He quotes a scholar from the Chinese Academy of the Social Sciences “We were asked to look into what accounted for … the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past 20 years we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion. Christianity.”
Over at Mangan’s, our friend Dennis has taken up this passage in an interesting post of his own, The Curiosity Deficit of the East. I left the following comment:
When I read this I wondered if the Chinese scholar himself had said any more about why this should be so: about what, exactly it was about Christianity that they thought best explained. As it turns out, the next line of the quoted passage reads (my emphasis):
“The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.”
It is very interesting that a representative of a state-sponsored academic institution of the Communist and officially atheistic People’s Republic of China would come to this conclusion, and even more interesting that he would be permitted to express it publicly.
I’d still like to know more. In what way, specifically — by what mechanism — did these scholars think that Christian morality accounted for the West’s flamboyant (and flamboyantly capitalistic!) success?
There are two parts to this. First, the “emergence of capitalism”. What about Christian morality uniquely fosters capitalism?
Then there’s the “transition to democratic politics”. Implicit in this is the remarkable assertion (for a Chinese scholar to make in public, at least) that democracy is a key factor in our global domination. And of course Christianity explicitly distinguishes between God and Caesar. But again: why do you suppose the Chinese Academy of the Social Science concluded that Christian morality is more conducive to democracy than to collective socialism?