With one-fifth of our planet's population, China seems to be poised to dominate the 21st century. Bible prophecy sheds a vital—and perhaps surprising—light on the truth of the matter.
With about one-fifth of the world's entire population, the nation of China remains an enigma to many in the West. Thousands of years ago, China was an imperial nation with grand ambitions of regional and even world domination. Though it was racked by war and economic catastrophe throughout the 20th century, the dawn of the 21st century is seeing new attention paid to China as an economic and political superpower in the making. What does your Bible reveal about China's future and its place in end-time prophecy? The answer may surprise you!
Sixteen years ago, when financier Philip Schaefer organized an investors' conference titled, "The Chinese Century: From Wall Street to the Great Wall," few had heard the term "the Chinese Century" as a description of that mysterious nation's ascent to a new level of world power.
Today, with the United States in rapid decline, and investors such as Warren Buffett openly proclaiming the 21st century as "China's Century," many more are taking notice. With the nation of China working hard to overtake the West in both economic and military power, is it soon destined to dominate the world in the way that America and Britain were able to dominate the last century? Will this 21st century, in fact, be "China's Century"?
With an estimated 1.3 billion citizens, China is the most populous nation on earth. It has by far the largest financial reserves of any nation—now estimated at more than US$2.1 trillion! Its military and naval forces are increasingly being developed. China-watchers have noted that the nation has plotted a deliberate course in which it joins economic growth to military power. China's average growth of roughly 9 percent over the last 20 years has led to a ten-fold increase in per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a 21-fold increase in purchasing power for military expenditure. So, China is slowly but surely working to transform its armed forces into a full-spectrum military, able to project Chinese power around the world.
Journalist Willy Lam, in a Wall Street Journal article earlier this year, reported: "China recently announced its GDP grew by more than 7.1 percent in the first half of this year, putting the country on course to displace Japan as the world's second-largest economy by year's end. But it's not time to celebrate just yet. Peasants and migrant workers, who compose more than 65 percent of China's 1.3 billion people, aren't benefiting much from this growth. Much of it is hoarded by the central government. Last year, Beijing collected taxation and other levies of more than six trillion yuan ($878 billion), an eye-popping four trillion yuan more than five years ago. Since the turn of this century, funds flowing into the Beijing treasury have increased by around 22 percent a year, more than double the average 10 percent GDP growth for the past two decades" ("Rich China, Poor Peasants," July 24, 2009).
So, China will soon be the second-largest economy in the world—trailing only the United States of America. As another Wall Street Journal article reported, "The Pentagon views China as the country most likely, at some point down the road, to acquire the capacity to challenge the U.S. military on a global scale…. Adm. Wu Shengli, the top officer in China's navy—officially known as the People's Liberation Army Navy—said the service would move faster to modernize its arsenal and build larger and more capable warships 'to boost the ability to fight in regional sea wars' using high-tech weaponry. In an interview with China's official Xinhua news agency ahead of the navy's 60th anniversary next week, he also said the navy would improve its ability to operate on the high seas. Other officials in recent months have talked about China building its first aircraft carrier, adding to U.S. concerns that China wants to project its power" ("China, Friend or Foe?," April 18, 2009).
Yet, it is important to realize that for many decades the Chinese viewed themselves as also-rans on the world scene—a terrible embarrassment for a nation that valued its historical past as a great world power. Despite China's past glories, the nation had for many centuries been held back by a series of weak governments and misguided efforts. China was constantly finding itself dominated by the Americans or the British. Then, the communist revolution began—and suddenly, millions of Chinese began to have a sense of pride in their own government, which they had lacked before. Certainly, communism is not the answer to mankind's problems. Nevertheless, it gave millions of Chinese a sense of meaning, and gradually the nation began to gain a degree of confidence and, slowly, even material prosperity and military power it had not enjoyed for many, many decades. So it is not unusual to think that such a nation would want to regain some of its dominance in Southeast Asia.
Many are starting to take notice. Respected investment advisor Jim Rogers not long ago moved his family from the United States to Singapore, stating his desire to be closer to where the "real action" is in the coming world economic system. Rogers is famous for telling interviewers that he has advised his daughters to learn Mandarin Chinese so as to be prepared for the future! What is his rationale? Here is what he told TIME magazine recently: "Throughout history, the center of the world has shifted to where the capital is, where the assets are. You don't see any period in history where things are shifting to the debtors, and America's the largest debtor nation in the history of the world. Unless something's different this time, unless the world's changed very, very dramatically, the center of the influence, the center of power, the center of the earth, the center of the globe, is going to be shifting towards Asia, because that's where all the money is. Have you ever heard of anybody saying, "Let's go to where all of the debtors are"? It just doesn't happen that way" ("Q&A: Investment Guru Jim Rogers," April 28, 2009).
Is Rogers right? Or is something about to change very, very dramatically? The real question is: Where will all this lead? What is truly going to happen? What does the inspired word of God indicate?
In several places in your Bible, God clearly indicates that He is in charge of all major world events. In the book of Daniel, we read that ancient King Nebuchadnezzar was driven out of power for seven years and made to eat grass like oxen in order to teach him a lesson. What was that lesson? God answers, "Seven times shall pass over you until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses" (Daniel 4:32). Even most professing Christians do not understand the reality of God's ultimate authority and how real God is. But, in this generation, they will begin to understand—since God is beginning to intervene powerfully in human affairs as never before. Again, the inspired word of God tells us, "The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations" (Psalm 33:10–11).
Although China is becoming—and will increasingly continue to become—one of the most powerful and influential nations in the world, your Bible clearly reveals that it will not become the major threat to America. And our 21st century will not be "China's century."
Rather, God's inspired word tells us that a powerful empire will arise in Europe—one that will, in fact, dominate the entire earth in economic and trading matters. And—if we let the Bible interpret the Bible—we do not need to "guess" who this power is, or where it might arise.
For, as nearly all Bible students know, Almighty God revealed through Daniel a series of four kingdoms which would arise on the world scene—the fourth finally being uprooted by the "fifth kingdom" which will be the literal government of God under Jesus Christ (Daniel 2:36–45). Describing the "fourth kingdom," God's word tells us, "In the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms and it shall stand forever" (v. 44). Combining the descriptions of these four dominant empires given in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, it is clear that the "fourth beast" is the Roman Empire. God picks up the story in Revelation 13. Here we have a description of the "revived" Roman Empire extending into the Middle Ages. For although the original Roman Empire fell in 476ad with a "deadly wound," that wound was "healed" by Justinian reviving the Holy Roman Empire in 554ad—with six more revivals to follow (Revelation 13:3).
John further describes this empire: "So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, 'Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?' And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven, and it was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation" (Revelation 13:4–7). This empire was a very powerful empire, which—under the influence of the papacy—horribly persecuted the true saints of God and virtually stamped out the Church of God during the Dark Ages.
But then, in his inspired vision, John sees "another beast coming up out of the earth" (v. 11). This beast looked like a "lamb"—as Jesus Christ is described as a Lamb throughout the Bible. And yet this beast "spoke like a dragon." And the term "dragon" is used throughout this very book—the book of Revelation—to denote Satan the Devil who the whole world" (Revelation 12:9).
The "second beast," described in Revelation 13:11–18, is clearly a great religious power that deceives all mankind. This power will also perform awesome miracles at the end of this age. "He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived" (vv. 13–14).
The beginnings of this religio-political power are now occurring on the European continent. This power will appear to "do good" at first, but will ultimately take over the religious, financial and political reins of power in the Western world. And its dominance in trade and finances will even extend all over the earth.
Revelation 18 describes this power—as a modern "Babylon." For God's word states, "For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury" (Revelation 18:3).
But finally, God describes the downfall of this system, when the "merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore" (v. 11). As God's word states, "'For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.' Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, 'What is like this great city?'" (vv. 17–18). So this mightiest political, military and trading power on earth will be found at the time of the end—a power dominated and heavily influenced by a false religious system: "And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth" (v. 24).
No, our 21st century will ultimately not be the "Century of China" that many political and economic forecasters are expecting. And, despite Europe's brief ascendancy in the years just ahead, neither will it be the "Century of Europe." For the word of God makes it clear: Jesus Christ will soon return, making it the Century of Jesus Christ!
Right after describing the total destruction of the final "beast" empire, God's word tells us, "After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, 'Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!'" (Revelation 19:1). And in verse 11 God tells us through John, "Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" (vv. 11–16).
So where will it all end? It will end with the soon-coming return of the "King of kings"—the supreme Monarch, Jesus Christ, who will descend from heaven in magnificent glory! Then, the "last trumpet" will sound and angelic voices proclaim, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15).
Throughout the Bible, God gives us clear indications that we should "watch" for the fulfillment of His inspired prophecies. For He—and He alone—knows the end from the beginning. No Chinese naval force figures in Scripture's end-time prophetic panorama—but could a 200 million-man land force from the east (Revelation 9:16) be amassed without China? Knowing Bible prophecy allows us to watch China's build-up with information the world's political pundits do not have!
While the world keeps its eyes on China, students of God's word will know that the "real action" takes place in Europe and the Middle East. Ten nations or groups of nations will coalesce under a supreme dictator your Bible calls the "Beast." A "King of the South" from south of Jerusalem—an area where we find the Arab Muslim nations—will lead its forces into a dramatic conflict with this European "Beast" power and usher in the final end-time sequence of wars that will culminate in the return of Jesus Christ!
Yes, this will take a number of years to come to pass fully. But while we wait and watch, we need to remain alert to the great purpose Almighty God is working out here below—teaching human beings that our ways do not bring peace. That the human race is not capable of governing itself. That a Spirit-led World Government under Jesus Christ is the only solution to the horrifying anguish and suffering that is increasingly affecting every nation on earth.
Truly, each of us must heartfeltly and urgently obey Jesus Christ's command: "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36).