Acton Institute Powerblog

An encyclical on China and the US?

Sen. Marco Rubio’s recent speech on capitalism and the common good, taking its point of departure in Rerum Novarum, has gotten a good bit of coverage. Yesterday he delivered remarks at the National Defense University and opened with these words:

This morning I am honored to speak here at the National Defense University to discuss the defining geopolitical relationship of this century: the one between the United States and China.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find a papal encyclical on this topic.

No doubt he meant that at least in part as tongue-in-cheek.

But that remark got me to thinking; if Rerum Novarum remains relevant for domestic economic policy in the United States (and I think it does), then what might be the best encyclical to go to for insights into China and the US today?

I’d like to hear suggestions for Sen. Rubio in the comments.

For my part, first I thought perhaps Pacem et Terris. Then, I considered Populorum Progressio.

But after a bit more reflection, I think I have my recommendation for Sen. Rubio: Centesimus Annus, the centennial successor to Rerum Novarum. John Paul II’s 1991 encyclical is in many ways directly relevant to contemporary considerations concerning China and the US. It has to do with capitalism and socialism, the Cold War, materialism, secularism, and religious faith in the modern world.

So that’s my recommendation…are there other good ones to consider?

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.