China: A New Cultural Revolution Is Upon Us


Date:  February 10, 2016

by Elizabeth Kendal

Between 1958 and 1961 at least 18 million (and possibly as many as 45
million) Chinese died as a direct result of Chairman Mao's disastrous
socio-economic campaign know as the 'Great Leap Forward'. Subsequently
dissent rose within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In 1966 Mao struck
back, launching the socio-political movement known as the 'Great Proletarian
Cultural Revolution'.  He purged opposition from the CCP and incited
indoctrinated youths to purge society of 'closet capitalists'. Books were
burned, art was destroyed, intellectuals were incarcerated and killed,
churches were confiscated and bulldozed, foreign missionaries were expelled
or executed, and Chinese pastors were murdered and condemned to decades in
labour camps and coal mines. At that time the Church in China was estimated
to be around one million strong. Despite being severely persecuted the
Chinese Church committed herself to mission. God redeemed the suffering,
using it to make hearts receptive to the Gospel. For decades Church growth
was largely confined to rural regions. But then, the Tiananmen Square
massacre of 4 June 1989 shattered the confidence of China's urban elite,
opening the door to the spread of the Gospel in the cities and at every level
of society.  Once again, the Chinese Church, being committed to mission,
scattered the seed of the gospel over hearts God had prepared to receive it.
By the beginning of the 21st Century the Church in China was estimated to
number 100 million, with Chinese Christians working and witnessing as
lawyers, academics, entrepreneurs, musicians, et al. This growth has occurred
in the absence of foreign missionaries, making Christianity in China an
indigenous movement. The most un-Chinese thing in China today is the Marxism
Mao imported from Europe! 

Today it seems the cycle is repeating. Communism has failed, the economy is
fragile and dissent is rising - even inside the CCP. In this context it seems
President Xi Jinping (who assumed office in November 2012) is laying the
foundation for a new cultural revolution. The CCP is being purged, mostly by
means of an 'anti-corruption' campaign and Maoism is being resurrected.
President Xi, increasingly the focus of a personality cult, is tightening his
control over the cultural sphere while promoting solidarity around ideology
as being China's only hope against foreign infiltration. 

From 2002 - 2007 Xi Jinping served as governor and party secretary of
Zhejiang Province, where he would have witnessed the phenomenal growth of
Protestant Christianity. This was especially in the city of Wenzhou, known as
'China's Jerusalem' because of its many churches, Christian-run businesses
and its sizable, influential Christian minority. According to a new report by
Willy Lam (The Jamestown Foundation, China Brief, 4 Feb 2016) it is no
accident that President Xi's campaign to 'Sinicise Christianity', so as to
put Christianity into the service of the CCP, was launched in Zhejiang. 

Lam comments, 'Except during the Cultural Revolution, "official" churches' -
as distinct from house churches which refuse to come under the auspices of
the CCP-approved Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and the China Christian
Council (CCC) - 'have not been directly subjected to the party's ideological
or doctrinal intervention.' Lam is wrong on this count for this has recently
changed, as noted in RLPBs 341 and 342. Pastor Gu Yuese, arrested on 27
January, was an official with the CCC and pastor of China's largest TSPM
church - Chongyi Church in the Zhejiang capital, Hangzhou.  Now detained in a
'black jail' on charges of corruption, Gu's only offence was to criticise CCP
policy in Zhejiang. The government has since appointed a new pastor to
oversee Chongyi Church, having divided up and transferred out its pastoral

Authorities have also arrested Li Guanzhong, the chairman of the China
Christian Council (CCC) in Pujiang County, Zhejiang, and senior pastor of
Puyang Christian Church in the city of Jinhua. Arrested on 29 January, Li and
his wife, Zhang Shuzhen, now also are detained in China's 'black jail' system
where, like Pastor Gu, they are being held incommunicado, without access to
legal representation, on charges pertaining to corruption. Like Gu, Li had
protested CCP policy in Zhejiang. In July 2014 he resisted CCP pressure to
destroy his own church's cross. More recently he resisted the CCP's order
that all TSPM churches fly the Chinese flag. 

Eighteen crosses have been toppled from churches in Zhejiang since 1 January
(some 1800 since February 2014) and eight TSPM pastors are now detained.
Furthermore, the authorities have abducted five booksellers out of Hong Kong
and a journalist out of Thailand; formal charges have been brought against
nearly 20 human rights lawyers; coerced 'confessions' are once again being
broadcast on state television. This year, 2016, marks the 50th anniversary of
the launch of Mao's Cultural Revolution and many observers suspect that a new
cultural revolution is upon us. Just as the last one failed, so too will this
one. In fact it could even facilitate revival and result in the collapse of
the CCP, but not before much suffering has been unleashed. The Church in
China needs our prayers for wisdom, for endurance and for mission. 


* China's imprisoned pastors and Christian human rights lawyers will have
full assurance that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ Jesus
(Romans 8:35-39) who has promised to be with them to the end of time (Matthew
28:20) and to give them rest/peace (Matthew 11:28; John 14:27) and strength
(Isaiah 40:31; 2 Corinthians 12:9). 

* the Spirit of God will restrain evil hands and act to protect his faithful
ones imprisoned in secret detention, where cruel treatment is highly likely
(Psalm 10). 

* God will redeem all suffering; may the blood of the martyrs and the tears
of intercessors be redeemed that many hearts will be prepared to receive the
Gospel of grace, the hope of nations. 

'Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes
out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.' (Promise: Psalm 126:5,6 ESV) 

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