Category Archives: chinese culture

China’s Paramilitary Police

Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken another step to increase his power over the world’s most populous nation in consolidating and tightening his control over the “Paramilitary Police”  by moving the People’s Armed Police (PAP) to the Central Military Commission, of which he is chairman.

Previously, the paramilitary police force of about 1 million officers was controlled by the State Council, which Xi does not directly lead. The move began to go into effect on January 1.

Paramilitary police conduct disaster and kidnapping rescues, special human trafficking and drug trafficking operations, protest control and other duties.

The Nikkei Asian Review said the move was seen as a “hedge against a coup.”

It has been suggested that Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, plotted to carry out a coup against the Xi administration by teaming up with Bo Xilai, a former Communist Party secretary of Chongqing who once was the president’s major rival. Zhou had a strong influence over the paramilitary force.

The South China Morning Post added that the previous structure “gave lower-level authorities the power to deploy the PAP to tackle natural disasters, protests and hostage crises.”

The Communist Party’s People’s Daily reported that the paramilitary police would remain separate from the military.

Assuming control of the People’s Armed Police looks like a continuation of Xi’s reforms, which were given wide news coverage at the recent 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last October.

There, Xi proclaimed a “new era” of Chinese power. Xi has also made strides toward “re-centralizing” China’s economy by rebuilding government-controlled monopolies, fortifying national enterprises, and limiting opportunities for competitors—both in China and abroad.

Meanwhile, Xi has muzzled “dissenting voices” within Chinese society, making the country considerably less free than it was during the time of his predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

Regarding China’s military might, Shanghai-based military affairs commentator Ni Lexiong says Xi now “not only controls the military but also does it in an absolute manner.”

Now Xi is adding control over the “paramilitary police” to the power of his regime.

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One Man to Rule a Billion

Fifty years ago, Chinese dictator Mao Zedong unleashed his “Red Guards” against members of his own Chinese Communist Party accused of having capitalist sympathies. This paramilitary group of Chinese youth carried out “mass killings” in Beijing and other major Chinese cities in the name of Mao Zedong and Communist orthodoxy.

In the southern region of Guangxi, these violent pogroms escalated to the point of cannibalism—with teenagers killing their school principals and eating them in celebration of their triumph over “counter-revolutionaries.”

While there is no official count of the number of people murdered during these purges, historians estimate that millions—even 30 million or more—may have perished in the decade-long “Cultural Revolution” that began in May 1966.

The bloodbath of the “Cultural Revolution” was so horrific that Chinese leaders amended the country’s Constitution in 1982 to “prohibit one-man rule” after Mao’s death.

Instead of being governed by the “whims”of the chairman of the Communist Party, the government is now allegedly run by the “collective will” of the Standing Committee of the Politburo—a group composed of “five to nine” top Communist officials.

Disturbing reports out of Beijing, however, indicate that the Communist Party is “abandoning” this collective leadership model. President Xi Jinping has “consolidated” more power than any Chinese leader since Mao.

He has assumed “seven” top government positions. He is the General Secretary of the Communist Party, (1) the president of the People’s Republic of China, (2) the chairman of the Central Military Commission, (3) the chairman of the Central National Security Commission, (4) the head of the Joint Operations Command Center, (5) the leader of the Central Leading Group for Military Reform, (6) the leader of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, (7) and the leader of the Central Leading Group for Internet Security and Information.

At least seven provincial-level party bosses have publicly proclaimed Xi as the “core leader” of China. This title hasn’t been used in China since the retirement of Deng Xiaoping in 1989, and it is widely seen as a sign indicating a “Maoist-style cult of personality.”

While ultimate power in China still rests with the Standing Committee of the Politburo, Xi has reduced the number of people on this committee from nine to seven and has used his political influence to ensure that these seven people are all members of his own inner circle.

Only three years into Xi’s presidency, the Standing Committee of the Politburo issued a public statement demanding “unwavering loyalty” to the person of Xi Jinping.

In addition to practically anointing Xi as “Chairman of Everything,” the Chinese government is financing a media campaign designed to update Xi’s image for the social-media generation.

Officials from the Communist Party of China have hired Sameh al-Shahat, the founder of British communications consultancy China-I Ltd., to advise them on how to produce publicity films to promote Xi to younger audiences.

This government-sponsored propaganda campaign relies heavily on Mao-era imagery, prompting worries of an emerging “cult of personality” and a coming era of “dictatorial” rule!

As China approaches the final stages of its planned “hundred-year marathon” toward global domination, it is reverting to the “one-man” leadership model it had during the 1949 Communist Revolution.

If this “consolidation of power” continues unabated, Xi Jinping could emerge as a political figure whose “role in history” outweighs that of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping combined!

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China Preparing for War

For the first time in the history of the modern Chinese state, the leader of the Communist Party has personally dictated military action to the People’s Liberation Army.

“Here I give my orders,” announced Chinese President Xi Jinping to thousands of assembled troops. “The military at all levels should strengthen military training and war preparedness.”

Speaking to more than 7,000 Chinese servicemen, the Communist Party’s general secretary ordered all members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to ready themselves for the outbreak of war.

In the clip showing Xi’s speech, the camera regularly takes in the vast array of soldiers and military equipment. The magnitude and regimentation of those present reinforces the power wielded by this East Asian country.

Christina Zhao of Newsweek reported that during his speech, Xi encouraged the troops to “enhance their military training and combat readiness” to “grasp the capability to win battles” as dictated by the Chinese Communist Party.

The president’s direct orders to the PLA are another big step for Xi in securing power for both himself and his nation.

“This is the first time since the founding of the country that instructions on military training have been directly issued by the chairman of the Central Military Commission,” said Xu Guangyu, a retired major general and adviser of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, speaking of President Xi. “It shows that improving combat readiness is now a strategic mission for the Chinese military.”

This news falls in line with the rise of Xi Jinping as Asian strongman.  During his first term in office, Xi has accumulated more power than any Chinese leaders since Mao.

“It would be easy to view Xi’s rise as the result of an ambitious individual maneuvering to make himself an authoritarian,” he wrote.

“But his rapid ascent could not have happened without the full consent and assistance of the upper echelons of the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese elite see that the global order is unraveling. They see American power declining and leadership vacuums opening up. They see that the international stage is primed for conflict, that there is a chance for China to take advantage of the volatility and to emerge as a superpower.”

In such tenuous times as the world finds itself in, China knows that it needs a strongman to guide it toward greater “global dominance and power.” It takes a streamlined chain of command to effectively play on the world stage.

Xi’s success in cementing power over his nation’s military and foreign policy is worth watching closely. For any nation destined to play a decisive role in shaping history, an ambitious leader with the power to steer his nation is key.

Be on the lookout for China and its allies to continue to expand their military power, reinforce their governments, and prepare for coming global conflicts!

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China’s Zen Generation

China’s government-run newspaper “Global Times” complained in a piece published that Millennial’s of the “Zen generation” are “indifferent” to communism, a sign that Xi Jinping’s efforts to impose “Marxist” ideology on young Chinese people are failing.

“They are not inspired by any patriotic drive or the Party’s political catchphrases. They are simply indifferent,” the Global Times laments.

Under Xi, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has invested heavily in youth-centered propaganda, including producing rap videos about communism, organizing “mass dating” events where Communist Youth League members can meet state-approved potential mates, and doubling down on textbooks and academic study that promote Chinese military belligerence. Chinese officials have also cracked down on non-Mandarin language and religions considered rivals to “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

Yet the Global Times admits in a report on the “Zen-generation” that these efforts appear to be, in part, failing. “People who call themselves Zen-generation, either seriously or half-jokingly, are seemingly fine with anything that happens to them,” the article notes, suggested that these individuals refuse to put effort into anything, including work and relationships.

“Once someone becomes their ex, they won’t even bother to delete or block them from their social networks,” the Times notes with horror.

These millennial’s “reject a bustling and competitive society and instead choose to practice patience, tolerance and inner peacefulness.”

The Chinese Communist Youth League has identified this as a threat and a “total tragedy.”

“Only when the young have ambitions and are responsible can a nation have prospects,” the Youth League said in an article on the topic posted on social media and quoted by the Times. The newspaper notes that communists may indeed have something to be worried about, that “this new trend is a passive reaction against the rapid reforms, changes, and developments of modern-day Chinese society.”

The article is a rare admission of failure for the Chinese government, though the piece does argue that the “Zen generation” youths are a “minority” compared to zealous communists.

Yet China has become a nation with more Christians than Communist Party members, where the Communist Youth League is forced to remind young people that Christmas is “China’s day of shame” while banning party members from believing in any religion at all.

Beijing’s efforts to attract young minds to communist have become increasingly desperate, suggesting significant concerns at the highest levels of power regarding the appeal of old Marxist ideology.

Chinese officials have published a library of rap videos to promote communism, from the clumsily titled “The Reform Group is Two Years Old”—celebrating the establishment of Xi’s anti-corruption reform group—to the tune “Marx is a Millennial.” Xi makes his rapping debut in the former video.

In March 2017, the Chinese government ordered schools to supplement these propaganda efforts with new curricula designed to inspire young people to identify with communism.

“When we investigate at colleges and universities, we find that attention levels at thought and political theory classes are not high. People are there in body but not in spirit,” Chinese Education Minister Chen Baosheng said at the time. “Students needed to be led by the core values of Chinese socialism to ensure their healthy moral growth.”

Chen specifically demanded schools take a “trendy” approach to Marxism.

The Communist Youth League has added social elements to this by organizing dating events in which all participants are carefully vetted for party unity, ensuring that any relationship that begins at such an event will unite two ardent communists. Communist officials also recently announced that they had purchased control of a popular hologram “pop star” who would now be used to “instill correct thinking into the younger generation with her singing.”

Chinese ‘Zen-Generation’ Teens Choosing Smartphones over Communist Values

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Serving a New Generation

Serving a New Generation
By Brent Fulton ⋅ Dec 27, 2017 ⋅ Topic: Serving  From the series Looking Back

Over the past few months we’ve been looking back at the 20 years since “ChinaSource” was founded. This trip down memory lane has reminded us how transformational these two decades have been for China. Urbanization, steady economic growth, the emergence of a middle class, and major advances in education, health, and infrastructure have accomplished in 20 years what has taken other nations 100 years or more.

This period has been transformational for China’s church as well. When “ChinaSource was launched, it was to serve primarily Western organizations as they sought ways to advance the gospel in China. For many this involved providing basic theological training for rural church leaders or serving in newly opened seminaries under the China Christian Council. Others taught English or other subjects on university campuses or sent development workers to ethnic minority areas where there were no known Christians.

In the decades since, a new generation of believers has emerged. Children of the rural church leaders who were some of the first recipients of training from outside have grown up and made their way to China’s cities. There they are serving as a bridge, planting new kinds of churches while still keeping one foot in the countryside. Curious students who came to Christ while in college have gone on to launch their careers, start families, and participate in starting fellowships that have developed into independent urban churches. New Christians from minority areas are now being mobilized to reach other ethnic groups with the gospel. Meanwhile, believers from both urban and rural backgrounds are joining hands to prepare and send missionaries from China to the nations.

Those who have been privileged to serve during these transformational decades can only marvel at God’s miraculous work in China. In many ways China is a different place, and the church we now serve is different as well.

The challenge going forward—“for ChinaSource and for hundreds of other organizations engaged in China“—is to rethink what it means to serve in this new era. China’s church is better resourced, has more opportunities, and is well positioned for influence in ways that couldn’t even have been imagined 20 years ago. Chinese believers are going global as they engage more routinely with organizations and institutions overseas. It is not uncommon to find Christians from China appearing in leadership positions in these international entities.

Serving remains a core value of “ChinaSource“, and we continue to strive to help others find ways to serve effectively in China. But, whatever role one plays, serving today must mean serving with the church in China. China’s Christians are the ones who are at the forefront of new approaches and new opportunities. Serving today means coming alongside this generation in a mutually supportive way. The challenge for the future is learning together how God will use his global church to further his transformational mission in and through China.

This is the final piece in the “Looking Back” series that we began in September to commemorate the 20th anniversary of “ChinaSource.” You can read the entire series here.

Brent Fulton
Brent Fulton is the president of ChinaSource and the editor of the ChinaSource Quarterly. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of… View Full Bio

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Holding Up Half the Church

Holding Up Half the Church
By Joann Pittman ⋅ Dec 20, 2017 ⋅ Topic: Church Life

Quite a few of my friends in China are women serving in the church, either at the pastoral or lay leadership level. I remember asking a couple of them once what they thought was the percentage of women who served as pastors in China. Both answered “more than 50%.”

While it is only anecdotal, it does speak to a reality of the church in China today. No matter what one’s position is on the issue of women in church leadership, it is vital that those wanting to serve the church in China understand this reality and grapple with the issues surrounding it.

In this post, I would like to highlight some recent (and not-so-recent) articles on this important topic.

Christianity Today published an excellent article about the challenges faced by wives of pastors in China’s house churches. Highlighting some of those challenges, the author writes,

When Westerners think of these “house churches,” they often assume the biggest challenge is the political environment. While the legal issues surrounding the unregistered church are often tense and at times overwhelming, the ministry struggles are much more mundane and common. Like small church pastors in the States, Chinese pastors and their families experience significant pressure as they lead often-underfunded and understaffed churches.

A lot of that pressure is borne by the wives. The social, spiritual, and even physical struggles expressed by Chinese women are both familiar and foreign to their Western sisters.

As recent articles have highlighted, they face common challenges surrounding singlenesssuccessmarital infidelitydomestic abuse, and parenting. They also face issues particular to their context, including the former one-child policy and matters of filial piety.

Arguably, however, the challenge most often identified as an impediment to ministry and family life is the Chinese work ethic.

For Chinese pastors’ wives, it’s a quiet, subtle struggle that pervades family life. These women in ministry face spiritual difficulty not in dramatic showdowns with the government but rather in the same daily struggle to live according to God’s grace that most believers face around the world.

She goes on to the importance of ministering to the needs of not only pastor’s wives, but of Chinese women in general.

In the March 2011 edition of the ChinaSource Quarterly, we published a translation of an article from “ChurchChina” that took a look at the general problem of gender imbalance in Chinese urban churches. The author notes that

“today, the ratio of men to women in churches in China is often about 1:2. Sometimes it is even worse—one man for every three to five women. When these numbers are compared to the usual ratio of men to women in Chinese society, we see a stark and serious contrast.”

It is a long article, but worth reading for a deeper understanding of this important issue in the church in China.

In 2013, in our “Chinese Church Voices” column, we published a translation of an article in the mainland site Gospel Times about a “Pastor Mom.”  It is an interview with one of the pastors of the Beijing Gangwashi Church.[1]

In the Chinese church, there are more female believers than male believers. There are also more female students than male students in the seminaries, more female preachers than male preachers, and even more female senior pastors than male senior pastors. But have these female pastors in China who hold up half the sky received enough attention? And are people aware of the unique difficulties of being pastor, mother, and wife? Are they carrying a particularly heavy burden? And is the burden they are bearing too much?

Turning to the perspective of missionaries, Jackson Wu has been considering the role of women in missions in a series of three posts that he published on his blog at Patheos. Although the issues he touches on are broad and relevant to any mission field, he writes primarily from the perspective of China.

In the first post, ”Why Do We Have Missionary Wives But Not Missionary Husbands?”, Wu notes that many sending organizations place the same expectations on women as on men, in terms of ministry work, but often do not include them in conferences or exclude them from leadership positions. “These habits of speech,” he writes, “are indicative of a deeply rooted problem. Words matter. Organizations send a mixed message about women’s roles in missions ministry.”

He also highlights the conundrum for complementarians serving in China, where, as we have noted above, a disproportionate number of churches, both registered and unregistered, are led by women.

In his second and third posts on the subject, he compares the minimalist vs. maximalist interpretations of Scriptural injunctions against women serving as “teachers,” showing how and why a minimalist approach is applied at the seminary where he teaches in China:

“Since I take a take a minimalist view of the text, I have no problems teaching women in the seminary even though I don’t think the text endorses women pastors. One of the major misspeaks around occurs when people ask whether you affirm “women in ministry.” Of course, we should! However, “women in ministry” is far broader than saying “women in the pastorate.”

With respect of female pastors, our seminary is complementarian but welcomes female church leaders for two reasons.

First, we would rather train them than they not have sound teaching. We at least want their churches to flourish, even if we disagree about this one issue. Second, you can’t persuade those with whom you don’t teach or have a relationship.

Chairman Mao famously said that “women hold up half the sky.” They certainly make up more than half the church in China. How are we preparing ourselves and our people to work in this environment? It is a question the sending community needs to grapple with.

Notes
^ The church I attended when I lived in Beijing.
Image credit: Jacek Sniecikowski via Flickr.

Joann Pittman
Joann Pittman is Senior Vice President of ChinaSource. She is the editor of ZGBriefs and Chinese Church Voices, as well as a regular contributor to ChinaSource publications. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and most recently,… View Full Bio

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Linfen Church Demolition

The Linfen Church Demolition
What We Know and What We Don’t Know
By Joann Pittman ⋅ Jan 15, 2018 ⋅ Topic: Church and State

Security officials demolished the Jindeng Tai Church building in the coal-mining city of Linfen, Shanxi province. It didn’t take long for the news and shocking pictures of the destruction to make its way into the news worldwide.

The Guardian posted a video of the demolition:

Here are some things we know and don’t know about the church and the incident.

What We Know

The name of the church that was demolished is Jindeng Tai (金灯台), which translates “Golden Lampstand.” It is an unregistered church, which means that it is not affiliated with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement or the China Christian Council. Being unregistered means that it has no legal status, even though it claims to have 50,000 members, or followers. It is led by husband/wife pastors Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli, who started the church in 1992.

This is not the first time the church has had a run-in with the authorities. Andrew Kaiser, in his book about the history of Christian missions in China, The Rushing on of the Purposes of God, writes:

“In the post-Olympic years, however, state resistance to the increasingly vocal and confident Christian community became more and more common.  The September 2009 detention and imprisonment of several pastors at Fushan and Golden Lampstand (Jin Dengtai) churches from the unregistered Linfen Church garnered international attention. The violence of the confrontations, with supposedly hundreds of thugs representing the security forces beating worshipers and destroying property at both sites, was particularly egregious. Nevertheless, the buildings had not received construction approval and the fifty-thousand member church was not legally registered, and so with little or no due process the church leaders received long sentences. (p. 251)”

Local authorities claim that demolition is part of a campaign against “illegal buildings,” and that the church never secured the necessary permits to build.

What We Don’t Know

We don’t know what triggered the incident at this time. Campaigns against illegal structures are common in China so it is certainly possible that this church and its building are caught up in that.

It is also possible that, given the tighter religious regulations that are scheduled to go into effect on February 1, officials (illegal structure campaign or not) felt emboldened to go after the church. Or perhaps it’s a combination of both.

While this may not be a popular thing to say, we probably won’t know which of those two contexts and factors is the main driver of this incident. I suspect it is a combination of both.

At “ChinaSource” we will continue to monitor the situation in China as these new regulations begin to take effect, and pray for our brothers and sisters there who face an increasingly tight environment.

Image credit: Screen shot of the video published by The Guardian supplied by ChinaAid.

Joann Pittman
Joann Pittman is Senior Vice President of ChinaSource. She is the editor of ZGBriefs and Chinese Church Voices, as well as a regular contributor to ChinaSource publications. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and most recently,… View Full Bio

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