For most of its history, China has been a non-western and non-Christian country. Although missionaries were active in China beginning in the seventh century, Christianity remained a foreign import that was viewed with suspicion. Periods of missionary activity were followed by waves of persecution against the alien faith. As conventional wisdom had it, "one more Christian, one less Chinese."
By the end of the Cultural Revolution, China had approximately three million Christians out of a population of one billion, or 0.3 percent of the population.
In the early 21st century, however, Christianity is on its way to becoming an accepted part of China. The number of Christians is difficult to determine, but estimates range from 40 million to 130 million, including both Catholics and Protestants, meaning that as many as 10 percent of Chinese are practicing Christians.
Not only has Christianity expanded in the number of its adherents; it also has developed a Chinese identity. When western missionaries were expelled following the communist takeover of the country, the church did not die but rather developed apart from western influences.
Today churches are led by Chinese pastors, and new recruits are evangelized by Chinese missionaries. "Christianity is truly an indigenous religion in China," says Jean-Paul Wiest, director of research at the Beijing Center for Language and Culture and a 40-year resident of China.
This website explores the rise of Protestant Christianity in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution approximately 30 years ago. The growth in the number of Christians has been interdependent with economic expansion. As the country becomes more prosperous, many Chinese find themselves searching for meaning beyond wealth. At the same time, new wealth and new technologies mean that the gospel can be communicated more widely than ever before. Many Chinese see the Christian faith as a source both of worldly blessing and of meaning beyond the material world.
Andrea R. Nagy, “China: Faith and Prosperity,” Yale SOM Case FG-005, October 13, 2008
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