Christianity is thriving in China. There may be more religious believers than Communist Party members.
Beijing’s sensitivities to religion are well-known. Religion offers a competitive worldview to the Party. The latter fears many Christians, especially Catholics, have loyalties beyond China’s borders. Religion brings people together in ways that might eventually influence politics.
In its early days, the People’s Republic of China responded harshly to religious activity, but official policy has moderated over time. There is an increasing amount of reluctant toleration of religious belief.
Beijing appears to have a more relaxed policy. Last year, I visited a church of around 800 in the capital. It operated openly, attracted many young people, and hosted dozens of baptisms on the Sunday I attended. I saw a car in traffic that sported the traditional Christian “fish.”
Ironically, the lesson of the West’s experience with religion is that the best way for a government to avoid conflict between religious believers and political authorities is to provide the greatest freedom possible. Obviously, there have been many strains of Christianity throughout the centuries. However, the faith emphasizes a transcendent commitment to God while accommodating many different political perspectives.