Just The Facts

18 Facts: Christians in China

Despite current attempts at suppression, the number of Christians is growing.

Credit: e X p o s e www.shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • China could become home to the world’s largest Christian population within 15 years from now.
  • China is already estimated to have more Christians (100 million) than members of the Chinese Community Party (86.7 million).
  • Chinese officials believe the Catholic Church helped destroy communism in Poland.
  • Protestantism has been spreading rapidly in China. It gives people a sense of individual power.

1. Christianity came to China in the 7th century AD. Roman Catholicism came in the 13th century and Protestantism in 1807.

2. Most Chinese Emperors banned Christianity — and sentenced proselytizers to death.

3. At the time of the 1949 Communist takeover, China — then a country with 540 million people – had 800,000 Protestants and three million Catholics.

4. China’s constitution technically guarantees freedom of religion.

5. China’s government must approve all religious organizations and strictly regulates their activities.

6. The government claims China has only 23 million Protestants and Catholics, but even officials acknowledge that is an underestimate.

7. The Pew Center estimated in 2010 that there were nine million Catholics and over 58 million Protestants in China. Current estimates are based on a 10% annual growth rate.

8. China has tens of millions of believers attending underground “house churches,” mostly Protestants. Local officials have tolerated them as long as they are not “political.”

9. The Chinese Communist Party now sees Christianity as a serious threat to be suppressed.

10. Chinese officials believe the Catholic Church helped destroy communism in Poland.

11. Despite these strictures, China could become home to the world’s largest Christian population within 15 years from now.

12. The Protestant brand of Christianity has been spreading most rapidly in China.

13. Protestantism appeals to ritual and community, but also allows people to feel international – within a global community.

14. Catholicism is based on centralized power — and hence reminiscent in Chinese eyes of the CCP.

15. The flexibility of Protestantism leaves room for individual interpretation and appeals to younger people.

16. Protestants also have simpler structures. They can start a group with a Bible and a couple of people, which aligns with the rise of Chinese civil society and empowerment of the individual.

17. In the 1980s, eight of 10 Chinese Christians lived in poor rural areas. That is rapidly changing. Now, most conversions are in cities and more believers are well educated.

The Upshot:

China is estimated to have now more Christians (100 million) than members of the Chinese Community Party (86.7 million).

 

Sources: China’s other leader by Jamil Anderlini (Financial Times, November 8, 2014); Pew Research Center; Church of the East by Wikipedia, and Benoit Vermander, Fudan University in Shanghai.

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