Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ study of West concludes that Christianity is responsible for its global success

Dominic Lawson’s review in the Sunday Times of Niall Ferguson’s new book, ‘Civilisation: The West and the Rest’, refers to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences twenty year study of western society in an attempt to account for its success. An official of the the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said:

‘One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.’

Lawson refers to a quote in the book from a prominent Wenzhou business leader, a Mr Hanping Zhang, who argues that “an absence of trust had been one of the main factors holding China back; but he feels he can trust his fellow Christians because he knows that they will be honest in their dealings with him”.

Tom O’Gorman, on the Iona Blog, comments:

Note the source. It isn’t from a religious leader, or some religious think-tank. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is an instrument of the Chinese Communist government which spends a not inconsiderable amount of time and money persecuting Christians and is officially atheistic. If this is the conclusion it has come to, maybe Europe needs to reconsider whether it mightn’t be an idea to encourage rather than eradicate Christianity.

Protect the Pope comment: It is ironic, and a little tragic, that while the secular idealogues of the West are accelerating their campaign to marginalise and negate our Christian heritage and way of life an agency of the Chinese communist government, after a 20 year study, has recognised that Christianity is fundamental to western civilisation. The chinese social scientists comments also supports Pope Benedict’s determination to remind the West of its Christian identity and roots. It is truly farcical that that preamble to the original European Constitution, drafted by a former French president, made reference to the Classical and Enlightenment roots of European culture, but pointedly omitted any reference to Christianity. This self-destructive blindness was repeated with the distribution to Europe’s school children of a diary that included all other religious festivals but missed out all Christian feast days. From the Chinese point of view Europe, the USA, Canada, and Australia and in the process of destroying the source and foundation of their global success and advantage. They must be laughing at the dumb stupidity of Western secular intellectuals, journalists and politicians.

Thanks Louella for pointing this out to me

47 comments to Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ study of West concludes that Christianity is responsible for its global success

  • louella

    Thank you Deacon Nick for posting it :)

  • Tim

    All very interesting. If we assume that the Chinese research is correct, the key question is though – “what do we do about it?”

    You see an argument for the usefulness of christianity is not the same as an argument for its truth. Even if I were convinced that it was useful and that our abandonment of it was harmful, it wouldn’t convince me that any of it was true.

    So whilst this news might be of comfort to those who are already convinced of the superiourity of their world view it is difficult to see how it can be translated into any action.

    • louella

      I would say the argument for the usefulness of something IS the same as an argument for the truth of it. If the theory of electrical current wasn’t true….it wouldn’t be useful. Because it is true it is useful. Truth it seems…of any variety ie spiritual or material or mathematical….is the most useful commodity we have. Falsity is only good for deceiving. Which is why the Devil is father of all lies.

      And luckily Christianity is open to absolutely everyone.

      • Tim

        “If the theory of electrical current wasn’t true….it wouldn’t be useful”

        sorry but that doesn’t cut it. The theory that electrical current flows from positive to negative is useful. It allows you to design circuits, build machines etc, but it is completely false. Electrons are negatively charged so they must flow from negative to positive.

        • louella

          OK then…let’s put it differently. If something is not useful…then its not true. If something is useful…then it is true…or it is the truest we have. It’s a natural instinct this. What is false is not useful (except for deception and destruction)….and is a failure.

          But hey…maybe secularists don’t have this innate reasoning….and maybe that is why they are not so successful. They turn a blind eye to that which is useful and Christianity.

          • louella

            Electrical current theory is not completely correct in our understanding…yet it is still useful. That’s because it’s only a matter of exchanging the direction of current to make it true. All other qualities remain the same in our understanding….so we are almost correct.

          • Tim

            “If something is not useful…then its not true”

            What nonsense. There are plenty of scientific facts that are true, but not of any use other than to satisfy our curiosity. Likewise there is plenty that is not true that can be useful (ie, the storry of Father Christmas is useful to get children to behave dispite being nonsense.)

            “maybe secularists don’t have this innate reasoning” Don;t be so insulting. We are both capable of reasoning. The difference lies in what we choose to apply our reason to.

            “and maybe that is why they are not so successful” says who. I’m doing just fine thanks

            They turn a blind eye to that which is useful and successful” better than adopting whatever is useful without caring if it is true or not. That is what you are expecting non-believers to do if you expect us to live our lives as if your particular bran dof religion were true. A wholely unreasonable request and one that surprises me coming from someone as yourself because you are always going on about truth (usually spelt with a capital T”) and yet you seem to have such littel respect for what other people precieve as the truth.

            Convince me that Christianity is true and I will agree with you. Unless you are able to do this the whole issue of whther it is useful or not is irrelevent to its truth.

          • louella

            I’m talking about something that can be applied in a scientific way. If it is useful then it is true. And the closer to truth a scientific theory is….the more useful it will be. Christianity has proven itself more ‘useful’ and productive than any other ideology….therefore it is truer. This is quite a crude test…but it works. And study after study has shown the practicality of Christianity…but secularists are not driven by a realistic practicality or rationality…..rather by an emotive dislike of Chritisanity. (And that’s putting it mildly.)

            Why don’t you convince me of secularism ie that all religions are equally true or false ie that everybody’s subjective truth is equal…even if these personal truths are diametrically opposed. That sounds like the height of irrationality.

      • Tim

        “And luckily Christianity is open to absolutely everyone”

        No it is not. There have always been people who find it plausible and have always been people who find it nonsense. There seems to be something about the human mind that makes some ameniable to belief and others resistant to it. It is no more under an individual’s control than hair colour.

        • Karla

          Nobody’s brain is stuck on a particular belief, because otherwise conversions would never happen. Only a person who has a grudge of hate would Christianity is ‘nonsense.’

        • louella

          Please….don’t misinterpret me. Christianity is open to everybody. And what you should say is….some people are resistant to the Truth….but some are open to it. I guess the deciding factor is the level of pride…first of the seven deadly sins.

    • SpeSalvi23

      Tim, sometimes I think you need to let go a bit. Surely the truth about Christianity will not come to you when you’re so hoplessly against it.
      Relax. Don’t be so grimly defiant (funny, eh – a German woman telling an Englishman to loosen up a bit :-) ).

      There are no actions in the sense of actions – but there are attitudes we could change which would make a difference:
      Possibly by not trying to push the root of our success to the outer rim of our existence.
      Possibly by not denying the positive effects it had on us over and over again.
      Possibly by not belittling, mocking and even insulting it as much as we currently do.

      Now that would be a start. Sad as it is.

      • Tim

        I wouldn;t say I am defiant. certainly not in the sense that my disbelief is something I have to work at and to constantly reinforce in myself. My problem with Christianity is simply that it strikes me as made up rather than true. It is no different, I suspect, to the attitude you have about Thor – interesting stories but, “come one, a flying hammer, don’t be ridiculous”

        • spesalvi23

          Thor and Christ on the same level in terms of historical truth??
          Are you serious??

        • Karla

          Where does Christianity come from? The Bible. The Bible is not made up. It is not fiction or fantasy. It is non fiction. It is biography.

        • Evangelical

          If you really can’t differentiate between a Marvel comic character and Jesus of Nazareth, then I pity you.

          • Tim

            Sorry if I have confused you.

            By Thor, I don’t mean the cartoon character, I mean the “real” Norse God, The God that was prayed to, respected, worshipped and genuinely and sincerely belived in for hundreds of years by intelligent people. A God that people genuinely lived and died for. A God that people thought was neccessary for their social order, that gave meaning to their lives and inspired art, litterature and stories as well as heroiam and vile deeds.

            It is easy for us to both see now that he was about as convincing as a commic-book character, and today we can both dismiss Thor without much thought. The analogly was made in my previous post to defend myself against the accusation of defiance. Your dismissal of Thor as a genuine God is not something that you view as defiance is it? and I feel the same about your God. You can’t really be defiant about dismissing something that you have never seriously entertained as true. That was my point. I am not “grimly defiant” about my rejection of Christianity, just deeply unconvinced.

          • Karla

            “Thor” does not logically fit with the nature of the First Cause, as does Yahweh as revealed through the Catholic Church.

            I deny Thor’s existence because the evidence of the Bible overwhelmingly convinces me that it is true and since I believe it to be true, and because it says there is only one God, by default all others do not exist.

          • SpeSalvi23

            Well, I simply have a different impression, that’s all.

            And sorry – even if Thor is part of Nordic / Germanic Mytholgy, I really shudder at the thought of treating Germanic paganism of the many, many different, mostly constanlty warring each other, Germanic tribes, equal to Christianity (even though I’m 25% Norwegian).
            I also don’t see myself worshipping an oak in the nearby forest!

            I don’t think we have to go down the road of comparing the historical evidence of the existence of the (all so famous) historical Christ and a bunch of scantily clad muscle men with flowing blonde hair, wielding forging tools?!
            Too irrational for me! for sure!!

            This might sound rather dismissive – I have no problem with dismissing paganism – even if it’s a former part of my own culture.

          • Tim

            ““Thor” does not logically fit with the nature of the First Cause, as does Yahweh as revealed through the Catholic Church.”

            sorry, Karla, but I don’t get your logic here. If you accept the argument from first cause (personally I really don’t understand the physics enough to be sure and neither does anyone else it seems, but let put that argument aside). Then the fact that the Cosmos exists is evidence that an entity capable of being a first cause exists (or at least existed some time in the past) outside of the cosmos. How is it evidence for anything else? I can see how the argument for first cause is an argument for God (of some kind, as a minimum a deitist God) but how is it an argument for a personal God, Yahweh as opposed to any other God, or a Christian God or a Catholic God?
            Surely the first cause argument applies equally well to any God. It isn’t eveidence for any particular God as opposed to any other.

            “This might sound rather dismissive – I have no problem with dismissing paganism – even if it’s a former part of my own culture.

            I have no problem dismissing paganism either. Thor and Mjolnir strike me as all rather silly. I think I have made my point which is that your dismissal of Thor or his pagan religion is not grim defiance. Can you try to understand that my dismissal of Christianity (a part of my own culture) is not grim defiance either?

          • spesalvi23

            No I can’t. Because I KNOW better. I KNOW from personal experience that Christ exists. He’s as real as the person next to you.
            And I will NEVER understand that people can’t accept that! I just can’t it’s not possible.
            It infuriates me that people are so quick with their rejection and that they think they argue against HIs existence with rational points.

            To even mention Thor and Christ in one sentence as a comparison actually activates various bad qualities of mine (and I have MANY of those…).
            Nevertheless, I have NO idea how that argument could in any form be valid.

          • Karla

            There is no real evidence Zeus is any more than a myth, wheras Christianity is grounded in history.
            There is one God, Yahweh, we know we can have personal relationship because of scripture, and it can be argued that the human qualities that make humans personal place us above other created things such as animals or plants. God is a higher order of being, He is the likewise quinetessense of being.

            Yahweh is superior to other ‘gods’ because He vinidicated His existence by rasising Jesus from the dead.

            The First Cause could not be Zeus or Thor because God cannot be dependent on anything else for His existence. If anything is dependent on something else for its existence, it cannot be God. Thor, Zeus etc, are all dependent on others for their existence. Therefore they cannot be first cause.

          • Tim

            May 19, 2011 at 1:13 pm
            No I can’t. Because I KNOW better. I KNOW from personal experience that Christ exists. He’s as real as the person next to you.”

            I regard you as an intelligent person and therefore if I am perfectly honest I do find it odd that you know that Christ exists. BUT, I have enought empathy to realise that you are sincere in your belief and that you are not just pretending to believe you actually really really do believe. So whilst I can’t bring myself to respect your beliefs themselves (because I think that they are wrong), I can in some ways admire your conviction and respect your sincerity. All I would ask in return is that you extend the same curtesy to me. Please try and accept that my disbelief is sincere and genuine and that it is the result of serious thought. It is not rebellion, or glib, or pride and it is insulting to dismiss it as such, just as it is insulting for an atheist to dismiss your faith as childish or sheep-like, it is simply because I don’t think that Christianity is true.

            I am sorry for winding you up with mention of Thor. I know that mentioning alternative dieties is often a “hot-button” subject, so perhaps I could have been more sensitive. But the key point here seems to be that in our not too distant past there where people genuinely and sincerely beliveied in Thor just as today there are people who genuinely believe all sorts of nonsense. The sincerity of a belief (or a disbelief) whatever it is is not an indication of its truth.

            I know you find it difficult to umnderstand how someone such as myself can dismiss Christianity as nonsense, so I introduced Thor into the argument as an analogy. I hoped that if you were able to understand how you yourself were able to dismiss Thor (or any other deity, lets not get hung up on Thor who I think was actually a minor diety of the Norse pantheon so perhaps not a perfect example) and realise that it is not an issue of pride or rebellion but simply disbelief then by analogy you would be able to understand my mindset in rejecting Christianity.

            If you really want to understand atheism, then I think it is instructive to realise that you are also an atheist about almost all of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. All that separate us is that I go one god further.

  • Pedro

    Sorry to be a bit of a party pooper, but Niall Ferguson ascribes the success of the West to Protestant Christianity.

    • louella

      But where is Protestantism today?! It certainly is incapable of sustaining the West. Catholicism must regain its confidence and begin to shape our culture again. God willing.

    • SpeSalvi23

      Is he protestant?? Most likely, eh? Or anglican – which, btw, doesn’t count as protestant al ALL!
      If you want to infuriate your average German Lutheran, who will proudly argue that his form of protestant is the one and only pure and correct form, tell him anglicans are protestant – he’ll be on your case faster than you can say Henry the 8th!

      • Karla

        Is Niall Anglican? Probably. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ is compeletly unbiased and makes no distinction between Christian denomination. They say Christianity is responsible for global success.

      • Gerry

        They’re anything they want to be really; hence ‘high’ and ‘low’ church. All things to all men, so long as you acknowledge the monarch as head of the church.

    • Karla

      He said Protestant Christianity was a large part of the economic success of the West. Apparantly his idea is that Protestant Christianity makes you work hard, creates networks of people that are honest. I don’t see why he thinks that is unique to Protestant Christianity. Catholic France did a good job of creating a highly developed modern economy.

  • Karla

    The governments of the West should take notice of this study. Stop treating Christianity as a problem.

  • Robin Leslie

    I’m not too sure that we should feel happy about the course of Western civilization, it has had after all countless territorial and cultural and uprootings, millions of human beings
    sacrificed to industrialism and commercialism in the name of ‘freedom’ and ‘truth’. It is undoubtedly true that the post-Rennaisance version of history and progress that has formed the myths of technology and progress has lived parasitically off the displaced shards of pre-modern monasticism via Reformation puritanism. The latest version of this obtuse materialism
    is that ‘nature is a matter of survival, of pitting yourself against the elements (viz. the
    market place, the managerial classes and the speculators in money and food)’
    Now that the Reformed churches are part of the re-engineering of our individual and collective identities through sexual orientation, constant evictions of place, space and furniture, there very probably is only the Catholic Church that reflects anything of the old Wisdom that refuses the blandishments, seductions and coercions of an arrogant and lost Western civilisation.

    • Tim

      “the myths of technology and progress”

      I don’t believe that they are myths at all, and if you have ever taken an antibiotic or flown in an aeroplane then neither do you.

      funny how those in the comfortable west think that our civilisation is lost, whilst the rest of the world, the people who actually live in societies that in some ways are pre-modern or incompletely modern, are trying to get here, legally or illegally to build a better future for themselves.

  • Peter Bridgman

    There might be a more prosaic reason why western Europeans have been more successful than the Chinese – a political row. By the 15th century China was far in advance of Europe in terms of technology, and they had a much larger oceangoing fleet, regularly sending 400 feet long vessels as far as the Indian Ocean. They were poised therefore to discover America and colonise it from the Pacific coast. What stopped them was a row that broke out in the Chinese court between the party of the eunuchs, who were in favour of building bigger fleets, and their opponents. When the latter gained power they dismantled the shipyards and put an end to oceangoing shipping. Since (unlike Europe) China was one big political unit, this decision was absolute and irreversible. It meant that in the following century it would be Europeans who were to exploit the globe. (I got this information from Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book ‘Guns, Germs and Steel: a Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years.’ Highly recommended.)

    • Pedro

      I think this probably played a large part in the dominance that the West temporarily achieved. Competition between Western nations and the lack of any overall central control meant that innovations in technology, learning, government and commerce were tried out in different nations at different times. Yet, because they shared a common culture (call it Christianity if you like), successful innovations quickly spread throughout the West.

      Huge, centrally controlled nation states like China only had to make a single wrong policy decision to leave it at a disadvantage to Western nations.

      This particular incident, about the dismantling of China’s ocean going fleet is fascinating. I really must make an effort to read more about Chinese history.

      • Tim

        Also we should bear in mind that China was ahead of Christian Europe until 1500 and is on teh cusp of overtaking us again. Isn’t that proof that development is possible without Christianity?

        • Louis

          Probably… but I think you are overanalysing.

          I have been investigating Chinese Christianity recently (talking to a couple of people who have expereince of the church there first hand) and if you don’t know it is apparently one of the big success stories at the moment, with some estimates of there being 50-100 million Christians in China compared to 4-10 million at the turn of the millenium. It seems one of the motivations may be that there is a belief in China that is was Christianity that made the west rich, and that by adopting it themselves it will help them have what we have. Reports like this will only fuel this belief further.

          For those of us who live in formerly Christian countries, who often hear the erroneous view that faith has held back science and progress and how secularism and atheism are the future, it is encouraging to see that the emerging economies likely to play a substantial role on the world stage in the future are travelling on the reverse path.

          • Tim

            Thanks, That is interesting. I knew that Christianity was doing well in China. I had assumed that it was because it met a phycological need of the Chinese or because it was a reaction to state atheism. I hadn’t considered that the Chinese might be adopting it because they think that it will make them rich. I am not doubting that that may well be a motivation, it just strikes me as rather a weird reason almost like the truth of it doesn;t matter just its usefulness. I am more impressed by believe in something agaisnt personal interest than belief in something what just happens to confer benefits. persumably thee were plenty of Chinese who became “communist” because it would help their prosperity and survival but who didn;t really believe it. perhaps the Growth in Christianity in China tells more about the opertunism of the Chinese than it does about Christianity?

        • louella

          Yeah….and Christianity is growing in China….while it is in decline in the West. Doesn’t that tell you something. As we say…where Christianity takes root….so too does cultural ascendency.

          Mind you…China better be careful. Its low birthrates and ageing society will be a handicap. They need to ditch atheism. It’s a drawback.

    • A. Nicot

      I wouldn’t put too much faith in Diamond’s book. He write popular history, and good popular hsitory at that, but, like all popular history, it is woefully inadequate in the angles it take to explain situations and the reasons it cites.
      He’s not even a historian, he’s a biologist, anthropologist, and a geographer.

  • Robin Leslie

    Roderick Needham is a good authority on Chinese Science and the circumstance from which it emerged. Apropos the ‘myth’ of ‘technology and progress’, I am not saying that material advances and improvements in material circumstances are not actual, but that this belief system or ideology has extended unwarrantedly to moral and spiritual dimensions. In fact the technical and scientific developments in Western modernizing cultures far outstrip the regressions in human relationships and the habitat in which we live, both of which this
    progressive civilisation has degraded. When I use the term myth, I use it as a narrative
    that tells a story but which also conveys widely held meanings, in the case of the myths of modernity these have become stories lacking in substantive symbolism and significance.
    Whatever significance they play in the desires of poorer peoples, their fascination for indigenous Western peoples seems to be waning into mistrust and cynicism, they have become degraded myths, as degraded as the outcomes of their practices.
    Comfort and ease whilst conducive to pleasure come with mental unease and leave Westerners
    sick at heart.

  • Tim

    May 19, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I KNOW from personal experience that Christ exists. He’s as real as the person next to you.
    And I will NEVER understand that people can’t accept that!.”

    But if your faith comes from personal experience then doesn’t it make complete sense that someone with different personal experiences doesn’t share your faith?

  • Alex Green

    “…a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, tasked with finding out what gave the West its dominance. He said: …for the last 20 years, we have known that it was your religion.

    It was the Judeo-Christian heritage that gave the West its restless pursuit of a tomorrow that would be better than today. The Chinese have learned the lesson. Fifty years after Chairman Mao declared China a religion-free zone, there are now more Chinese Christians than there are members of the Communist Party.”

    I don’t think so. The reason the West rose to dominate the world is better explained by Yale historian Paul Kennedy in his book “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers”: 500 years ago there were four civilizations with similar levels of development, wealth and power: Ming China, the Ottoman Empire, the Mogul Empire and Europe. The first three were highly centralized empires based on orthodox state ideologies (Confucianism in China, Islam in the other two). Only in Europe did you have division, competition, and constant war between various states, which gave them the incentive to develop science, technology and trade, in order to develop and afford military technology for self-preservation and expansion. These advances only really took off after Europe rebelled against Christian theocracy and separated religion from government, which allowed for the necessary intellectual freedom for innovation to take place.

    European countries got richer and stronger, and eventually conquered and colonized the world. Western countries turned on each other in WW I and WW II, and then consolidated into one block – NATO, and because of that, our rate of innovation has slowed down.

    But in Asia, the opposite happened. After WW II, these countries gained their independence and started competing with each other: China vs. the US, Japan and Taiwan. N. Korea vs. S. Korea. N. Vietnam vs. S. Vietnam and Thailand. Malaysia vs. Singapore. Indonesia vs. Malaysia. There was great fear, and competition all around Asia. So they wanted to develop their economies, and gain technology, in order to defend themselves.

    This explains why Asia has been rising while the West is stagnating. It has nothing to do with Christianity. If it did, the Philippines would be the richest country in East Asia, instead of one of the poorest, most corrupt, most violent societies in the region.

    If a Chinese official told a Westerner that the Chinese elite think Christianity is the reason the West rose, and are going to Christianize China, it has to be BS. I imagine they are trying to accomplish three things:

    1) they are trying to build a (small) Chinese state controlled church in order to show that they tolerate religious freedom (even as they brutally persecute independent churches); and

    2) they want to fool American conservatives by making them think maybe China will embrace Christianity, and

    3) they want to encourage the Christian Right in America, because they know they will make America more divided, more backward, and WEAKER, just like Islam made the Shah’s Iran after the mullahs took over that country. (If the Shah and his son had remained in power these last 30+ years, Iran would probably be the 4th or 5th biggest economy in the world by now, with matching military and political power, instead of the third-rate international trouble-maker that it is today). Chinese know the Christian Right is anti-science and anti-progress, and will preach Creationist dogma in science classes, hinder or ban stem cell research, etc. – Asian countries are already racing ahead of us in developing stem cell technology. You say who cares, but someday soon, the only cure for your disease may be at an Asian hospital that you can’t afford. Think about that. They also know the Religious Right is likely to continue wasting America’s treasure on stupid wars in the Middle East – China LOVES that.

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