A Passage to China

“For many of us westerners ‘China’s rise’ is a cliché. Nothing beats being there to drive home the relentless size, energy, travails and triumphs of this amazing nation.”

—Stephen L. S. Smith, professor of economics


19 days. 22 students. Two professors.

And a country of superlatives: it has the world’s largest population, the most speakers of a single language (Mandarin), the fastest trains (268 miles per hour), and more major shipping ports than any other country in the world.

That was this summer’s China Seminar, an introduction to modern China and the remarkable economic, cultural and spiritual transformations underway there. Jointly-sponsored by Gordon College and Biola University, and led by professors Stephen Smith of Gordon (economics) and Lari Mobley of Biola (management), the seminar covered six major Chinese cities.

The itinerary began in Shanghai, the largest city in the world, with the world’s largest shipping port, and China’s financial center. Next up was Beijing, the inland capital of the People’s Republic , as well as the world’s third largest city. From Beijing the group traveled to Xi’an in western China, an important cultural, industrial and educational center, and then to Guilin, one of China’s most popular tourist destinations. From Guilin the group traveled south to Shenzen, the third-busiest port in the world, and also China’s first—and most successful—Special Economic Zone. The short last leg of the journey brought the team to the autonomous territory of Hong Kong, the world’s fourth busiest port, as well as one of the world’s most densely populated regions.

Students visited and learned about government agencies including the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Xi’an Hi-Tech Development Zone; they toured and spoke with leaders of large and small businesses including a state-owned steel firm, a major furniture supplier to “dotcom” retailers, and a major HVAC controls supplier. They heard from and talked with scholars and students at Shanghai University, Beijing University of International Business and Economics, Shaanxi Normal University, Shenzhen University, and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

The team worshipped at churches including a government-approved (“Three-Self”) Chinese church with English translation; an International Christian Fellowship church, and, in Hong Kong, a local Anglican congregation.

The students’ and professors’ photos also show visits to the Shanghai World Finance Center (the “Bottle Opener” building), the Great Wall; a Li River cruise through China’s most iconic mountain vistas, and (the classic) tram ride to Hong Kong Peak.

The goal? To equip these students with a better understanding of modern China, including its recent economic policies and history, its business environment, its political system, and culture. To cultivate students’ understanding of the challenges—both internal and external—China faces in attempting to achieve sustainable prosperity and international prominence. And finally, to deepen students’ understanding of the role of Christianity in China’s recent past and present, including the work of Christians in business.

Slide photo (boat on river): Wilson Kizer ’15, one of the participants on the China Seminar. More of Wilson’s photos may be viewed here.

Dinner party photo courtesy of one of the group’s hosts; taken in Dongguan, China.