China’s Plan to 'Sinicize' Religions


One of the most important changes governing religious policy in China is the 2017-18 emphasis on the “sinicization” of religions in China. Sinicization is defined as “a process intended to shape religious traditions and doctrine to better conform with Chinese society and CCP objectives.” Simply put, that means making religions agree and align with the doctrines and policies of the Chinese communist party. This has been a primary focus of Xi JinPing’s religious policies since his April 2016 speech at the National Religious Work Conference, in which he asserted that in order to “actively guide the adaptation of religions to socialist society, an important task is supporting China’s religions’ movement in the direction of sinicization.” 

The Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM, the body that governs Christianity in China) has from its beginning declared that believers should “love your country; love your religion” (愛國愛教). That order of priorities conflicts with Scripture: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt 6:33). Believers are called to be good and loyal citizens, but never to put country and communist theory before their love for the Lord Jesus.

But Xi and the present leadership are demanding this dangerous philosophy be enforced. At the 2017 19th Party Congress, Xi declared: “We will fully implement the Party’s basic policy on religious affairs, insist on the sinicization of Chinese religions, and provide active guidance for religion and socialism to coexist.” The implication of that is simple: the Bible and other religious core documents will be changed or reinterpreted to reflect sinicization.  In this new sinicization era, the role of the authorities is “behind the scenes to ensure that no authority is higher than the Chinese Communist Party in the eyes of religious Chinese.” 

The sinicization campaign is being directed at members of all religions. The  president of the Buddhist Association of China, Master Xuecheng, said “religion should escape the limitations of tradition in order to modernise and sinicize.”

The Islamic Association of China head Yang Faming emphasised the importance of extending sinicization to Islam, saying that Muslims in China “should actively participate in… socialist modernization.”

The China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement announced that they “had jointly established a leading small group for promoting the sinicization of Chinese Christianity.” According to the announcement, the body will lead an effort that appears focused on re-shaping religious doctrine.

In April, former State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) Deputy Director Chen Zongrong said at a press conference “China’s attitude towards religious guidance should move toward the direction of sinicization.”

This makes the role of the Bible and its absolute authority in matters of belief, doctrine and ethical values to be of fundamental importance in China. It is a critical time in the history  of Christianity in China.

(Source: “The CCP’s Plan To 'Sinicize' Religions” by Julia Bowie and David Gitter in “The Diplomat”)

Pray for The Lord’s sovereignty in over-ruling any attempt to rewrite the Bible or redefine Christian doctrine in China.

Pray for those who know the fear of God to have a voice into The United Front Work Movement and its policies.

Pray for Christian leaders in China, that they would be given wisdom in facing this increasing challenge.

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