Pray for kings. Pray for all who are in authority. Pray that we will live peaceful and quiet lives. And pray that we will be godly and holy. (1 Tim 2:2 NIRV)
As we post this issue of The Lantern, China’s top leaders have just concluded their annual Party plenum in Beijing. During this “Fourth Plenum” they gave shape to policies that will be endorsed by China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, in the spring.
The theme of this year’s plenum was “Rule According to Law.” Because the Chinese term can be interpreted either as “rule of law” or “rule by law,” this theme in and of itself does not provide much specificity as to what was actually on the table during the four-day meeting. China’s current President, Xi Jinping, is generally seen as ruling with a very strong hand as he oversees an anti-corruption campaign that has netted more than a few high officials and heads of state-run companies. Thus some observers believe that the emphasis will be squarely on “rule by law” in China’s Legalist (fajia) tradition, further institutionalizing the Party’s instruments of control. Other observers have suggested that recent reforms in the judicial system, such as putting local judges under the authority of provincial rather than local officials, point to further moves toward “rule of law” in the sense of a more independent judiciary.
Law professor Margaret Lewis commented, “The lack of clarity recalls Deng Xiaoping’s famous phrase, “Cross the river by feeling the stones.” Chinese leaders are balancing on a mid-river stone, but they have not articulated a vision of what exactly lies on the opposite shore from the Maoist past that China emphatically left behind.”
During past decades China as a whole has made significant moves toward institutionalizing rule through laws and away from arbitrary rule by its leaders. Most sectors of society have seen new laws and regulations that have clarified procedures and the roles and duties of the official organs involved in these sectors.
As we have written previously, the one glaring exception is in the area of religion. Document 19, which spelled out the Party’s direction on religion back in 1982, stipulated that the government should draft appropriate laws protecting “normal religious activities.” However such legislation still has yet to appear.
Pray with us for the leaders of China.
The ChinaSource Team
 Margaret Lewis, comment on “Rule of Law – Why Now?,” China Real Time Report, October 17, 2014. http://www.chinafile.com/conversation/rule-law-why-now
- Pray for wisdom for China's leaders as they face difficult issues such as rapid urbanization, the threat of a slowing economy, and rampant corruption within official ranks.
- Pray that leaders who have been exposed to the truth of the Gospel would seek the Lord's direction for themselves and for their nation.
- Pray that the law in China would be used not as a tool of control but as a means of protecting China's people.
- Lift up the drafting of religious legislation, that at the right time and in the right way China's Christians would enjoy protection under the law.
- Pray that China's leaders would desire that their nation be a force for peace in the world as it plays an increasingly dominant role on the international scene.
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