Zhao Xiao: China Economy Needs Churches

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Chinese author of controversial paper on the link between church and the economy to speak in Singapore.

Contributed By Pauline Kong

Zhao met up with members from The Marketplace in Beijing to discuss the setting up of a leadership institute. PHOTO OF THE MARKETPLACE

Zhao Xiao, 43, is a professor at the Department of International Business and Economics at the School of Economics and Management at the University of Science and Technology Beijing. He is also one of China’s foremost economists.

In 2002, Zhao penned a head-turning report called “Market Economies With Churches And Market Economies Without Churches,” in which he proposed that America was an economic power because of its churches. Zhao began to study the Bible with the intent proving there was no truth in it, but after three months, he “admitted defeat” and converted to Christianity.

Zhao is an academic of considerable influence. He has headed a think tank that reports directly to China’s Central Committee on macroeconomic strategy. He has worked at the highest level of government. He has been a guest researcher for the World Bank China Center for Economic Research at Beijing University, the China Society and Economic Reform and the Unirule Institute of Economics. His many accolades include being named “The Youth Leader Of Our Generation” in 2004, “Opinion Leader in Property Industry” in 2006. He was also named “Financial Expert with Outstanding Contribution in China” in 2007.

Zhao’s papers—which span policy analysis on financial crises, petroleum’s impact on the economy, and employment and enterprise development—have had impact on the way China handles its economy. His research on China’s inflation and the direction of China’s macro economy after 1998 brought about major changes in China’s macro economy policies. His paper titled The Real Story of China’s Economy Growth drew the attention of top economic government officials and became a required reading for State Council economists.

Zhao convincingly argues his case for a more prosperous and advanced China through Christianity. In one interview with American network PBS, he was asked what a blend of Christian beliefs and Chinese culture would bring to China. He replied: “I believe that it will bring two things, and these two things will be very important for the future social structure of China. The first thing it will bring is a spirit of contracts. We know that, whether it is a market economy or a constitutional system, behind them all is a civilization based upon rules. So what we need is a group of people who observes rules. Only then can this system work with highest efficiency. And this spirit of contracts, it comes from belief in Christianity, because we know that in the Bible, for instance, there are the Ten Commandments. These are contracts that God signed with humans.

“The second thing it will bring is the spirit of universal love. There is no culture that can match Christianity’s degree of prizing love, because what it emphasizes is a form of unconditional love, a love for everyone, including those who are not lovable, including those who have hurt you or oppressed you. You have to love them, regardless of whether they are good or bad to you, regardless of who they are, you must love them. So this kind of love is a sign of the openness of modern society and modern civilization … If Chinese society wants to have more openness, more harmony, then it needs the spirit of universal love.”

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