ShenYang, Qingdao, Zhengzhou, DaLlan, Dongguan, Ningbo – they are the fifteen newly identified Tier One cities. So the new economic zone in Beijing, the fifteen new Tier One cities, and also the One Belt One Road strategy are all meant first, to bring boosted economic growth in China, and second, to address the growing population pressure in larger Tier One cities.

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Further Reading

Nanjing: Love Under Pressure
Read More
Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
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Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
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With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.


  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church



About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.


Stories from Shenyang

About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.


Stories from Qingdao

About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.


Stories from Xiamen

About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.


Stories from Chongqing

About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.


Stories from Nanjing

About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.


Stories from Changchun

About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.


Stories from Guangzhou

About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.


Stories from Kunming

About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.


Stories from Shenzhen

About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 


Stories from Chengdu

About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.


Stories from Beijing

About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.


Stories from Shanghai


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