Part 7: On Religion and Social Harmony

Zhao: Mutual understanding and frequent exchanges of views are essential and effective.

Palau: Yes.

Zhao: We are against greed, we are against selfishness, we are against laziness, and we are against evil and wars. In ancient history, there were frequent religious wars. You explained that religion is not the cause of all wars. The fundamental cause is man’s greed and evil. I would further hope that religion and religious sects would play a role in preventing wars and not be exploited by warmongers and militarists.

Palau: That’s true.

Zhao: You said that Adolf Hitler was an atheist. We also know that he was not only a war maniac, but also an extreme anti-Semitist. Hitler capitalized on the religious prejudices prevalent at the time to serve his own political ambitions.

Palau: There’s so much that we have in common. From my perspective, my dream would be that every Chinese person would find peace with God through Jesus. That’s my dream. Because we all know we’re going to die and the interesting thing is that Jesus offers the absolute assurance of eternal life to every sinner who repents and believes in him. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect, otherwise nobody would have eternal life. He offers us forgiveness and then the assurance of heaven forever when we die.

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I particularly love this verse from the Gospel of John. “The Son of God did not come into the world to condemn the world but that through him the world would be saved.”

Zhao: I, too, have a dream. My dream is that the exchanges between religious believers and non-believers will become an important part of contemporary culture. The United States and China are both great nations. The United States is the largest developed country in the world and China is the largest developing country in the world. We should make more active and effective efforts to promote the exchanges between the Chinese and American peoples. Using IT jargon, I think there should be several friendly “interfaces” between China and the United States. China-US dialogue should be comprehensive and not limited to the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the US State Department. It should include religious dialogue and dialogue between the religious and non-religious people.

Palau: Yes.


Zhao: Since Sino-US relations are most important for both countries, I think your contribution will not be a little one, but a very big one. I would like to express my respect not only to you, but also to all our friends who have contributed to Sino-US friendship.

Palau: After my trip to Beijing last May, I was talking on American TV about a bookstore I visited that sells Bibles and all the religious books, but people said, “No, it can’t be.” They still have this notion. They’re behind the times on information about China.

Some people over there still think they have to sneak Bibles into China because there are no Bibles here. I told them I was in the printing shop of the Amity Foundation in Nanjing which is managed by a New Zealander and they put out millions of Bibles all over China. And they showed me a map of China with all the distribution centers and I asked the manager, “How do you distribute the Bible all over China?” And he said, “The China Post”.

Zhao: I think most Americans know less about China than Chinese know about the United States. A few years ago, a New York ballet troupe came to Beijing. When they were making hotel reservations, they said they must be hotels with bathrooms. Also, several years ago, when the president of a radio station based in Washington visited China, he brought with him a lot of bread and cookies because some people had told him there might be some problem with the food in China.

Palau: The change in China has been so accelerated, the news takes a while to get back to Americans and memories of the Cold War are still in the air.

Zhao: I once talked with Dr. Kissinger about this issue and I told him I think there are two areas of misunderstanding among Americans about China. One is that China’s foreign policy is identical with that of the former Soviet Union, and two, after quick economic development, China will become a source of economic friction and competition for the United States, just like Japan was in the 1970s.

Palau: Economic competition is bound to happen. You’ve got four times the population of America. And if America doesn’t keep up its educational system at top flight, China is going to win.

History shows that when a country or an empire becomes rich, it becomes passive. It begins to just want to live off the past, and they miss out on the present and the future. History goes in a cycle. When a nation becomes rich and there’s so much abundance, there is also a great potential for it to become corrupt in the moral sense and decay begins.

As for the first misunderstanding, that China is like the Soviet Union, I think that’s the biggest misunderstanding. Do you agree?

Zhao: Dr. Kissinger said that since Americans are very pragmatic, they attach great importance to economic competition, whereas a much smaller percentage of people may regard China as being like the former Soviet Union, politically speaking. So your view matches that of Dr. Kissinger. Maybe you can become the Secretary of State for the United States.

Palau: Oh, thank you. No, thank you.

Zhao: Dr. Kissinger could not become the US President since he was born in Germany. I’m wondering whether you were born in the United States or in Argentina? Would you go into politics?

Palau: I was born in Argentina. I don’t have a chance.

Zhao: But I know you can influence the president. I think there’s a big difference between China and the former Soviet Union. When a theory is introduced into China, there will be a process of localization or “China-ization”. We would have to adapt it to the actual conditions in China. So, for example, China’s market economy is different from that in the United States, in the European countries. But even in Europe, the French market economy is different from the British and German market economies. And in Asia, the market economy in Japan differs from that in other East Asian countries. There are many suggestions for China’s market economy. We listen carefully to their suggestions. We will accept those which suit the current Chinese situation.

In China, different cities and regions have different blueprints for economic development. The successful experience of one region may not be good for another region. In the world, there is no universal model of a market economy, and less still, a universally applicable political mode.

Palau: That’s a big discussion. Solomon said, “Of the making of books, there is no end.” So we have to put limits on our knowledge.



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