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China: slow change for the better?

To explore the politics of modern China.

by James Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5

Aims

To explore the politics of modern China.

Preparation and materials

  • Prepare a PowerPoint presentation of images showing different facets of modern China, from the huge modern cities, to the impoverished people of the countryside.
  • Download some traditional Chinese music for the reflection.

Assembly

  1. Throughout individual news stories are arcs and plots that gradually unfold. The world is moving towards individual conclusions as if constructed by an author or playwright. Of course, the arrival at these conclusions will not mark any end, because by then new story arcs will have arisen.
  2. One of the predominant arcs of the last decade has been China's rise to global power. As many journalists and historians will remind us, this is nothing new. China was the world's leading global power in terms of military and economic strength for many hundreds of years until the rise of Western colonial supremacy. The steady but gentle decline of Europe and the economic shock dealt to the United States has elevated China to the world's number two economy. China and the USA now dictate global policy, and Chinese political deliberations are watched closely by economists and governments, keen to see which way the communist economic superpower will play. Such actions and decisions have enormous global ramifications.
  3. For example, China was able to lead the nations opposed to a new environmental consensus at the 2009 climate-change conference in Copenhagen. Such diplomatic force would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. China received criticism for this role, accused of preventing necessary action from being taken. While global action on climate change is necessary, the Chinese government is also seeking to regain its countries’ economic and global power. This is not to equate the two – climate change may well undermine much of China's recent growth. Yet it exposes a challenge to modern politics and justice – how can developed nations order the undeveloped to stunt their own growth?
  4. When Westerners think of modern China, the neon cities of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing are what spring to mind. Life in those cities can be hard, but offers opportunity. Although Chinese factory-workers work long shifts for low pay, life in the city is often better than in the countryside. Over one billion Chinese live in households earning less than $2,000 a year. This demonstrates that the nation is still one of enormous challenges. And of course, the Chinese government is often charged with human rights abuses. Democratic elections are a long way off. The media is tightly controlled.
  5. Many believe that China's rise to power will not last; that it is too unstable; and that its economy lacks firm foundations. Yet despite the problems, its economic growth has lifted millions out of absolute poverty. This can only be a good thing – and the first step towards a brighter, freer future.

Time for reflection

Show the PowerPoint presentation and listen to some traditional Chinese music.

Let’s think about the freedoms that we have here in this country.

Freedom:

– to elect our government

– to demonstrate when we feel unfairness is going on

– to read and listen to and watch a free media

– to access websites through search engines without government censorship.

Prayer

We are thankful for the slow move towards democracy in China and other totalitarian states.

May we always treasure our freedoms, and work towards that freedom being found right across the world.

Amen.

Publication date: January 2011   (Vol.13 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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