Even before the networks created by China’s massive economic Belt and Road, Chinese missionaries were heading abroad as part of the Back to Jerusalem Movement. Will China see them as local knowledge resources or something else? See related article by Jeremy Luedi.
At a time when their compatriots back home are dynamiting churches that have mushroomed across the country, Chinese construction companies are winning contracts to build churches across Africa. The economies of scale and other logistical advantages which Chinese firms enjoy in other sectors are being carried over to church construction. “China is now winning contracts to build churches because its corporations out-bid those from elsewhere,” notes Jesse Mugambi, professor of religious studies and philosophy at the University of Nairobi.
Not only is officially atheist China building houses of worship across Africa, its mega-corporations are also playing a vital role in spreading the good news — literally. Despite Beijing’s own misgivings about religion and proselytization, it appears to have no qualms in supplying the rest of the world with religious literature. One-quarter of all the Bibles printed worldwide are printed in China, and the world’s largest Bible printing factory opened in Nanjing in 2008.
Within Africa, China plays an even greater role, as the PRC supplies a substantial portion of the bibles used in the continent. For instance, some three-quarters of Bibles used in Kenya are printed in China. While it seems bizarre, China’s mass production of Bibles is merely a logical extension of its export-centric economic paradigm. Ironically, these mass-produced Chinese Bibles are finding their way into the hands of overseas Chinese, increasing numbers of whom are embracing religion.
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