China: Christians Told They Should Become ‘More Marxist’

October 17, 2022

For background on Orthodox Christianity in China, see here.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in China, see here.

“Religion at the Chinese Communist Party Congress: Christians Told They Should Become ‘More Marxist,’” by Zhang Chunhua, Bitter Winter, October 15, 2022:

The 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party opens on October 16, and the government-controlled Protestant Three-Self Church contributes to it with a report on how Christianity is being “Sinicized.” Published on October 8, the report is signed by Pastor Xu Xiaohong, the Chairman of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee.

The document reviews the efforts made by the Three-Self Church to accomplish the “Sinicization” of Chinese Protestant Christianity, and proposes a road map for the future. Its main theoretical point is an explanation of how the concept of ‘Sinicization” has evolved throughout the history of the People’s Republic.

In the last few years, the Three-Self Church has lionized the figure of theologian Zhao Zichen (known in the West as T.C. Chao, 1888–1979), as the main founder of the doctrine of Sinicization. The Exhibition Hall on Zhao in Deqing county, Zhejiang province, has been solemnly visited this year by the Three-Self Church’s main leaders, and pilgrimages continue to be organized there.

Zhao is celebrate for his anti-missionary and anti-American stance, yet we are now told that the doctrine of Sinicization today has evolved with respect to his writings. Zhao’s idea that Christianity in China should be separated as much as possible from foreign and Western influences and styles is proclaimed as still valid. If anything, it needs more radical implementation. For instance, Xu praises the work done in Sinicizing the architecture of Christian churches, which in practice means destroying or downsizing crosses and other specific Christian features and making places of worship more similar in their external appearance to secular halls and in some cases to Taoist or Buddhist temples. 

However, Xu also explains that breaking the relationship between Chinese and Western Christianity is necessary but is not sufficient. The question is with what will Chinese Protestantism replace the discarded Western contents. A generic reference to Chinese culture would not be enough. Here, Xi Jinping’s thought on the Sinicization of religion (there is a Xi Jinping thought for everything) comes to the rescue. As explained by the President in his speech at the December 3–4, 2021 National Conference on Work Related to Religious Affairs, and summarized by Xu, today “Sinicization” does not mean only adapting religion to Chinese culture. It means making religion compatible with “the Marxist view of religion” and “Socialist religious theory with Chinese characteristics.”…