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Growing Christian Movement Threatens Authoritarian China

chinese flag flies about church in beijing
The Chinese national flag flies in front of St Joseph's Church, also known as Wangfujing Catholic Church, in Beijing on October 22, 2020. (GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

Tuesday, 22 December 2020 02:51 PM

The growth of Christianity in China has Beijing’s Communist Party in fear of its political control, and could trigger a return to increasingly repressive tactics, according to scholar and Bard College professor Walter Russell Mead.

In commentary posted Tuesday, the conservative Hudson Institute fellow and Wall Street Journal columnist warned that Chinese Christianity “is on a collision course with a government determined to centralize power in the Communist Party in ways not seen since the death of Mao.”

“Christians … face growing hostility from a ruling party that until a few years ago was willing to turn a blind eye to the proliferation of unofficial ‘house churches’ across the country,” he wrote.

During that time of tolerance, Protestants in China grew from an estimated 3 million at the end of the Cultural Revolution to in excess of 100 million currently, Mead argued. The country has another 10 million to 12 million Catholics.

“Much of the growth has come since 2010, and some projections suggest that by 2030 China could surpass America to have the largest population of Christians in the world,” he wrote.

“This is one of the few competitions with the U.S. that Beijing does not want to win,” he continued. “Churches are increasingly targets of the Chinese Communist Party’s repression of free speech.”

According to Mead, authorities in China are demanding the installation of cameras to monitor worshipers’ behavior and pastors’ sermons, and “there are reports of Catholic churches being forced to replace pictures of the Virgin Mary with portraits of Xi Jinping.”

The Communist Party has even decided to produce a state-approved Bible, he wrote — though in its version there is a shocking change to the revered New Testament story in which Jesus spares a woman accused of adultery from stoning, telling her accusers not to cast the first stone unless they are sinless.

“In the new, improved version, when the accusers have left, Jesus stones the woman himself, saying, ‘I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead’,” he wrote.

Mead noted before communists took power in China, rulers “feared religious cults could cause political unrest.”

“Protestantism and Catholicism are, with Islam, Buddhism and Taoism, among the officially recognized religions in China, but membership in any but state-licensed and state-controlled congregations is illegal — and no longer overlooked,” he wrote.

But as news spread of persecution of Christians for their faith, “the effects on American public opinion will be both explosive and long-lasting, potentially ending any hope for better or even stable relations between Washington and Beijing,” Mead warned.

“Throttling diversity at home at the cost of deepening isolation abroad,” he added. “No earthly power has the ability to stop Beijing from choosing this path if that is what party leaders wish. But it is unlikely that China will like what it finds at the end of that road.”

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The growth of Christianity in China has Beijing's Communist Party in fear of its political control, and could trigger a return to increasingly repressive tactics, according to scholar and Bard College professor...
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2020-51-22
Tuesday, 22 December 2020 02:51 PM
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