Dickens famous story title aptly captures the situation of contemporary Urban development across the world. This is particularly true of major cities where there is rapid population growth and economic advancement. It is certainly true that in these places there is both the best of times and the worst of times.
Getting to see these two sides in Beijing has been very helpful. Although strictly a communist nation, China has embraced many aspects of the free market economic structure. As you walk through many downtown areas or the financial district it is no different than walking through those in London or Singapore. You will find the same brands, the same banks and the same hotels. It is technically communism, with a Chinese twist.
Let’s start with the financial district. It is filled with skyscrapers heralding the name of major multinational corporations, each building vying for greater prestige than the one directly opposite. As you walk, you remember the many thousands of people who call these offices home from home. They work long hours under high amounts of strain and pressure, seeking to fulfil the dream of more wealth or better position and status. Two things struck me again. Firstly the bold writing which proclaims the name of the companies across the skyline. We want many more to know the name which is above all others and to see his receive the praise that it is due. Secondly, as with any major financial district, let’s pray that more and more of the business people working both in China and the wider world will know that there is a far greater treasure to be found in Christ.
Now, this is only one side of the narrative which is being written in the ever expanding urban population of China. The sad reality is that this growth is taking place off the backs of many migrant workers who are relocating from rural communities. They come in search of work and a better future, but many quickly become subject to the system which seemed to promise so much. Cross the road from Tsinghua University and you don’t need to look far to see those living on the margins of this booming urban growth. Who looks out for them? Who defends them? Who lets them know that they are made with value and worth?
The process of globalisation has taken hold of the Chinese capital. Sadly, so too has the globalising by product of increasing social stratification. It is so important then that we pray for the wonderful message of Jesus to bring transformation which lasts among the socially marginalised and a purpose of greater value among the economic elite.