China seems to be able to make anything. And now, when you open that hotel room book in the drawer by the bed, staring back at you will be those now familiar words.... Made In China.
It is a country where people caught smuggling religious texts or organizing illicit services can face years in jail. Yet China is about to become home to the world's biggest Bible factory, producing a staggering 1 million copies a month.There is, of course some irony to be had here.
The aircraft hangar-sized plant on an industrial park outside the eastern city of Nanjing will be capable of producing more than one Bible every second and is expected to supply one quarter of all the world's Bibles by 2009.
There is no religious paraphernalia or portraits or even a single crucifix to be seen anywhere in the Nanjing factory - a courtesy to China's strict religious laws which ban foreigners from proselytizing, or attempting to convert people.No, that's not it.
Ironically, all but one of the dozens of workers we spoke to insisted they were not Christians. One woman, a Ms Li who has worked at Amity since 1987 and now earns 320 US dollars a month, said: 'I work here for the salary, not because of my beliefs. I print the Bibles but I have no time and no interest in reading them.' Cool. As ironic as that may sound, that's still not it.
No. You'll have to go to Hairy Fish Nuts to get the real irony behind this endeavour.
Here's a hint.
Earlier this year, one of the leaders of China's underground Protestant church was released after serving three years hard labour for possessing thousands of unauthorised Bibles. He reportedly spent his sentence making soccer balls for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (I know. If you're from British Columbia now you're looking at those cute little 2010 Winter Olympic license plates wondering what prisoner stamped them out. Let me ease your mind. They're made in Nova Scotia. Until some company in China under-bids them.)