(an extended RLPB)
by Elizabeth Kendal
A major persecution is looming over China. Of the following we can be certain: (1) while it will be different, it will be just as insidious as that of Mao’s Cultural Revolution; (2) it will not last, for when the time is right, when all is in place, then the God of history will say, ‘Thank-you Xi, your work here is done. The time has come for you to give account!’ Then, like Nebuchadnezzer before him, Xi Jinping and the regime he leads will crumble to dust and be blown away (Daniel 2). [Note: cracks are already evident.] And when that time comes, the Chinese people and the Chinese Church will be free.
During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) Chairman Mao Zedong identified ‘five black categories’: landlords, rich farmers/peasants, counter-revolutionaries, evil influences and Rightists. Deemed ‘enemies’ of the communist revolution, members of these ‘five black categories’ had to be neutralised – i.e., persecuted, re-educated and, if necessary, eliminated – for the revolution to succeed.
After the Tiananmen Square massacre (June 1989), the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 1989), the collapse of Communism across Eastern Europe and the disintegration of the Soviet Union (1990-1991), the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) knew it needed a new narrative to legitimise its rule and unite the people. Courtesy of the CCP’s Patriotic Education Campaign, a new narrative has been taught in schools and universities across the nation since the early 1990s. In what is essentially a ‘radical reinterpretation of China’s history’, the Marxist narrative of class struggle has been replaced with an ultra-nationalist narrative of national struggle. [Silent Invasion, by Clive Hamilton, Hardie Grant Books, Melbourne, Australia; London, UK, 2018.] The new narrative is two-fold, covering: (1) National Humiliation: Beginning with the Opium Wars (1839), China suffered 100 years of humiliation at the hands of hostile, imperialistic, foreign [Western] forces; (2) National Rejuvenation: Since the founding of the People’s Republic (1949) the Communist Party has been leading China on a 100-year marathon to restore the nation to global supremacy. Hostile foreign forces [i.e., the West] are the problem/enemy, for which the CCP is the solution/saviour. To be patriotic, to love China, is to love the CCP.
On 31 July 2012 an overseas edition of the People’s Daily (the official mouthpiece of the Central Committee of the CCP) identified ‘five new black categories’: human rights lawyers, underground religious practitioners, dissidents, commentators who influence opinions via the internet and disadvantaged social groups. According to the CCP, members of these ‘five new black categories’ are in ‘collusion’ with ‘hostile, foreign [Western] forces’ with the aim of ending Communist Party rule. The CCP’s response has been to establish a ‘labyrinthine, all-weather, 24-hour quasi-police-state apparatus to keep even ordinary citizens under control’. [The Fight for China’s Future, by Willy Wo-Lam Lam, Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon UK; New York, NY, USA. 2020, page 7.]
In July 2012 heir-apparent Xi Jinping was a leading figure in the CCP’s nine-man Politburo Standing Committee and vice-president of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). On 15 Nov 2012 Xi was elected to the post of General Secretary of the CCP and on 14 March 2013 was elected as President of the PRC. Persecution of the ‘five new black categories’ started almost immediately. Xi has departed from the more pragmatic religious policies of Jang Zemin (1989-2002) and Hu Jintao (2002-2012). Acutely aware of Christianity’s contribution to economic development and modernisation, Jang and Hu insisted that ‘materialists and non-materialists can co-operate and co-exist politically’, provided the churches cut ties with ‘imperialists’ (i.e., anyone in the West), flush out ‘Judases’ (anyone who might betray the CCP) and stay out of politics [Lam, p135]. Under Xi, the days of ‘co-operation’ are over; the choice is submission or elimination. Xi has also departed from the collective leadership practices of his post-Mao predecessors and centralised power in himself. In March 2018 the Party-controlled National People’s Congress passed constitutional amendments which included the removal of presidential term limits. Xi, the ‘Chairman of Everything’, is now ‘Emperor for Life’.
(part 2 – the extra problem Xi now has)
The ‘problem’ Xi and the CCP face today is that Church growth is essentially out of control. Senior Chinese officials admit (privately) that there are at least 70 million Christian converts in China, 80 percent of whom live in rural areas. One academic believes that number could reach 160 million by 2025. Research undertaken over 2013-2014 revealed that in rural provinces north of the Yangtze River, 10 to 15 percent of the population is Christian and that in some villages 95 percent are Christian. Furthermore, at least 70 percent of these Christians worship in unregistered, ‘underground’ house-churches [Lam, p140]. Lam writes: ‘Among Chinese officials who are nervously watching the proliferation of Christians – and actively preparing to quell the influence of Western religion – are senior cadres in charge of state security and propaganda.’ According to Lam, the CCP is paranoid about Christianity’s ‘three excesses’: (1) the excessive speed of its growth, (2) its excessive numbers and (3) the excessive enthusiasm of its members [Lam, p153].
In the name of ‘stability maintenance’, the CCP is cracking down on the Church’s influence, networks and international connections. Not only has the CCP enlisted well over a million vigilante and volunteer informants – spies who penetrate deep into ‘black category’ groups – it has installed more than 200 million surveillance cameras across the country. These cameras, which are fitted with the world’s most advanced facial recognition software, collect data on every individual for the purpose of establishing a ‘social credit’ system used by the regime to reward loyalty and punish dissent. The system is supposed to be fully operational by 2020. Already, non-compliant Christians and other members of the ‘five new black categories’ – in particular, writers and human rights lawyers (of whom around one quarter are Christian) – are finding they cannot travel because their negative social credit prevents them from purchasing a train ticket! The days are coming when whole Christian families will find themselves unable to access not merely transport, but schools, hospitals, bank loans and jobs. Further to this, new directives were issued in November (2019) to intensify the ‘patriotic education’ intended to indoctrinate Chinese youth – as well as Chinese society as a whole – with loyalty to the ruling Party.
Meanwhile, President Xi is demanding that Chinese Christianity be ‘sinicizised’, i.e., be forced to serve the interests of the CCP. ‘According to Christian scholar Guo Baoshen, “the purpose of ‘Sinicization of Christianity’ is to render Christianity into a Communist and socialist [vehicle] so that it will become an obedient tool of the Communist Party”.’ [Also see Lam, p146.] As Lam rightly observes, ‘The battle of the century has begun.’ [Lam p166].
The years ahead are going to be exceedingly difficult and the Chinese Church will need our prayers. Of course, the battle of the ages has already been fought and won by Christ on the cross. There is only one king of whom it can be said ‘his kingdom will never end’, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ, whose first coming we celebrate and whose second coming we anticipate (Isaiah 9:1-7; Revelation 1:4-8).
PLEASE PRAY THAT THE GOD OF HISTORY WILL
* continue his great work in China as he brings all things together for his glory, according to his purpose and in fulfilment of his promise (Isaiah 9:1-7; Romans 8:28).
* preserve, sustain and bless the Church in China, protecting her from disunity and providing all her needs. ‘I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ (Jesus, in Matthew 16:18 ESV)
* comfort, encourage and sustain China’s imprisoned pastors and Christian human rights lawyers; may they know the Lord’s presence and sustaining grace in a powerful and palpable way.
‘There are bigger spaces, after all, than what we can see,’ writes Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng concerning time spent in solitary confinement. ‘For anyone of faith, infinite light and freedom await us when we close our eyes.’ From Unwavering Convictions [published 2017, p139]. (A survivor of multiple abductions, incarcerations and torture, Goa has been ‘disappeared’ since Aug-Sept 2017. Please pray.)