Is This China's Century?

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With the United States waning as a superpower, is China poised to take its place? Bible prophecy offers an answer that may surprise you!


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 opening decades of the 21st century are 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!

Twenty 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 its estimated 1.4 billion citizens, China is the most populous nation on earth. It has byfarthe largest financial reserves of any nation—now estimated at more than US$3.5 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 annual 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-foldincrease 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.

Economic Growth

China now has the second-largest economy in the world—trailing only the United States of America (third-largest if the European Union member states are counted together as one bloc). Wherever you live, if you use a computer or a smartphone, there is a very good chance that it was made in China. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology reported that in the first eleven months of 2012 alone, Chinese factories made more than a billion mobile phones, more than 314 million computers, 116 million monitors and 114 million television sets! This does not include the estimated 120 million tablet PCs made in China last year. China’s global presence in the automotive industry also continues to grow.

Decades ago, “Made in China” was a code-word for shoddy and cheap workmanship. But no more! Chinese industry is now at the forefront of the world economy, as nations like Vietnam and Thailand take on the role of cut-rate competitors. Today, in China, the entrepreneur or businessman has much to be thankful for.
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. Today, even the Chinese have recognized that communism is not the answer. China’s senior leader, Xi Jinpeng, now talks of the “Two 100s”—the goal of making the nation’s entire vast population “moderately well off” by 2020, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, and the goal of making China a fully modernized and developed nation by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. As China expert Robert Lawrence Kuhn puts it, Xi’s vision of the “Chinese Dream” has four parts: “Strong China (economically, politically, diplomatically, scientifically, militarily); Civilized China (equity and fairness, rich culture, high morals); Harmonious China (amity among social classes); Beautiful China (healthy environment, low pollution)” (“Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream,” New York Times, June 4, 2013).

From Farms to Cities

One striking example of this fervent desire for modernization is the plan by Chinese leaders to move 250 million Chinese citizens from their ancestral farmlands into new urban residences, where they will work in offices or factories instead of on the land. “The government, often by fiat, is replacing small rural homes with high-rises, paving over vast swaths of farmland and drastically altering the lives of rural dwellers. So large is the scale that the number of brand-new Chinese city dwellers will approach the total urban population of the United States—in a country already bursting with megacities” (“China’s Great Uprooting,” New York Times, June 15, 2013).

By 2025, the plan is to have 70 percent of China’s population—about 900 million men, women and children—living in cities. As the New York Times reports, “This will decisively change the character of China, where the Communist Party insisted for decades that most peasants, even those working in cities, remain tied to their tiny plots of land to ensure political and economic stability. Now, the party has shifted priorities, mainly to find a new source of growth for a slowing economy that depends increasingly on a consuming class of city dwellers” (ibid.).

It would be hard to overstate what a dramatic change this will be for China and its people. Chinese communism, practically from the beginning, differed in one dramatic way from orthodox Marxism, which looked to the industrialized working class as the bulwark of revolution. By contrast, Chinese communism gave a special emphasis to peasant farmers as the main populist force that was expected under “Mao Zedong Thought” to foment and support the revolution against capitalism that would lead the Chinese nation toward socialism and communism.

At a time when millions in the United States are worrying about their own nation’s loss of prosperity and traditional values, and its seeming move away from personal liberties long taken for granted—as seen in the revelation of National Security Agency recording of personal phone conversations—it is easy to understand why many around the world are sensing a coming shift in global superpower dynamics. Will an urbanized, economically powerful China become the world’s leading superpower, just as the United States loses its long-held positions of economic power and moral leadership around the world?

Where will all this lead? What is truly going to happen? What does the inspired word of God indicate?

Another View: From God’s Word

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 understandthe 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 themajor 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 that would arise on the world scene. Interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel prophesied (see chapter 2 of the book of Daniel) the following:

  • A head of gold, symbolizing the Babylonian Empire that fell in 539bc.
  • Chest and arms of silver, symbolizing the Medo-Persian Empire (558–330bc).
  • Belly and thighs of bronze, symbolizing the Hellenistic empire established by Alexander the Great (333–31bc).
  • Two legs of iron, symbolizing the Roman Empire, with ten toes on feet of iron mixed with clay symbolizing the Roman Empire and its final revival with ten national rulers united under a single leader (31bc–Christ’s return).

The final world-dominating revival of the Roman Empire will be relatively short-lived, and will be uprooted by a “fifth kingdom” that will be the literal government of God under Jesus Christ (Daniel 2:36–45). Describing that “fifth kingdom,” God’s word tells us that 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).

This final powerful empire is not a Chinese Empire! But how can it be a “Roman” Empire, when we know the Roman Empire fell in 476ad? Remember that although Rome’s empire was felled by a “deadly wound” in 476ad, successive emperors have in effect “revived” it for brief periods. The first was Justinian in 554ad, followed by the Carolingian Empire (of the famous Charlemagne, crowned in 800ad), then the Holy Roman Empire, the Hapsburg Dynasty and the empire of Napoleon. In the 20th century, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler made a brief attempt to revive the empire through the Axis Powers.

This is the empire the world will see rise once more at the very end of this present age. The Apostle 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. 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.

Deceptive Religious Power

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 deceives 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).

Whose Century Will It Be?

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 this the Century of Jesus Christ!

Right after describing the total destructionof 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 belongto 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 in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white 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).

The Coming King!

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).

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