Shanghai: All Rivers Flow to the Same Sea

Editor’s note: This May, we are praying for Shanghai. Shanghai is one of the world’s most affluent and cosmopolitan cities, and is an important center of business and commerce in China and across the globe. The mega-city has about 29 million residents, making it one of the world’s biggest cities.

Today, we hear from four different Shanghai pastors. They discuss how their city has changed over the last several years, since the beginning of the Covid pandemic and as oversight of faith in China has become more stringent. Many of the pastors referenced the difficult economic situation within Shanghai and China as a whole. They talked of how people are emigrating out of Shanghai, even while others arrive from smaller provinces. In this period, there are many ministry challenges, but also lots of opportunities.

Responses in this interview have been edited and slightly rearranged for clarity and length. This is the first of a two-part series.


City of Refuge

China Partnership: How has Shanghai changed over the last five years? What big opportunities and challenges do you see in your city currently? How can we be praying for Shanghai in general? 

Zhu Liang: Because of changes in the general environment, and also due to Shanghai’s closure during the Covid-19 epidemic, many families left the country in the past few years. Housing prices here have begun to fall. The wealth effect in Shanghai was brought about by rises in housing prices over the past two decades. But now, that has begun to decline. There are fewer foreigners in the city, and exchanges between China and foreign nations are not as frequent as they used to be.

The spirit of Shanghai is found in an oft-quoted proverb used to describe the city: “All rivers flow into the same sea.” We hope this bustling city will become a refuge for all people.

Shanghai is China’s most economically developed city, and our city values economic development very highly. The governance of the city is also relatively standardized. In Shanghai, there are still many opportunities for development in industries like finance, information, chips, automobiles, and building ships and large airplanes. High prices and slowing economic growth put a lot of pressure on young people. These things also squeeze those in lower-income classes.

Within China, Shanghai is the city with the largest number of churches. Watchman Nee’s congregation is headquartered in Shanghai. This church has had a strong influence on the church in China. Shanghai has been the center of Chinese Christianity in modern times. We hope the city will continue to be in the Lord’s favor in this present age, and that Shanghai Christians will continue to be used by the Lord.

During World War II, Shanghai once sheltered a large number of Jews. The spirit of Shanghai is found in an oft-quoted proverb used to describe the city: “All rivers flow into the same sea.” We hope this bustling city will become a refuge for all people.

Exodus and Influx

Huang Aiming: In the last five years, we have seen economic downturns. There has been a subsequent wave of emigration and general disillusionment, and young people have become interested in public affairs. Government controls have become even more stringent than before, focusing on minute details even at the grassroots level.

There has been an exodus of people who are leaving Shanghai. But there has also been an influx of people coming here from other places. In a situation like this, God has prepared some hearts to be open to the gospel.

Jiang Weilai: After several years of pandemic and the general economic downturn, the employment environment in Shanghai has become severe. Some people are affected by layoffs and unemployment. Those who were able to keep their jobs (perhaps they were even promoted) now face increased workloads and higher pressure.


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There has been an exodus of people who are leaving the city. But there has also been an influx of people coming here from other places. In a situation like this, God has prepared some hearts to be open to the gospel. These people want to understand and even believe in the gospel. Pray for hearts to be more open to the gospel, and for the church to be concerned about our unconverted friends.

There Is No Unshakeable City

Gao Wan: Perhaps the biggest change in Shanghai is the amount of confidence people feel in the economy and their willingness to rely on the system. Shanghai people have lost confidence in the economic future. At the same time, they are afraid to rely too much on the orderly system [of government]. When this happens, the outflow of a large amount of resources becomes a huge challenge. Wealth, talent, organizations, and more are leaving the city.

Pray that those who leave Shanghai will realize in their new city that there is no eternal home and no unshakeable city.

At the exact same time, opportunities are being created by the rapid influx of people from other regions into Shanghai. These people are coming to Shanghai to fill labor vacancies [left by those who have emigrated]. They are seeking opportunities for growth.

Pray that those who leave Shanghai will realize in their new city that there is no eternal home and no unshakeable city. Pray that newcomers to Shanghai will not merely “consume” the city. Instead, pray for them to find meaning in their lives here. Pray for peace in Shanghai, for the economy to recover, for jobs to pick up, and for people to live and work in peace and contentment.


Zhu Liang, Huang Aiming, Jiang Weilai, and Gao Wan are pseudonyms for Shanghai house church pastors.

Pray for the great movement of people happening now in Shanghai, as some leave and others arrive. Pray that this time of transition and migration will bring many gospel opportunities and that people will come to know Christ through this period.

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Further Reading

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Shanghai: We Need More New Churches
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Shanghai: To Run or Not?
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Christian Education: Jesus and Chinese Culture
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

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.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  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

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

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.

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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.

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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.

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About Chongqing

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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