Pastors of the Three-Self Church have understood for several years what a “Sinicized” religion is. “Sinicization” does not mean adopting a Chinese style, language, and aesthetics (in fact, the CCP is “Sinicizing” even a quintessential Chinese religion such as Taoism). It means adopting the style, language, of ideology of the CCP. Slowly but surely Three-Self churches are being transformed into ideological indoctrination centers for Xi-Jinping-style Communism, with the tiny veneer of Christianity becoming tinier every year and every day.
One of the most grandiose projects of Xi Jinping is promoting its brand of Communism throughout the world, particularly in developing countries. Chinese diplomacy and academia are mobilized to insist that “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” and “Xi Jinping Thought” work much better than Western-style democracy.
It seems that now the CCP believes that even its brands of “Sinicized” Protestant Christianity can be exported internationally. This was a key message of the “Training Meeting for Key Pastors of the Northeast China Christian Region” that was held from June 27 to 30 in Changchun, Jilin province. The conference was broadcast nationwide and covered by national Chinese media.
Pastor Shan Weixiang, Vice President and Chief Executive of the China Christian Council, and Pastor Kan Baoping, Vice Chairman of China Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee, delivered the keynote speeches.
Pastor Kan Baoping used the formula “one major task and two major problems” to describe the current status and the future projects of the Three-Self Church. The two problems are “resisting external infiltration” and “protecting the unity of Christian by resisting xie jiao, heresies, and illegal religion.” Obviously, the CCP is still concerned that Chinese Three-Self Christians may be exposed to different brands of Christianity, where Jesus Christ is preached rather than Marx or Xi Jinping, through contacts with believers abroad. The CCP also knows that thousands of Christians every year express what they really think of “Sinicization” and vote with their feet by leaving the Three-Self Church and joining “illegal” house churches, and even movements labeled as xie jiao such as the Association of Disciples (now always denounced as a major threat).
On the other hand, the conference indicated the “major task” for Three-Self Christians for the next years. In the words of Pastor Kan, it is to transform “the successful experience of the Sinicization of Christianity,” which he explicitly presented as “Christianity adapted to a Socialist society,” into “a great contribution made by Chinese Christianity to world Christianity.” “We will change the face of world Christianity,” Pastor Kan said to the thunderous applause of the regional Three-Self leaders in the audience.
Whether the “world Christianity” is ready to change its Christian face into one worshiping Communism and Xi Jinping is a question the conference did not really address. However, we should not believe the CCP is simply dreaming. After all, it managed to install Pastor Kan as a member of the Central Committee (a name the CCP surely likes) of Geneva’s World Council of Churches. One could only hope his colleagues there do not really understand what his function in China and ideas about “changing the face of world Christianity” are all about.