Liu Xiao Feng, Sino Theology and the Philosophy of History (Hong Kong: Centre for Sino-Christian
intelligentsia and academia found two concrete expressions: a revival of Chinese classical learning; and a deep yearning for the world outside the great wall. At the height of this new cultural revival in the 1980s, a most common aspiration and slogan was: 'Let Chinese culture open to the world and world culture to China!'
Having been isolated from the 'free world' for so long it was only natural and understandable that the Chinese, especially the thinking and curious intellectuals, should desire to know what was going on outside the 'great wall'. For Deng the leader and for those who were excited about his enlightened policy, to be open necessarily meant willingness to learn from the outside world, including the capitalist west. For more than a century China's attitude towards the west has remained intriguingly 'love-hate'. Hate, because of the enormous humiliation China suffered at the hands of western 'imperialists', including Japan, since the time of the 'Opium War' (1839-42) until the founding of Communist China in 1949. Love, because the modernization of the west and its many achievements were realities which even the Chinese communists could not possibly ignore or deny. China under Deng was at long last convinced that modernization was the way forward for China. As Deng appropriately and humorously put it: 'Who cares whether the cat is black or white as long as it catches mice!' There was thus a genuine desire to find out and to learn. But for the Chinese intellectuals, learning about and from the west went beyond the economic and industrial levels. Hence, the cultural and spiritual dimensions of the modernization of the 'Christian' west had to be considered and studied also. It was the Open Door Policy inaugurated by Deng Xiao Ping in 1978 that gave the academic disciplines of the humanities, including Christian studies, a new lease of life. Bishop K. H. Ting, the paramount leader of the Three-Self Church, makes the following remarks in a published 1995 letter to the alumni of China's leading theological school, Nanjing Union Theological Seminary:
For more than a decade now the [Chinese] intelligentsia has been treating Christianity with an unprecedented open attitude. However, we Christians are acutely short of those who have the [intellectual] ability to dialogue with the intelligentsia on equal footing. We are therefore in desperate need of a group of respectable Christian intellectuals from different professions and levels. They should not be church-goers only, but should also get themselves involved in different levels of the leadership of the 'two councils'.5 They are also expected to join organizations of their respective
5 The 'two councils' are the China Christian Council (CCC) and The Council for Three-Self
Patriotic Movement (TSPM).
professions ... discussing with them about faith, as well as upgrading the level of their own professions ... These professions include creative and performance arts as well as religious studies ... We must also form a contingent of theologically well-educated intellectuals who are strong, distinctive and insightful, to speak for Christians of our motherland which is committed to socialism with Chinese characteristics, in international theological circles.6
China in the 1980s began to witness the loosening of the ideological grip in academia, creating a moral and spiritual vacuum which could not be filled simply by material things, despite the newly acquired wealth and opportunities in the market economy. In an international symposium held in Beijing in October 2001, Gao Shi Ning of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences spoke on Christian belief and ethical values in which she made three observations: traditional ethical values in modern China are gradually diminishing; current ethical values have become increasingly pluralistic; and social values which are sub-cultural and vulgar are becoming more and more widespread. Gao held that in the midst of all these changes Christian values had become a viable option for some intellectuals as well as a deterrent force against moral erosion, although its influence was still rather limited at the present time because of certain existing socio-political constraints.7
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