Chinese authorities may be stepping up their efforts to co-opt the explosive growth of Chinese Christianity by constructing a regime-friendly version of the faith. All Christian churches in China must have official government approval. This has already led to some “Sinicized Christianity,” especially in the official Chinese Catholic Church, which does not fully recognize the Vatican’s authority. But the government apparently wants to do more than approve and oversee churches; it now also aims to aggressively promote a “Chinese Christian” theology.According to the Hindustan Times, country officials called for a “Chinese Christianity” at a recent Shanghai seminar:
Speaking at the seminar, Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, said: “The construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture” […]The government had launched a five-year campaign in 2013 to promote its version of the religion. It will continue to promote “correct” Christian theology with a “range of publications, exchanges, discussions and evangelism.”
The Chinese government appears to be taking a two-pronged approach to Christianity. On the one hand, it continues to crack down on orthodox churches and communities. On the other, it seeks to prop up a brand of worship that won’t threaten its power but will fulfill the spiritual yearnings driving conversions to Christianity. Instead of neutralizing Christianity through direct, brutal persecution, like Mao did, the current leaders are taking a much more subtle and crafty approach. Time will tell if they’ll be any more effective than Mao in sapping the strength of the churches.