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David Aikman, former Beijing Bureau chief for Time magazine, says he has seen first-hand how Christianity is growing in China and how even the former ruler of the Communist state has noted the practicality of its shift toward Christianity.

Aikman says just before China’s former President Jiang Jemin left office, he made a remarkable statement at a dinner party. According to the journalist, the Communist leader said that, if he could, he would officially decree that China be a Christian nation.

That’s not because [Jemin] is a Christian believer — I’m sure he is not. But what it is,” Aikman says, “is a reflection of the fact that many Chinese Communist Party officials are aware that pragmatically, Christianity is good for China.”

According to Aikman, studies have shown what Jemin and other Chinese leaders have come to realize: that predominantly “Christianized” areas in China have lower crime rates, less family breakup, fewer incidences of juvenile delinquency, and higher productivity rates.

Although he is by no means suggesting that Chinese officials want to see their entire populace evangelized, Aikman is pointing out that the utilitarian benefits the Christian faith bestows are obvious, even to the Communist leaders.

They understand that the most productive, ethically responsible group in China, by and large, are the Christians,” he says.

The former Time magazine writer hopes many Americans will come to understand the changing dynamic in China and its implications by reading his new book, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power.