An Overview of Northeast/East Asia

(Editor’s Note: Our new Peoples of the World section will consist of three parts: an overview of a specific region of the world, a deeper look into the least-reached peoples of this area and a focus on a specific unreached people group. We hope this will give you both a macro and a micro look at specific areas of the world.)
Eastern Asia is an enormous landmass which spans multiple time zones and is rich in natural resources.
Eight of the highest mountains, the third largest river and third largest desert are in this region. Virtually every kind of mineral can be found here, although not necessarily in quantities sufficient for the population. Natural disasters are also common here; Mongolia’s snow and China’s drought have caused excruciating hardships. Environmental management is a major issue for the region; the Three Gorges Dam, for example, is the largest of its kind.

Over one quarter of the world’s population live here, making it the second most populous region in the world. They live mainly in the eastern half; western China and Mongolia are only sparsely inhabited. With seventeen thousand babies born each day, this region will reach 1.6 billion people by 2025. Nearly half live in urban centers; there are 806 cities with one million or more inhabitants. The population is projected to enter a decline as it struggles to stabilize its numbers; it will likely lose two million people per year from 2025 to 2050.

The number of children is also falling from a high of 413 million (thirty-eight percent of the population) in 1975 to 350 million (twenty-four percent of the population) today and likely to 280 million (seventeen percent of the population) in 2025. Still this number is very large; there are nearly as many children in Eastern Asia as there are people in most of the other regions. Only South-Central Asia has more children. Of course, these children are mostly found in China. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are having to deal with the opposite trend: aging. Although there are 113 million seniors today, the number is expected to rise to 245 million by 2025. Keeping them integrated in the economy is a key challenge facing the next generation.

East Asia has some of the oldest civilizations in the world. China developed printing, gunpowder and massive maritime exploration and trade networks long before Europe did. With the exception of Mongolia and North Korea, Eastern Asia has benefited enormously from the force of globalization. The region accounts for seventy-seven percent of Asia’s total Gross National Product (GNP) and thirty-four percent of the world’s total. China, Japan and South Korea are among the twenty largest economies in the world, and Taiwan isn’t far behind. For the past two decades China has had the fastest growing economy and by 2050, it is expected to be the largest economy in the world. It also has one of the highest foreign debts, second only to Brazil. Eastern Asia has the second largest industrial and manufacturing output (behind North America) and is by far the biggest food producer. It is one of the top ten producers for virtually every globally used product (metals, rubber, wool, cotton, oil, coal, etc). It is a magnet for industrialization and manufacturing, and is moving ahead in many advanced technologies. The Internet is making rapid inroads in China (stirring up issues of censorship and control), and has connected most of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. China is planning an ambitious space program that will land it on the moon in the next two decades.

Governmental freedoms vary from the isolated, highly controlled dictatorship of North Korea to the heavily censored and regulated China to the far more open Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Relationships between the governments in the region remain tense, affected by long-standing prejudices and recriminations. Yet the governments are mostly stable and war in the area is less likely than ever before. Wildcards include North Korea’s nuclear activities, oil and gas rights between China and Japan and old animosities between China and Taiwan. North Korea continues to be a center of political repression, harsh persecution and criminal activity.

Christianity in Northeast/Eastern Asia
Christianity makes up a very small percentage of these countries; South Korea is the sole exception, where believers make up nearly half of the country. Yet because of the sizable population, even small percentages mean big numbers: China’s eight percent equates to over 100 million believers. Levels of persecution and restriction vary depending upon the specific location. Christians in East Asia are already being trained and sent as cross-cultural missionaries both to unreached peoples in the region and to other countries.

Name P '00  p '25 C '00 % C '25 % 75-00
Issues Affecting the Future
China 1,258.7 1,424.6 88.0 7%  173.7 12% ++ ++ Freedom, control, development, materialism, moderate restrictions
Japan 127.0 124.8 4.4 3% 4.7 4% ++ -+ Reforms, new religious movements, unresponsiveness
Mongolia 2.5 3.3 0.0 1% 0.1 2% ++ ++ Extreme poverty, ecological disasters, moderate restrictions
North Korea 21.9 24.1 0.4 2% 1.4 6% ++ ++ Severe restrictions, oppression, nuclear politics, reunification, crime
South Korea 46.8 49.5 19.1 41% 21.1 43% ++ ++ Economic growth, rapproachment with North, mission mobilization
Taiwan 22.4 25.7 1.5 7% 1.6 6% +- +- Politics with China, materialsim, growth of Buddhism

Key: P’00—Population, AD 2000. P’25—Population, AD2025. C’00 – Christianity, AD 2000 (followed by the percentage of the overall population). C’25—Christianity, AD2025 projection, World Christian Database (followed by percentage of overall population). 75-00—Growth rate. The first (+/-) indicates whether Christianity is growing or declining; the second (+/-) indicates whether it is growing faster or slower than the population (thus whether Christianity’s influence is growing or declining). (+-) means Christianity is growing, but not as fast as the population, and so is declining as a share of the country. 00-25—Growth rate projected for AD2000-2025. Issues—A brief encapsulation of the issues affecting the growth of Christianity in the nation.

Justin Long manages and is senior editor for Momentum, a magazine devoted to unreached peoples. He can be reached at [email protected].