As the Chinese public becomes increasingly amenable to organized religion to fill the ideological void left by 35 years of rapid economic growth, the central government remains cautious of the potential religiosity has in countering public allegiance to the Party. With Christianity expected to continue gaining followers in China—by some estimates becoming the world’s largest Christian nation by 2025—The Economist examines Christianity’s history in the Middle Kingdom, and how its continued spread is forcing the Party to rethink its approach to religion:
Christianity is hard to control in China, and getting harder all the time. It is spreading rapidly, and infiltrating the party’s own ranks. The line is blurring between house churches and official ones, and Christians are starting to emerge from hiding to play a more active part in society. The Communist Party has to find a new way to deal with all this. There is even talk that the party, the world’s largest explicitly atheist organisation, might follow its sister parties in Vietnam and Cuba and allow members to embrace a dogma other than—even higher than—that of Marx.
[…] In recent years the party’s concerns have shifted from people beliefs to the maintenance of stability and the party’s monopoly of power. If working with churches helps achieve these aims, it will do so, even though it still frets about encouraging an alternative source of authority. […]
[…] Increasingly, the party needs the help of religious believers. It is struggling to supply social services efficiently; Christian and Buddhist groups are willing, and able, to help. Since about 2003, religious groups in Hong Kong have received requests from mainland government officials to help set up NG O s and charities. In an age of hedonism and corruption, selfless activism has helped the churches’ reputation; not least, it has persuaded the regime that Christians are not out to overthrow it. […] [Source]
In August, the State Administration for Religious Affairs announced the “continued promotion of Christian theology in a way compatible with the country’s path of socialism.”
Also see a blogpost from The Economist explaining why followers of the Eastern Orthodox Church—”which you might have expected, on geographical grounds, to be the faith’s prevailing form,”—make up less than 0.1% of Chinese Christians. For more on religion and Christianity in China, see prior CDT coverage.