Your Bible, now made in China [Excerpts]
China, the world’s largest producer of textiles and manufactured goods, is now also the largest producer of Bibles. In 2012, the country’s sole Bible printer, Amity Printing, produced 12 million Bibles and New Testaments.
Although the increased availability of Bibles is a big step forward from China’s strictly Communist days, a closer inspection reveals the country continues to control how many Bibles are printed and who can get them.
Amity Printing started in 1988 as a joint effort between the British United Bible Societies (UBS) and Amity Foundation, the charity arm of the Three Self Church. Bible production increased from 500,000 the first year to 12 million last year. But many of the Bibles aren’t going to Chinese Christians, as Amity Printing has found it can turn a profit by exporting its goods. Bibles are printed in more than 90 different languages, and of the 88.9 million Bibles printed between 1988 and late 2011, 33.2 million were exported.
And the number of exported Bibles is increasing. In 2011, about two-thirds of the Bibles printed went out of the country, with only about 4 million copies remaining in China’s borders.
Not only is the number of Bibles printed by Amity unable to keep up with the growth of Chinese Christians, the 50 million believers in unregistered house churches do not have direct access to them, said Paul Hattaway of Asia Harvest.
The Bibles are distributed to the 55,000 registered churches, and anyone can purchase them there for an affordable 9.50 Yuan ($1.50). Christians found owning an Amity-printed Bible do not face punishment. But Christians in rural house churches far from registered congregations have a difficult time getting Bibles. Christians who ask for more than a few Bibles at a time raise suspicion.
(Lu, "Your Bible, Now Made in China," Worldmag.com, 4/4/13).