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Crackdown on Christianity in China, but for what purpose?

Crackdown on Christianity in China, but for what purpose?

Source: Malaysian Insider; by Michael Sainsbury; August 2015

The Chinese Communist Party appears to be gearing up for a major crackdown on Christianity. The cross-removal program in Zhejiang, one of the key Christian provinces in China, has been quietly expanded into other provinces, as reported recently by

There seems little doubt that the clear anti-Christian view of the Zhejiang party secretary Xia Baolong is backed by Chinese premier, Xi Jinping. Xia has noted that cities in the province have “too many crosses on their skyline.”

Christianity seen as a threat

It seems increasingly clear that the party sees the Christian churches as one of the essential threats to its continuing tight grip on power. Like its imperial predecessors, the party always has seen religions as potential destabilisers.

As The Economist magazine suggested earlier this month, Christians are the second most popular organisation in China outside the ruling Communist Party, which now counts about 90 million people as members. Christians could in fact already be the biggest.

Christianity is not a home-grown threat. It is a “foreign” one. The party, which sees no irony in its own Marxist-Leninist ideology being of European parentage, has decreed that there should be a “sinicisation” of Christianity.

Many Communist party officials are Christians

An added wrinkle, and something to watch as China’s Xi Jinping chapter continues to unfold, is the unknown, and indeed unable to be counted, number of Christians who are also party members. Many of them have risen significantly in party ranks, particularly at the country and township level.

Is communist rule coming to an end?

In March, renowned China watcher David Shambaugh, political science professor Washington DC’s George Washington University, predicted the end of the Chinese Communist Party.

“Despite appearances, China’s political system is badly broken, and nobody knows it better than the Communist Party itself. China's strongman leader, Xi Jinping, is hoping that a crackdown on dissent and corruption will shore up the party's rule,” Shambaugh wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

“He is determined to avoid becoming the Mikhail Gorbachev of China, presiding over the party’s collapse. But instead of being the antithesis of Mr Gorbachev, Mr Xi may well wind up having the same effect. His despotism is severely stressing China’s system and society – and bringing it closer to a breaking point.”

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

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