Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year from China!

What’s an old guy from New Jersey doing way over here?   I don’t blame you for wondering.

My good friend Janel Curry asked me to join her and a group of her students from Calvin College, to spend most of January learning about economic development and environmental challenges in the Pearl River Delta (PRD).  The PRD is China’s most vibrant industrial nerve center, boasting historic cities like Guangzhu (Canton), Hong Kong and Macao, plus the overnight burgeoning “factory cities” like Dongguan and Foshan. 

46 million souls live in this delta.  46 million: That’s only 3.5% of China’s 1.4 billion people, but generating 29.8% of its massive exports around the world.  The shoes you’re wearing now were probably made here.  Maybe your cell phone and laptop too.

Hong Kong's beautiful Stonecutter's Bridge took us in from the airport.
Riding the crest of Deng Xiaoping’s declaration 30 years ago that “To get rich is glorious,” the PRD has achieved incredible results.  Chinese per capita GDP has increased forty-fold over 24 years: from $84 in 1984 to $3,259 in 2008.  Forty fold! Unbelievable!

 But there’s been a price, and it’s being felt all over the China, and the world.


  • 20 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are here.
  • 150 million Chinese have left their homes to become migrant workers (as many as ALL U.S. workers!), and 40 million of them have been forced to move due to environmental damage.
  • Every year, an area the size of New Jersey succumbs to desertification as a result of Chinese exploitation of the creation.
  • 700 million Chinese drink water contaminated by human and animal waste.
  • And when I was a boy of six, 35-50 million Chinese died from one single famine.


Despite their great achievements, humans have not had the last word.  The potential -- indeed, the certainty -- of massive challenges to people and to the earth from wanton exploitation can be easily foreseen from the past. The sheer scale of opportunity or potential further harm in this enormous country is almost mind boggling.  And since human impact on the creation knows no national boundaries, the wider world is watching with keen interest and trepidation…

…Just like they’re watching the U.S.

So, for the rest of this month, I’m going to look for opportunities to post from this amazing country.  I hope that we all end up with a clearer picture of what justice and healing might look like for this amazing, complex and injured world.

It doesn’t belong to the Chinese, or the Americans.  This is our Father’s world.

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood

1 comment:

  1. A great opportunity. We miss you! Keep us posted.

    ReplyDelete