China By the Numbers

8 05 2012

So much has been made in media reports about the enormous figures related to China.  Most of us know that it is the most populated country in the world (1.34 billion), but you may be surprised to read some of the following information.  Even with all of these large numbers, just remember this – size may be important, but bigger isn’t always better.

China consumes the majority of just about every major commodity!
With its’ economy booming over the past 10 years, China has had an insatiable demand for just about every major commodity on the open market.  While China’s GDP is only 9.4% of the global economy, and its population is 19% of the world population, China leads all other countries in its demand for the following commodities: (Link)
% of Global Demand
– Cement = 53.2%
– Iron ore = 47.7%
– Coal = 46.9%
– Steel = 45.4%
– Lead = 44.6%
– Zinc = 41.3%
– Aluminum = 40.6%
– Copper = 38.9%
– Nickel = 36.3%

It’s not just METALS that China has a hunger for …
You can understand that with the world’s largest population that China has to find a way to feed all of their people.  Whether it is pork or chicken (undoubtedly two of their favorite meats) China leads the way in both the chicken and pork producing countries. (Link)  It seems that the Chinese have an insatiable appetite for pork, for in 2010, China produced more than the next 74 pork producing countries combined.  Remember that the next time you enjoy a serving of Sweet & Sour Pork!

China’s economy has been on hyper-drive for much of the past decade, so it’s not surprising that …China’s GDP per capita has risen from $949 in 2000 (136th lowest) to $4,428 in 2010 (89th lowest in the world), still below that of Algeria, Angola & Jordan. (Link)  It’s still got a long way to go to catch Canada ($46,212), the USA ($47,153) or the country with the highest GDP in 2010 – Luxembourg ($105,194).  But the people of China have come a long way since the 1980’s when their leader, Deng XiaoPing was quoted as saying “To get rich is glorious,” and they are determined to keep climbing the economic ladder of success.
Combined with all of this economic activity has been the mass migration of the Chinese people to the cities.  It is estimated that by 2025, China’s urban population will grow to 926 million, and hit the one billion mark by 2030.  In less than 20 years, China’s cities will have added 350 million people – more than the entire population of the United Sates today.  By 2025, China will have 219 cities with more than one million inhabitants, and 24 cities with more than five million people. It is projected that to meet this need, 40 billion square meters of floor space will be built – in five million buildings. 50,000 of these buildings could be skyscrapers – the equivalent of ten New York Cities. (Link)

There are already more Christians in China than the entire population of either France or United Kingdom.
For some time now there has been a debate on the number of Christians in China.  Depending on your viewpoint, there are anywhere between 30 and 120 million believers.  But a recent report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life puts the Christian population in China at just under 70 million believers.  (Link) The CIA’s World FactBook puts the current total population for France at 65.6 million, and the United Kingdom at 63.0 million. (Link)
In his recent article “How Many Christian are there in China? And Does it Make a Difference? Andrew Kaiser reflects on the significance of this report. (Link) I appreciated his candor when he wrote: “While I am generally curious to know just how big the Chinese church is, I must confess that I find in recent years I have found it to be increasingly difficult to get excited about the actual results of these studies. … My main reason for showing less interest in the total number of Christians has more to do with my own understanding of what is at the center of Christianity.  In his ministry on earth, Jesus repeatedly demonstrated his preference for depth—for heart transformation—rather then (sic) mere numerical increase. In other words, can we say in China today that more Christians means more of Chinese life transformed by the Gospel? Is the Chinese church transforming its society in ways that please God and reflect His kingdom?  Size is important, but it is only part of the equation.”

We sometimes think that bigger is better – that it’s a sign that everything is going well.  But in spite of all these ‘amazing’ numbers in China for their economy, the country still faces significant problems as a result of this growth (ongoing environmental problems; widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’; increasing problems with corruption – to name just a few).  The next generation of leaders will have their hands full trying to deal with these challenges for at least the next decade.

One of the main reasons we remain engaged with the church in China is to assist them in their goal of becoming a church that helps transform their communities in ways that honor God.  As more Chinese come to faith in Christ, and are encouraged to go deeper in their faith, our prayer is that they will want to reach out to their communities and surrounding areas with the love of God.   Pray with us that God would empower pastors as well as laymen and women to be salt and light wherever God places them – whether it be in their homes, workplaces or communities.

Until next time,

Joel & Debbie