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Can Christianity Impact Chinese Society? Ten Take-aways

Yesterday I highlighted some of the key points of the first of two panel discussions hosted by the Brookings Institute last week. The specific topic of that panel was the political and social status of Christianity in China.

The topic of the second panel was Christianity's impact on civil society, and the speakers were David Aikman, Richard Madsen, Jiexia Zhai Autrey, and Zhao Xiao.

Here are ten "take-aways" from the second panel:

  1. Civil society refers to a system whereby the welfare of ordinary citizens is improved without political direction. Civil society depends on trust and truth-telling among its members. (David Aikman)
  2. In order to have a healthy civil society and to be respected on the world stage, China must learn to speak truthfully about its past. (David Aikman)
  3. Christianity has been transformed from being seen as a foreign religion to being seen as a Chinese religion. A recent survey showed that 52% did not perceive Christianity as a foreign religion. (Jiexia Zhai)
  4. In a recent survey, 83.1% indicated a willingness to reveal their Christian identity. (Jiexia Zhai)
  5. Communist Party policy is still based on the notion that Christianity is a foreign religion and therefore, it cannot be trusted. (Jiexia Zhai)
  6. Christianity from the beginning has been potentially threatening to earthly rulers. (Richard Madsen)
  7. Christianity has no access to state power, so it must rely on moral persuasion through the demonstration of moral virtue and discipline. (Richard Madsen)
  8. Even officials who are suspicious of Christianity send their children to be educated in so-called Christian countries like the US or Great Britain, not to atheist countries like North Korea. (Zhao Xiao)
  9. In the 1920s there was a common saying, "one more Christian, one less Chinese." In the 1990s that saying had taken on a new twist, and many were saying "one more Christian, one less criminal; one more church, one less prison." Clearly, Christianity was affecting behavior, and that was being noticed. (David Aikman)
  10. The government is afraid of anything that they can't completely control. The global nature of Christianity makes them nervous. (Richard Madsen)

The audio of both panels can be found on the Brookings website, along with some accompanying PowerPoint presentations.

Again, if you want to deepen your understanding of the political and social context of Christianity in China today, please take the time to listen to this podcast.

Image by Corey M. Grenier, via Flickr

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul …View Full Bio

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