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China Mobilization

Overhead Transparency Map Set

A Leader's Guide by Jim Nickel & Brent Fulton of ChinaSource

Click here to download the leader's guide in ASCII format.
Click here to download the leader's guide in MS Word 97 format.

This map set is designed to be useful in a variety of contexts, in schools, churches, and conferences. It consists of ten maps, with background information relating to each one.

1. Administrative Areas - Introduces the 22 Provinces, 5 Autonomous Regions, 4 centrally-administered Municipalities, and 1 Special Administrative Region of China.

2. Agriculture and Industry Regions - This map provides an overview of the different types of agriculture throughout China, and identifies several key industrial areas.

3. Prominent Cities and Geographical Features - Introduces the major topographical features of China, including main rivers, plateaus, basins, and plains. It also shows the major cities and the Great Wall of China.

4. Province Population - Shows the population of each of China's provinces, highlighting the fact that 94% of China's people live in the eastern half of the country.

5. Major Ethnic Groups - Shows the location of the largest of the 56 recognized nationalities of China, revealing how the minorities are concentrated in the southwestern region, and cover vast areas in the western, northwestern, and northern regions of the country.

6. Language Families - Highlights nine different language families to which the hundreds of languages and dialects spoken throughout China belong.

7. Distribution of Chinese Dialects - Focuses on the languages and dialects spoken by the majority Han Chinese, showing the seven regional dialects of Mandarin and 12 other language groups.

8. Percent Christian - Shows the percentage of registered Christians in each of the administrative regions of China.

9. Ministry Distribution and Population - Demonstrates how the number of Christian ministries working in each province of China relates to the population.

10. People Group Specific Ministry - Shows the number of ministries focused on reaching specific people groups in each province of China.

Map 1
Administrative Areas

China is divided into 32 major administrative areas: 22 Provinces, 5 Autonomous Regions, 4 centrally administered Municipalities, and 1 Special Administrative Region.

Pronunciation Guide:

Autonomous Regions
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
Nei Mongol Autonomous Region
Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
Xizang Tibetan Autonomous Region
Centrally-Administered Municipalities
Special Administrative Region
Hong Kong


Map 2
Agriculture and Industry Regions

Only 10% of China's land is arable. Permanent pastures account for 43% of the land use, and forests and woodlands occupy 14%. 498,720 sq km of China's land is irrigated. Natural resources include coal, iron ore, petroleum, mercury, tin, tungsten, antimony, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, magnetite, aluminum, lead, zinc, and uranium. It has the world's largest hydropower potential.

Agricultural products include rice, wheat, potatoes, sorghum, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, cotton and other fibers, oilseed, pork and other livestock products, and fish. Agriculture accounts for 20% of the Gross Domestic Product of China, while industry accounts for 49% and services, 31%.

Industries include iron and steel, coal, machine building, armaments, textiles and apparel, petroleum, cement, chemical fertilizers, footwear, toys, food processing, autos, consumer electronics, and telecommunications.

The leadership of China has been seeking to move the economy from a sluggish Soviet-style centrally planned economy to a more market-oriented economy since 1978. The result has been a quadrupling of the Gross Domestic Product over the past 20 years. During the 1980s agricultural output doubled, and industry also posted significant gains, especially in the coastal areas opposite Taiwan and near Hong Kong.

Urbanization and industrialization reduced the percentage of agricultural workers from 70% of the workforce in 1981 to an estimated 53% by 1997. The official unemployment rate in urban areas is 4%, but probably is actually closer to 8%-10%, according to U.S. Dept. of Commerce estimates.

Map 3
Prominent Cities and Geographical Features

China is located in Eastern Asia, bordering the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea. It has a coastline of 14,500 km, running from a North Korea to Vietnam, and land boundaries of 22,113.34 km, bordering Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, India, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macau, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia (two borders, one in the northeast and one in the northwest), Tajikistan, and Vietnam.

China has a total area of 9,596,960 sq km (about 3.7 million sq MI), making it just a little smaller than the United States. East to west distance is about 5,000 km; north to south distance is about 4,050 km. The terrain in the west includes mountains, high plateaus, and deserts; and plains, deltas, and hills in the east. The climate is extremely diverse, varying from tropical in the south to subarctic in the north. The longest of the country's numerous rivers are the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River) and the Huang He (Yellow River), which extend for 6,300 and 5,400 km, respectively. The cities of China are huge and growing. UN predictions place the 2010 population of Shanghai at 20 million (it is now 12 million) and Beijing at more than 15 million (it is now 11 million). John Naisbit predicts that by 2010 half of China's population will live in urban areas. In 1997 87% of the Chinese population lived in rural areas. The government would like to reduce that to 50%, and is creating whole new cities to make that possible. Fifty new cities were created in 1994 alone. The goal is to move 440 million people from farms to the cities. Already more than 100 million people - equal to 40% of the U.S. population - have left rural communities to seek a better quality of life in the cities. These demographic changes present great challenges to the church of Jesus Christ, which has not been particularly successful in urban evangelization. At the same time, the gathering of rural peoples into the cities represents a great opportunity to us, much as the gathering of people from every nation to Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost presented a great opportunity to the early church.

The Great Wall of China, now a discontinuous series of walls stretching more than 4,500 miles, is symbolic of the changes taking place in China. Over 2,000 years old, it was built and rebuilt by different dynasties over a 1,000-year-period to protect the ancient Chinese empire from marauding tribes from the north. It is now a great tourist attraction, drawing rather than repelling people from outside China. In like manner, China as a whole, once seemingly closed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, is opening to creative Christians in ways that would have been thought impossible just a few years ago.

Map 4
Province Population

The estimated total population of China as of July 1998 was 1,236,914,658 (five times that of the U.S.). With a growth rate of somewhere between 0.83% and 0.93%, some current projections estimate that China's population could reach 1.6 billion by the year 2025.

94% of the people of China live in the eastern 45% of the country, leaving vast reaches of land in the western portion of the country very sparsely inhabited. These less-densely-populated areas of China are, however, home to some of the most unreached peoples in the world. Hardy Christians are needed to take the gospel to these people. At the same time, there are hundreds of millions of people in the more densely populated eastern portion of the country who have yet to be reached with the gospel.

Map 5
Major Ethnic Groups

It is vital that we understand the ethnic structure of China if we are to be successful in reaching her people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Maps 5, 6, and 7 provide a rudimentary introduction to this subject. Map 5 identifies the general geographical location of some of the major ethnic groups of China.

The heart of China is inhabited primarily by the Han Chinese, who comprise between 91% and 92% of the population (1.1 billion plus). As noted on the map, there are also minority peoples scattered throughout this region. Most of the 100 million minority people of China, however, are concentrated in the southwest, west, and northern regions of China.

The government recognizes 56 nationalities: the Han Chinese and the following 55 minorities.

Population (1990)
Population (1990)
1. Zhuang
29. Xibo
2. Manchu
30. Mulam
3. Hui
31. Kirgiz
4. Miao
32. Daur
5. Uygur
33. Jingpo
6. Yi
34. Salar
87, 697
7. Tujia
35. Bulang
8. Mongolian
36. Maonan
9. Tibetan
37. Tajik
10. Bouyei
38. Pumi
11. Dong
39. Achang
12. Yao
40. Nu
13. Korean
41. Ewenki
14. Bai
42. Jing
15. Hani
43. Jinuo
16. Kazak
44. Deang
17. Li
45. Uzbek
18. Dai
46. Russian
19. She
47. Yugur
20. Lisu.
48. Bonan
21. Gelo
49. Moinba
22. Lahu
50. Oroqen
23. Dongxiang
51. Drung
24. Va
52. Tatar
25. Shui
53. Hezhen
26. Naxi
54. Gaoshan
27. Qiang
55. Lhoba
28. Tu

It is important to realize that these classifications are only a starting point for understanding the minorities of China. Most of them comprise umbrellas for dozens, and in some cases hundreds of distinct people groups. The Miao classification, for example, includes people groups who speak 34 different, mutually intelligible languages. In addition, each of these languages has numerous dialects and sub-dialects. The same kind of thing is true, to a greater or lesser degree, for most if not all of the other peoples of China, including the Han majority.

Map 6
Language Families

It is impossible to show all the languages and dialects of China on a single map. This map attempts to give some understanding of the situation by showing the families to which the hundreds of languages and dialects spoken throughout China belong. Nine different Language Families are represented by the various colors on the map: the Daic-Tai, Chinese, Korean, Miao-Yao, Mon-Khmer, Mongolian, Tibetan, Tungus, and Turkic Families.

Cross-hatching is used to show the areas in which significant portions of the population speak (Mandarin) Chinese. The government has promoted the use of Mandarin Chinese (the national language) throughout the country through media and the educational system, so it is widely understood even by many whose heart language is other than Chinese. However, communication at the level necessary for effective disciple-making will in most cases require that those who would obey the Great Commission of our Lord to make disciples of all the people groups of China learn the local language or dialect.

It should be kept in mind that a map such as this can only show one language (or at most two) for each particular point on the map, whereas the reality is that a given area of China may have people within it who speak dozens of different languages and dialects. This will be particularly true in the southwestern region, where hundreds of different ethno-linguistic minority peoples live adjacent to one another.

Map 7
Distribution of Chinese Dialects

A common misconception is that while the minorities of China have different languages, all Han Chinese speak the same language. It is true that the Han Chinese share the same character set for their written language, but they pronounce those ideographs in very different ways, depending upon which spoken language or dialect they use.

The tan areas on this map represent the extent of spoken Mandarin. Note carefully, however, the labeling within these areas. Seven different regional dialects of Mandarin are identified by these labels. These regional dialectical differences create at least a minor barrier to understanding, and often create a major barrier to acceptance. Both of these factors are important to the gospel messenger, for the gospel must not only be understood, but be accepted to be of value to those who hear.

The pink areas of the map represent language groups other than Mandarin. The Chinese government (and indeed, many Chinese) prefer to call these different dialects as well, but linguists would contend that they are indeed different languages. Some of these linguistic differences are well known to outsiders. For example, Cantonese, one of the languages of the Yue Group, is widely spoken by Chinese immigrants in many countries of the world. The same is true of Taiwanese and the closely related Fujianese, both dialects of the Minnan Group.

To what extent do these linguistic differences among the Han Chinese constitute a barrier to the spread of the gospel? That is a question that has yet to be answered, and adequate answers will only be forthcoming after some careful research has been undertaken.

Map 8
Percent Christian

One of the major challenges facing the church as we move into the 21st Century is the evangelization of China. Glowing reports of the phenomenal growth of the church in China have tended to give the uninformed the impression that the task of evangelizing China is well on its way to completion. Without diminishing at all the significance of what God has done and is doing in China, we need to very soberly look at what yet needs to be done if we are to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord in China.

While accurate statistics are hard to obtain, what we do know suggests that the church has taken root and grown rapidly only in certain places and among certain people groups in China. Tony Lambert, a researcher with OMF International, has supplied us with the most credible estimates we have seen on the number of believers in various parts of China. These estimates are based on statistics from provincial-level TSPM* and other government sources, which tend to be more accurate and up-to-date than national-level statistics.

The map shows that most of the Christians affiliated with the TSPM are concentrated in 8 provinces: the northern province of Heilongjiang, the eastern provinces of Shandong, Henan, Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang, and Fujian, and the southwestern provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou. The Christians in the southwestern provinces are concentrated in a few of the minority nationalities. Note that in no case does the percentage of registered Christians in any province exceed 5% of the total population.

The very low percentage of Christians (less than 0.25%) in the major cities of Beijing and Tianjin should be of major concern to us. This points up a desperate need for more effective urban disciple-making strategies. The low percentage of Christians in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region also represents a great challenge. The Zhuang is the largest of the national minorities of China (over 15,000,000), and as yet are largely unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ, as can be clearly seen from this map.

The statistics depicted on this map, relating as they do to registered Christians, do not tell the whole story of the work of God in China. Many Chinese Christians have chosen not to register with the government, and are thus not counted in these figures. To help us get a fuller picture, Tony shared the following analysis on the e-mail conference China Watch on Feb 4, 1997:

Adding all these numbers up, I come up with about 55 million Christians in China, about 5% of the population. There is evidence to suggest that the number may be somewhat higher now, perhaps closer to 60 or 65 million. However, that still leaves a huge task ahead of us. God is doing some wonderful things in China, but the task He has entrusted to His church is far from done.

Map 9
Ministry Distribution and Population

Maps 9 and 10 are based on a 1999 survey of 64 North American missions and parachurch organizations concerning their ministry involvement in China.

The survey revealed that in general, the distribution of ministry efforts in China does not follow population patterns. Rather, ministry efforts are targeted either toward minority areas or toward provinces where there are heavy concentrations of Christians. Most of the work reported is being conducted in Beijing, Henan, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangsu, Liaoning, Xinjiang, Xizang (Tibet), Qinghai, and Gansu. In the case of the latter four provinces, target areas are not heavily populated, but they do contain a high proportion of minority peoples.

Individual cities with a high concentration of organizational involvement include Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Kunming, Lhasa, Shenyang, and Xining. The geographic distribution of work varies, depending upon the specific type of work being conducted. Comparing the overall distribution of ministry to the ratio of Christians: non-Christians in each of the provinces, it appears that more resources are needed in Guangxi, where the ratio is 1:510; Hubei, where the ratio is 1:388; Hebei, where the ratio is 1:324; and Hunan, which has a ratio of 1:321.

Map 10
People Group Specific Ministry

In the survey previously mentioned (see Map 9), one-quarter of the respondents indicated that they were targeting one or more specific people groups. A variety of approaches were being used to reach these groups, including sending English teachers, starting businesses, doing rural development work, and providing medical and social services.

As shown on the map, these efforts are concentrated in southwestern China, suggesting that they are targeted primarily at the many tribal groups in Yunnan, Sichuan, and the surrounding area, as well as the Tibetan and Muslim peoples. Specific people groups mentioned included the Buyi, Hakka, Hui Kazak, Li, Lisu, Miao, Shui, Tajik, Tibetan, Uighur, and Yi. In addition, some work directed at unreached peoples is being done in central and northeastern China.

Clearly, much remains to be done in terms of targeting specific people groups in China if we are to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord to make disciples of panta ta ethne (all the peoples) of China. May this map and these comments serve to stimulate the body of Christ around the world to give higher priority to completing the Great Commission of our Lord in China.

For more information about the China Mobilization map set, or if you have questions or comments, please contact:


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