walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Published on: June 11, 2014
Crackdown
Is the Chinese Regime Changing its Policy Toward Christianity?

It appears to be. And its hostility is only likely to increase as the regime turns to forces such as nationalism to legitimate itself in the face of an inevitable slowdown in China’s rate of growth.

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  • qet

    If 3rd century Christians could survive Diocletian, I expect today’s Christians can survive the PRC. As with those early Christians, such a State persecution will probably strengthen the Christian community. Suffering for Christ’s sake is the highest act of any Christian. “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s
    sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” Matt 10:22

  • Loader2000

    It may or may not be bad news for Christianity. Christianity (and perhaps some other religions behave similarly) tends to flourish, somewhat, under persecution as long as that persecution isn’t genocidal, as it was in Japan during the 17th century. If the Chinese governments WANTS to make Christianity popular in China, one way to do it would be to associate it with anti-government dissidence in the minds of the people. If the Chinese government were really savvy, they would officially embrace Christianity and use it as a pretext to crush and suppress liberalization movements within the country.

    • Daniel

      If it were really savvy it would do nothing until Christianity was widespread enough to turn into a state religion, in which case it may as well replace communism.

  • Gary Novak

    In recounting his experience with the State Administration of Religious Affairs, Berger notes that “Protestantism is particularly welcome, because it is linked to economic development.” So, while it is true that economic growth is unlikely to continue at breakneck speed, the tapering might very well be hastened by the suppression of Protestantism. Nationalism might not only be an alternative legitimation of authoritarian state control but also a partial reason for the need for an alternative. A regime frightened by the prospect of multi-party democracy might devoutly wish to switch legitimations. The question is how willing modern Chinese will be to accept a legitimation that costs them the prospect of economic growth and political and religious freedom. Can the authorities separate the Protestant Ethic from Protestantism? Will more young men stand in front of tanks? Will the United States stop giving the Chinese reason to think we are decadent? Berger’s hypothesis is plausible. So is his warning that we should expect to be surprised.

  • lukelea

    The hostility has been there all along. The real news would be if it pulled a Constantine.

  • Anthony

    “…It does not help that the Chinese elite perceives the United States as a declining power, its political system as dysfunctional, and its culture as decadent.” Quite an observation as it complements essay’s theme.

  • http://www.landoverbaptist.org/ Team Red vs. Team Blue

    Good on China. The last thing they need is the parasite of christianity killing the host.

    Encourage your population to value reason, not superstition.

  • Marisa Louisa

    Anything that can destroy the CCP’s grip-lock hold on China is welcomed news, even if it is Christianity, but Christianity alone is not enough. Russia is pretty much Christian but look how stupid they are to keep electing Putin the Dicktator.

  • Maccabeus

    The explosive growth of Christianity in China is the world’s best hope for change in China’s Communist system of government. Of course, the leaders of Beijing are all too aware of the threat posed by its growing Christian population to its power base and atheistic values, so they try to repress it. As another poster wrote, Christianity tends to flourish more when under persecution, so ultimately we can hope that it will prevail. The wise Pharisee, Gamaliel, advised the Jewish authorities who were persecuting the Apostles and early Christians in Acts 5:38-39: “So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!” The same advice could apply to Beijing’s Communist rulers. If you find yourself fighting against God (even if you do not believe in Him), you are bound to lose.

  • Mishmael

    You people dont seem to know much about China. Christianity has been the most anti-China of the three major abrahamic religions. Islam has a much longer history in China and a much better history of coexistence in Chinese culture (see the Hui people). On the other hanad, whenever large numbers of Chinese turned Christian they inevitably turned into rabid, violent, anti-state zealots. They were responsible for the Taiping rebellion, basically the Qing civil war that was at the same time as the American civil war. The fanaticism of christians is deeply remembered by all Chinese and that is why, despite centuries of preaching, most Chinese are still wary of Christianity.

    Just last week a christian cult group (they love to make their own little “churches” dont they) beat a woman to death in a Macdonalds in Shandong province because she didnt want to go with them. Christianity wont weaken the CCP, it will give them a massive tool for bolstering their support.

    • yangfulei

      Christianity came to what was then “China” (the Tang Empire) at the latest in 635 AD, this we know from the so-called “Nestorian stele” in Xi’an. Probably it came a little earlier. Islam was likely introduced around 650 AD, by Saad ibn Abī Waqqās, cousin of the prophet Muhammad’s mother. The Tang dynasty was very tolerant to both Christianity and Islam, and both flourished in this period.

      The Taiping were not considered Christians but a sect, and the recent killings in Shandong was apparently by members of “Eastern Lightning”, another sect specializing in infiltration of mainstream Christian groups.

      No religion is “anti-China” or “anti-Chinese” as such.

  • Andrew

    I wish those Christians involved in negotiating with the local government had shown more restraint and wisdom which was eminently possible over such an issue as a physical cross dominating the skyline. It is not something reflective of a change of policy merely the enforcement of the same policy as has existed for sometime. The policy remains in tact, and so does God’s in the City of Man; that is render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and render unto God what belongs to God- never an easy tension but one that one hopes can creatively exist.

  • WRBaker

    Mao couldn’t eradicate it so it was decided that communist government would just control it, hence the “Patriotic” branches of most religions. It has been the underground Churches that have confounded the government because they took the long view and waited for the underground churches to die off. Little did they know the Catholicism has suffered through the centuries and still exists.

    It’s no wonder that they think America’s political system is dysfunctional and our culture is decadent given the lunacy that has transpired since Obama was elected.
    Their system is bound to collapse sometime, given the taste of democracy Hong Kong and Taiwan represent, but as long as the military walks lockstep with the government, China will continue to suppress its populace in order for the oligarchy to continue.

  • Brent Fulton

    As Berger says, “Much depends on China’s economic future.” During the past few decades of breakneck economic growth the Party has been happy to keep one eye closed in dealing with social groups, religious or otherwise, particularly if (as in the case of Wenzhou Christians) they are seen as contributing to China’s prosperity. As growth begins to slow the Party is tightening its authoritarian control domestically and flexing its muscle abroad in an effort to divert attention away from its own lack of true legitimacy. For a look at what Chinese Christians have been saying about the Wenzhou church demolition see http://chinesechurchvoices.com/2014/05/05/demolish-its-just-a-building/

  • lien huu

    Many Christians in China say that they are willing to die for their faith. None of the communists is willing to say that. They have much to lose if they die, and few of them believe in communism. It is true that United States is a declining power, its political system is dysfunctional and its culture is decadent, but I still hope that a remnant in the United States will emerge to lead the world, to counter the expansionism of China and Russia. In the meantime Christianity in China will grow, more rapidly under persecution.
    Xia Baolong is digging his own grave. God have mercy upon him. He should read the history of the Roman emperors.

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