The Government’s Position Hardens
We have warned over the last two years that the government has become increasingly alarmed over the growth of Christianity. In 2010, a top government researcher on religion warned the government that the number of Protestants in China could reach 200 or even 300 million, mirroring the Protestant growth in South Korea, where 35 percent of the population is now Protestant. This growth would be unacceptable to a government still nominally attached to atheistic Marxist dogma.
Earlier this year a government propaganda official told the state-run Global Times that “the growth of Christianity in China has been too excessive and too haphazard.” The Zhejiang Daily on April 28, 2014 warned that “the government would aggressively push on with the demolition of illegal buildings” while continuing to “protect” legal religious venues. This assurance appears worthless, as the Sanjiang church was fully registered and under the umbrella of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). The demolition of religious buildings may be related to a policy aimed at developing the valuable land they occupy, according to a speech by Wang Zuoan, Head of the Religious Affairs Bureau, in a statement broadcast by Phoenix Television at the end of last year (Phoenix TV, December 27, 2013).
Professor Yang Fenggang, a noted scholar on Christianity, recently stated that by 2030 the total number of Christians in China would exceed that of the United States. He expects China to become the world’s largest Christian country. “A conservative estimate of new followers in China [since 1979] is at least 58 million, while Catholics gained 9 million,” Yang said. “Oppression by the Chinese government simply won’t be able to stem the rise of Protestant Christianity in China” (Radio Free Asia, May 2, 2014).