Liaoning is one of the three provinces which make up what Chinese call “the northeast”. It is blessed with a long coastline and a number of ports, the most important being Dalian or “The Hong Kong of the North” (claimed to be China’s first “rat free” city). Liaoning shares a border with North Korea, with the two separated by the Yalu River.

Liaoning has its own ‘forbidden city’, located at the heart of its capital Shenyang. This was the capital of the Manchu empire during the 17th century before its conquest of the rest of China. After founding the Qing dynasty in 1644, the Manchu court moved to the more famous palace in Beijing. Many of the current residents of Liaoning can trace their ancestry to 17th century Manchu settlers.

In the run-up to Communist victory in 1949, Liaoning was the scene of several historical events. Many of the key battles in the war between Russia and Japan in 1904-05 took place in the province, including the Battle of Port Arthur (today: Dalian) and the Battle of Mukden (today: Shenyang). Liaoning was under the control of warlords for many years until the Japanese invaded in 1931 and took control of the province. After the defeat of the Japanese in 1945, one of the three major battles of the Chinese Civil War took place in Liaoning.

Liaoning now has a population of over 40 million. Around 20% of the population are made up of non-Han Chinese ethnic minorities, with a large number of Manchu, Mongolians, ethnic Koreans and Hui Muslims. A large proportion of the Christians in the province are ethnic Koreans.

Liaoning was one of the earliest Chinese provinces to industrialise on a large scale, first under the Japanese occupation and then later under the Communist government in the 1950s and 60s. The city of Anshan, for example, is home to one of the largest iron and steel works in the whole of China. However, with the economic reforms of recent years, many of the large state-run industrial concerns located in Liaoning have run in to economic difficulties and been forced to close factories, streamline their operations and lay off thousands of workers, causing poverty and hardship in many of Liaoning’s communities. Liaoning and the other northeastern provinces are sometimes seen today as “China’s rust belt”, and the government in Beijing has launched a “Revitalise the Northeast” campaign to try and modernise places like Liaoning and stimulate alternative industries and income sources. However, in some ways such layoffs have been a boost to the church, as many experienced managers have taken early retirement and have given their skills to the work of the local church.

Dalian, the 'Hong Kong of the North'
Dalian is the province's most important port - 'Hong Kong of the North'
Inside China's "other" Forbidden City in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning
Liaoning used to be home to many state-run heavy industry plants, but is more of a rust-belt today
The 'other' Forbidden City in Shenyang
Today Liaoning is an industrial rust-belt
© Churches Together in Britain and Ireland 2010