This thesis explores the relationship between the Christian identity of Chinese business Christians and their motivations to contribute to their immediate environment, during the first fifty years of the twentieth century in China. It begins with an examination of the institutional environment in which Christian merchants lived, worked and worshipped. The merchant class in China had risen in prominence, wealth and social status. Protestant missionaries had also indoctrinated their protégés in the goals of modernisation and social contribution. This environment helped to shape the worldview of Christian entrepreneurs.
During the early twentieth century, Chinese business Christians made significant contributions in the areas of business, philanthropy and religion. Whilst still strongly influenced by their cultural heritage, the new Christian identity of these entrepreneurs motivated them to adjust their business practices to follow biblical principles. They also established and financially supported social projects within their communities. Through a process of maturation, Protestant business people assisted in religious development through their involvement in lay ministry, financial patronage, church planting, and evangelism, which advanced the indigenisation of Christianity in modem China.
A comparative analysis will be drawn between the efforts of Protestants and those of Chinese business Catholics. The contributions of sojourners who lived overseas will also be examined. Finally, there will be a concluding chapter involving various contemporary case studies. It will reveal that Christian identity continues to be a motivating force in the lives of Chinese business Christians.
Research into the history of Christianity in China provides an avenue towards understanding broader issues of social change and identity construction. Scholars have explored the emergence of the urban Christian elite in modern China and the contributions of significant Chinese Christian entrepreneurs. This thesis will add to the field by examining the links between Christian identity and social contribution.